Belated Thank-You Thursday: Assistive Technology Instructors

If you walk into a computer lab at many centers for independent living, a branch location of the Lighthouse for the Blind, or an affiliate of Braille Institute, you no doubt have met with an assistive technology instructor. (ATI) Many of these professionals teach the screen reading and enlargement software that we use on a daily basis.

Their duties go much farther than the lessons and planning for usually one-on-one instruction. ATI’s keep abreast with the latest software updates, new devices, and marketing of various brands available to us who are blind or visually impaired. So the man or woman who teaches the basic nuts and bolts of JAWS or NVDA spends a lot of time gearing his/her instruction for a whole wide range of students. You yourself may need help with writing emails or filling out online forms wile the next hour’s client might just need a touch-up on keystrokes before diving headlong into the numerous tutorials available through Freedom Scientific.

Some environments lend themselves to an ATI’s dictating the pace of your course of study better than others. If your engaged in a summer college-prep class at World Services for the Blind or L.A.’s Foundation for Junior Blind, deadlines might impel you to meet your teacher’s deadlines. On the other hand, if you’re in a self-paced adult education class where the only outcome depends on your desired goals, an ATI may facilitate your work but won’t have a tight agenda you have to follow. Maybe, you’re just wanting to get some one-on-one basics before heading onto a job preparation program like at the Carroll Center (Boston, MA), an ATI contracting with your State’s Commission for the blind might come to your home a couple times a week to help you.

Since the onset of COVID-19 and even as the pandemic is lifting, online technology training has grown in popularity around the world. Of course, YouTube hosts a lot of instructional videos. But if you still want the teacher/student interaction with time for Q and A during or after a lecture, the lessons being held through the San Francisco Lighthouse might appeal to you. Here I post the same link I referenced in a previous post where you can sign up. Mostlikely, the class presenter will be an assistive tech instructor who’s presented for groups of students with a wide range of abilities.

So where can someone go and learn to be an assistive technology instructor? World Services for the Blind (Little Rock, AR) has hosted one of the longest standing programs for this training. www.wsblind.org Students learn the finer points of how to operate the major screen reading programs on the market and how to teach them in a variety of settings. The WSB campus is an ideal setting for training to be an ATI since clients from all over the country enroll in the school’s numerous vocational programs (seen here: https://www.wsblind.org/programs-services). The ATI program takes seven to nine months after which students may get hired by the States where they live, a vendor of assistive technology such as Sendero, or a center like Bosma Enterprises (Indianapolis, IN)

WSB’s ATI program has the advantage of concentrating your work in an environment ideally set up for every adaptive need you may have. You are in close contact with classmates and instructors who can support you through the transition into employment while giving you tips for interviewing, presenting your skills, encouraging your further growth as a blindness professional.

Of course, ATI’s come through other programs such as those run at the Masters level at several schools including Salus University, Western Michigan, Florida State, and Northern Illinois. After completing the Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist program, you will be tested by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. (ACVREP) https://www.acvrep.org/index This endorsement, which you can periodically update through continuing education credits, will help if you move elsewhere in the country and need to show your competency when applying for a new job. After all, there will always be need for assistive technology instructors since smart phones, computers, and screen reading software will continue opening doors for us who are blind to gain our independence.

So, thank you to assistive technology instructors for helping us navigate the web, smart phones, and other gadgets.

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