The social model of disability is a powerful ideology that has shifted thinking, laws, and infrastructure worldwide. The notion that it is the responsibility of everyone in society to remove barriers for those with disabilities rings true in schools across the DDSB. A major impact of the introduction of Chromebooks is that all students have greater access to assistive technology to augment their learning. Not only does this lead to greater student success, but it also ensures that students who need assistive technology feel a greater sense of inclusion as many of their peers are using the same programs and tools to assist in their learning. This type of inclusion, through access to technology, follows the social model of disability as stigma and barriers are lifted as we collectively ensure all students have access to success.
In my role as a technology coach, I have connected with many students who are using assistive technology to augment their learning. Recently, I worked in a school where a student was trying to decide between keeping her current SEA laptop or switching to a Chromebook. We decided to experiment with some of the vision accessibility features on the Chromebook so she could use these features first hand in order to make an informed decision. This student had used assistive technology in the past, but now that she was in Grade 7, she wanted the same device as her peers. We found some great features that would be helpful for students using Chromebooks. Please see the features below.
- Show Accessibility Options in the System Menu
This function eliminates having to open the settings menu and gives you an accessibility icon in the Chromebook system menu. Users can quickly access commonly used accessibility options and toggle them on or off. You can enable this by clicking on:
settings > advanced > accessibility > always show accessibility options in the system menu
Now you can access the accessibility options in the system menu by clicking on your account photo or by pressing alt + shift + s
2. Docked Magnifier
The student I was working with loved this option for zooming in on the Chrome toolbar and omnibox. You can access this in the accessibility options under docked magnifier or use the keyboard shortcut: ctrl + search + d to turn it on or off. This tool is excellent for assisting students with low vision as the magnifier allows for full navigation of their screen, not just the web page. This feature would also assist students who need some help focusing on a particular aspect of the screen in closer detail in addition to using the trackpad pinch to zoom feature.
3. Large Mouse Cursor and Highlight Mouse Cursor
These tools are excellent for drawing attention to the mouse for easier tracking. While these features are helpful for students with low vision, they are also helpful for students to maintain focus on text or images. I shared this with many students and they appreciated the larger mouse when reading as it helped them track the text more effectively. The highlighted cursor is also helpful for directing attention and more efficient tracking.
In my classroom practice, I was deliberate in ensuring all students were provided with access to assistive technology. I found the tools were useful to all students, and the resulting classroom culture was more inclusive and supportive. Sharing assistive technology tools with the whole class community eliminates barriers that exist for students who require assistive technology for their learning. When students see that all members of the class benefit from using these programs, they no longer become specific to one student and are shared by the classroom community.
By sharing accessibility tools for all students on the Chromebooks we not only promote inclusion and eliminate stigma, but we also offer a variety of tools for all students to ensure their success. I encourage you to explore the many accessibility features the Chromebooks have to offer and please share any ideas you have in the comment section below.