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Low and High Tech Assistive Technology: A Timeline


In a world and society designed for ‘normal’, people with disabilities often find it challenging to access everyday opportunities that many take for granted. This reality is especially evident in higher education. These limitations are evident physically, such as university elevators that are too narrow for wheelchairs, and academically when classes are taught without captions and transcriptions for deaf students or Braille reading options for blind students.

It’s crucial for the education industry to do more to support students with special needs in their academic journeys. Thankfully, there are many offerings now provided by low and high tech assistive technology.


High Tech, Low Tech, Mid Tech: Making a Difference

There have been attempts and developments to support people with disabilities for centuries. The first school for deaf children opened in 1817. New organizations emerged throughout the 1900s to service the disabled.

In 1988, the Assistive Technology Act passed in the United States. According to the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, the law was passed to “support State efforts to improve the provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities of all ages through comprehensive statewide programs of technology-related assistance.”

Technological assistance for people with disabilities varies based on their specific needs. Let’s deep dive into some key low and high tech assistive technology examples to understand how each can make a difference.


Low Tech Assistive Technology

Surprisingly, low tech devices can often make the biggest difference for a student.

According to Georgia Tech, low tech devices for students with disabilities “are devices or equipment that don’t require much training, may be less expensive and do not have complex or mechanical features.”

Examples include walking canes, binder clips that make it easier to turn pages, sensory input items such as fidgets and squishy balls, and writing things down instead of speaking. Low tech assistive technology in the classroom includes printing assignments in larger fonts, pencil grips, adapted pencils, and using colored highlighters to better organize information.

Mid Tech Assistive Technology

There are “mid tech” assistive technology devices that, according to Georgia Tech, “may have some complex features, may be electronic or battery operated, [and] may require some training to learn how to use.”

One of the most common examples is the wheelchair, which was first used between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. By the mid-to-late 1870s, developments continued, with the invention of the audiophone bone conductor, the first portable hearing aid, the Braille typewriter, and the first electric hearing aid, the akouphone.

Audiobooks followed. According to Inclusive Publishing, “when Thomas Edison recorded the first audiobook in 1877, he probably didn’t think of them as anything other than a way to sell more phonographs. In the 1930s, when the Library of Congress and the AFB developed a program for talking books.


High Tech Assistive Technology Examples

High tech assistive technology is described as “the most complex devices or equipment, that have digital or electronic components, [and] may be computerized,” according to Georgia Tech.

These include altering devices that use visual and vibrating elements to replace sound. A key example is a vibrating alarm clock, which can assist the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

Speech to text technology, which artificially produces human speech, also provides benefits to deaf students, enabling them to communicate more effectively with those around them. According to PCWorld, the first speech recognition system, “Audrey” by Bell Laboratories, was designed in 1952 and “could understand only digit… Ten years later, IBM demonstrated at the 1962 World’s Fair its ‘Shoebox’ machine, which could understand 16 words spoken in English.”

Today, speech to text technology can recognize entire university lectures. This high tech assistive technology provides important access to students who were underserved previously. It’s also paved the way for the production of AI-based academic transcription software products. AI products make it easier for students to consume classes in real time or quickly after a class via recordings.

High tech assistive technology also empowers the senses. Text to speech technology, is allowing mute students to communicate more simply. Additionally, electronic Braille allows blind students to read content on tablets and create graphs and spreadsheets, making it easier for them to thrive in STEM programs.

Both High Tech and Low Tech Assistive Technology Provide Opportunities for Equality

As technology advances at a rapid pace, students with a disability have a better chance of fulfilling their dreams and advancing their lives.

Mid tech and low tech assistive technologies still remain crucial. Higher education organizations that want to set up their students for success must consider implementing all types of technologies. When doing so, they can help students with disabilities to not only feel accepted, but finally become equal.

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Legal Deposition Transcription Services 101

Depositions have long been effective discovery tools for cases, eliciting important information and sometimes catching parties in lies. Whether a deposition court reporter uses a stenographic machine or a digital recorder, accuracy in legal deposition transcription services is of the utmost importance. A single word can change the meaning of a sentence, and therefore the entire outcome of a case.

Technology advancements help court reporter agencies ensure business longevity and scale, while also providing higher quality service to clients.

The Most Critical Components of a Legal Deposition to Guarantee Accurate Transcriptions

For lawyers, it’s critical to ask the right questions in the right order. In depositions, they must come up with useful follow up questions and find creative ways to uncover difficult answers. 

It’s also critical that deposition court reporters are ready to provide high-quality deposition transcription services. That process begins with the reporter arriving at the deposition’s location before the lawyers do, ensuring proper room setup of their computer, software, and microphones.

Throughout the deposition, the court reporter must ensure the proceeding is being recorded accurately. Digital court reporters must supervise their recording systems throughout the deposition, adding annotations in recording software when clarifications are needed about who is speaking. They often take manual notes of key events as a backup.

If there is a technical challenge, such as an inaudible speaker in the recording, it’s the court reporter’s job to stop the proceeding, ask the speaker to repeat his or her words or fix the technical glitch. This process is similar to a stenographer’s responsibility to ask for sentence repetition or louder speech for documentation sake.

The setup work before and during a deposition leads both traditional and digital court reporters to ultimately deliver more accurate transcriptions.

The Impact of Technology on Deposition Transcription Services

The biggest challenge impacting the deposition industry is the acute shortage in stenographers. The average age of a stenographer today is 50+. A growing number of stenographers are retiring and few professionals are seeking stenographic studies, which means schools are starting to close their doors.

Technological innovations offer many new career paths to the new generation, and these technologies are shifting law firms’ expectations as well. Clients want their legal deposition transcriptions quickly, accurately and cost-effectively. They grow frustrated when depositions are postponed because there are not enough stenographers. As time progresses, the parties involved seek out deposition reporters who can produce seamless work for them.

Only a small percentage of deposition transcription services providers have transitioned into digital, yet customers are searching for these tech-savvy agencies. State laws across the US have approved this technology. The market already offers tools that guarantee the same level of accuracy as stenographers provide, but faster and at a better price.

Stenographers’ careers and agencies are not at risk, they are just more advanced and empowered. In fact, adding a human factor to these technologies creates opportunities for further efficiencies and scalability.

How Speech Recognition Speeds Up the Legal Deposition Transcription Process and Improves Accuracy

The majority of deposition reporters have poured years into the practice of quick typing. They turn fast-paced legal exchanges it into accurate deposition transcriptions.

The challenge, of course, is that traditional deposition reporters are human. They may hear something incorrectly, mix up speakers, or struggle to concentrate due to a personal or health issue. 

Software, on the other end, rarely has a “bad day.” It doesn’t rely on a single person’s understanding. If the deposition reporter uses software that includes a speech recognition engine, it can easily capture every word accurately. With cutting-edge tools, voice recognition can decipher voices, even similar ones or ones that consistently talk over one another.

When it comes to transcribing the deposition, the transcriber is not required to listen to the recording over and over again to ensure every detail has been captured. The software does it for him or her, and it does so fast. This ability enables a significant drop in transcription costs for agencies, which is especially true if the transcription provider leverages artificial intelligence.

How AI-Based Software Ensures Longevity and Scales for Deposition Reporters

The top benefit of using an AI-based deposition transcription software is that the tool gets smarter the more it is used. The software product can learn legal terms and case information faster than any human, making it easier to understand complex terminology and references to past cases.

Depending on the provider, legal transcription can be provided either in real-time or shortly after the recording is submitted. When not done in real-time, some transcription companies provide human professionals to review the software’s work. This review ranges from accurate documentation to correcting a deposition transcript format. Clients can still receive the final results faster than they did when it was a human-only operation.

Agencies will end up saving on transcription costs, enabling them to serve more clients simultaneously. When human intelligence stays at the core center of the process, leveraging artificial intelligence can only help reporters, agencies, and others deliver services more efficiently.

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