Building Bridges 2017

I had the privilege to attend Building Bridges, the Grant Wood assistive technology conference on Tuesday.  I love this conference!  I know I’ve shared this idea before, but assistive technology is not just for kids with IEPs or 504s.  It needs to be a choice for all learners.  These tools are at the heart of personalized learning as described in our Strategic Plan — they are what personalized learning looks like in action.  While being essential for some learners, AT tools are good for everyone. Integrating these types of tools using Universal Design of Learning (UDL) framework removes stigmas and empowers ALL learners.  In short, AT is not just a “special ed thing” anymore.

There were so many great stories at the conference this year.  But, the one that resonated most with me was shared by the keynote speaker, Mark Coppin.  Mark is an AT advocate and related a story about a high school student, named Sady –pictured above –, who has some significant mobility and communication challenges.  For the past few years, Mark has offered an AT summer camp that gives kids a chance to try all different types of AT for a week.  During one of these camps, Sady confided in Mark that she was very interested in video production/editing after trying out some of the tools at his camp.  They worked together to get her some additional tools, and she continued to grow her skill and expertise.  Based upon this, Mark was able to get her a scholarship to Full Sail University (an online program).  That in and of itself is amazing.  Because of the UDL design of most of the Full Sail course work, most of Sady’s peers and instructors never knew that she was disabled until they needed to video chat.  Again, this reinforces one of the really great things about UDL.

However, the story gets even better.  Sady graduated with honors from Full Sail and began her career.  One of her first jobs was with Apple.  She produced the video linked on the page below.  It’s only a couple of minutes long.  I encourage you to watch it when you have time. It’s awe inspiring…


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