Assistive Technology Use Expanding in Wyoming

August 10, 2010
Technology demonstration
Renee Paratore, regional consultant for Prentke Romich Company, demonstrates an assistive technology device for Janet Corbett, Wyoming Institute for Disabilities project coordinator. The communication device features eye-gaze control. (Sara DiRienzo Photo)

Individuals from around the state are increasingly turning to assistive technology to improve their lives and their performance in school, a University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences official said.

Participants at a recent vendor fair in Casper explored assistive technologies devices ranging from reading to communication devices, said Sara DiRienzo, project coordinator assistant who works with UW's Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) Assistive Technology Resources (WATR) program. She said educators, parents and community members searched for the right devices to solve their particular needs.

Some participants looked for devices to promote learning within a classroom setting, while some had a special person in mind. Both were the case for Cheryl Trimble, a Goshen County special education teacher who sought more resources for her classroom and to help with her daughter's reading disability.

"I came looking for readers like text to speech and the Classmate Reader," Trimble said. "I was looking for assistive technology that could allow kids to stay in the regular education classroom and would be a tool to help them in the classroom."

The Classmate Reader helps students navigate through a book and has other learning tools such as highlighting, bookmarking, text notes, dictionary and voice notes, DiRienzo said.

"The device also allows students to control the speed of reading and highlights words as read aloud," she said. "For those like Trimble who are looking for device solutions to aid in classroom success, WATR offers for loan many of the devices that were featured at the vendor fair, including the Classmate Reader."

Buck Gwyn, a representative of the Wyoming Protection and Advocacy System, Inc., discussed laws, standards, and benefits of using assistive technology. He encouraged individuals in school and the workplace to seek out all the available resources, including assistive technology, to ensure student success. Gwyn said assistive is a key toward achieving a higher graduation rate among students with disabilities.

"Assistive technology can greatly improve achievements for individuals in Wyoming on vocational, educational and personal levels," DiRienzo said.

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