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Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities Benefits All Learners

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The makeup of the American student population is changing. According to a report by the United States Department of Education, approximately 11% of all undergraduates in American colleges report having a disability – up from 6% almost two decades prior. But, while more students with disabilities are enrolling in college programs, the graduation rate of this population remains lower. 41% of students with disabilities complete college once they begin, compared with 52% of the general population.

This difference often referred to as the disability gap, is a result of a failure of many educational institutions to provide adequate resources to support differently-abled learners. To mitigate this crisis, it’s critical to find a way to provide equal opportunities to students with disabilities. Assistive learning technology in the classroom represents an ideal solution.

Technology for students with disabilities also benefit the schools themselves by appealing to more applicants, diversifying the student body, and enabling compliance with regulations such as sections 508 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in any form.

Advancements in technology have brought on a surge of possibilities for learners with various disabilities. Whether a student is grappling with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability, assistive technology in the classroom allows all learners to thrive in higher education and take advantage of the same opportunities for success as their peers.

Here are three examples of assistive technology devices for students that are making a positive impact:

 

1. Transcription and captioning

The emergence of video-based lectures and eLearning platforms have revolutionized the modern approach to higher education by embodying efficiency, flexibility, and accessibility for all. Studying online provides a way for anyone to learn on-demand for a lower cost, without being tied to a specific course schedule.

The increasing popularity of this video-driven medium has generated a need to convert multimedia files into text, making an academic transcription and captioning solution a necessity. Incorporating a speech to text solution brings many advantages, including better comprehension of materials and higher student engagement.

One of the most significant advantages of providing transcript and captions is accessibility for all learners, particularly those with auditory disabilities. Providing transcripts helps individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing engage with video-based lessons. With around 20,000 deaf and hard of hearing students attending post-secondary educational institutions each year, it’s estimated that there are close to 500,000 deaf and hard of hearing college students in the United States. Providing text accompaniment to video-based academic content ensures that these students are not left behind. Transcripts are also a useful support tool for individuals who are not native speakers of the language of instruction.

 

2. Academic Proofreading software

Proofreading software is a kind of assistive technology for students that takes the typical proofreading features found in most word processing systems to the next level. It is particularly helpful for learners with dyslexia by offering the capability to correct frequently misspelled words. Other features include:

  • Grammar checker that analyzes context to make more accurate corrections
  • Word prediction and sentence rephrasing tools
  • Adaptive ability to learn from past errors and personalize spelling and grammar suggestions
  • Text-to-speech technology

Although primarily geared towards individuals with dyslexia, proofreading software can be helpful for students with any type of learning disability that makes reading and writing a challenging task. It is also helpful for students who are non-native English speakers to help them hone their writing skills.

3. Electronic Worksheets

Electronic worksheets are software programs that help students organize, align, and work through math problems on a screen. This is helpful for learners who may be unable to properly align math problems using pencil and paper. Many electronic worksheets also include a text-to-speech capability, specifically designed for mathematics voice recognition, so that numbers that appear onscreen can also be read aloud via a speech synthesizer.

 

Innovation for All

By being developed to address complex needs, assistive technology for students with disabilities end up benefiting everyone. As is often the case, many of the technologies that were initially developed for people with disabilities have gone on to become widely used by the general population. Innovations such as image recognition, speech-to-text, chatbots, and self-driving vehicles are technologies that benefit all individuals, as well as society as a whole. This same principle applies to tools developed specifically for academic purposes. Designing with accessibility in mind means creating a product that is more intuitive and feature-rich, meaning everybody wins.

New developments in assistive technologies in education offer almost limitless flexibility, making them versatile and adaptable to all varieties of disability. By leveling the academic playing field and offering equal opportunity, these tools represent the essence of the concept of democratization of education, empowering all learners to reach their maximum potential and achieve their academic goals.

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How Legal Technology Improves Courtrooms and Legal Practices

The technology revolution has firmly taken hold, impacting virtually every industry. From medicine to retail to education, advanced technology has fundamentally changed the way organizations run, and the legal industry is no exception. Like in many sectors, law firms have had to adapt in order to thrive in this new paradigm and maintain a competitive edge. Courtrooms are also going digital, moving away from traditional tools and adopting more advanced technology to streamline processes. While the legal sector is, traditionally, a conservative one, many organizations are recognizing the benefits of legal tech tools and adapting by incorporating them into their day-to-day operations.

Like with any major change, the emergence of legal tech is not without its challenges. Financial barriers preclude many organizations from finding the budget to add these tools. There is also some resistance from the old guard of the legal industry, who may be hesitant to change the way they’ve done things for decades, for fear of various jobs and tasks being replaced by automation.  

Innovative legal tech startups and increased financial investment in the field have propelled the evolution of cutting edge legal technology. These advanced tools have made their mark on legal organizations by lowering operational costs and boosting efficiency through process automation and optimization. They offer the opportunity to revolutionize a number of legal processes while saving time and money, all while enabling more analytic capabilities and allowing lawyers to focus on more strategic – not to mention profitable – tasks.

As the field continues to change, a number of legal technology trends have emerged for both law firms and courtrooms.

 

Legal Technology Trends for Law Firms

 

Cybersecurity

The need for increased cybersecurity is a prominent trend in the legal world that has received a significant amount of attention due to a number of notable breaches as well as the enforcement of the GDPR regulations. Law firms handle a large amount of sensitive data, putting them at risk for cyber attacks.

Implementing a cybersecurity solution is the best defense against attackers who themselves are growing more sophisticated as a result of evolving technologies. Because of this increase in digital threats, legal organizations are beefing up their cybersecurity budgets going forward, to secure their networks and confidential information.

 

Productivity-Enhancing Tools

The main advantages of legal technology for law firms are increased efficiency and reduced costs. In recent years, a number of tools have emerged that are changing the face of the traditional legal organization. Legal tech companies are providing options for firms to improve agility and ultimately win more business from both new and existing clients. Some examples of these solutions include:  

  • Document management
  • Financial/ERP systems
  • Analytics/BI
  • Case management
  • CRM
  • eDiscovery

 

The Rise of AI in the Legal Industry

The development of AI technology has revolutionized the world of legal tech. Organizations that leverage the enhanced capabilities that come with AI technology will edge out their competitors going forward. AI technology is at its best when it is accomplishing narrowly-defined tasks and completing time-consuming, repetitive work. But, while machines can process, store and recall information much faster than people, human professionals still need to apply critical thinking to that information. Therefore, by leaving the mundane or tedious tasks to the machines, AI has immense potential to allow law professionals to take on a more strategic role.

AI is positively impacting on a number of different legal technology solutions, including eDiscovery programs, chatbots, and cybersecurity software. Legal transcription technology, in particular, is an area that benefits greatly from developments in AI.

The legal sector heavily relies on audio and video files, as all processes are typically recorded for use in cases – including depositions, evidence-gathering, and court proceedings. All of these files must be transcribed or captioned to maintain accurate records that have the power to make or break a case. An AI-based solution drastically speeds up this notoriously inefficient process, giving legal professionals faster access to precise information so that cases can be solved with greater speed and ease while saving money.

 

Legal Technology Trends in the Courtroom

 

Evidence Cameras

This is one of the most important elements in the technology-enhanced courtroom. An evidence camera enables the conversion of physical documents or exhibits into electronic images for display on video monitors in the courtroom, with the ability to enlarge and reduce the image as needed, for better examination of the evidence in question

 

Legal Transcription Solutions

Due to the trend of increased court workloads, the demand for qualified court reporters has now far surpassed the supply. Since all court proceedings—including hearings, trials, and depositions—must have a reporter present, the most notable effect of the shortage is the delaying of legal processes.

A legal transcription solution, particularly one that is enhanced with AI technology, is quickly emerging as a viable solution to the growing court reporter shortage. When applied to automated speech recognition (ASR) technology, AI has the potential to improve speech-to-text engines to the point that they can transcribe jargon-heavy legal proceedings highly accurately. AI transcription can help court systems with their chronic backlogs by filling in the gaps where there aren’t enough court reporters present, to ensure the speedy delivery of justice.

 

Digital Recording Technology

 

The adoption of digital recording technology has become common in courts across the country. Alaska, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont use audio digital recording in all or most of their general jurisdiction court sessions, while many other states are not far behind. This speaks to the positive shift of tech adoption across the board.

The adoption of emerging technology disproves the idea that courts are conservative when it comes to legal tech. It also speaks to the positive trend of adoption of legal technology solutions in all areas of the legal system. While trained professionals, such as court reporters will always remain an integral part of the process, teaming up with legal technology offers long-lasting benefits for the entire court system.

The legal technology market is developing at a rapid pace and it’s clear that we can expect even more innovation in the very near future. All of this boils down to one key conclusion: legal tech isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Organizations that recognize the benefits and incorporate legal tech tools into their day-to-day operations will maintain a competitive edge over others in the field who may be stuck in the past.

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