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Assistive Tech 'Lifeline' for MT Students with Disabilities During Pandemic


Wednesday, September 2, 2020   

MISSOULA, Mont. -- Technology from the University of Montana will provide a big assist to students living with disabilities as the school year begins.

Within the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, the MonTECH program provides assistive technology to people across the state. Molly Kimmel, the program director, said assistive technology can be any device that makes life easier, from eyeglasses to eye-gaze-activated equipment. MonTECH provides free, 30-day loans of its equipment, and Kimmel said they've been stocking up in preparation for schools with remote and hybrid learning models.

"We just wanted to make sure that we had enough iPads and tablets, and telepresence robots and things like that, to meet the needs of some of these students who might be viewing school from home instead of in person," she said.

Kimmel said the issue with some of this technology is the lack of broadband internet in rural areas. So, MontTECH is adding hot spots to its inventory as well this month.

Michelle Allen, an assistive technology specialist with MonTECH, said remote learning in the spring was eye-opening for many parents.

"I think a lot of people didn't realize how important these things were until they started teaching their child at home, and really seeing where the breakdown was," she said.

Allen said this is where MonTECH steps in to help parents, and Kimmel added that it's a joy to see their technology work for someone.

"When you see someone connect with the right piece of technology, it is one of those beautiful, lightbulb moments," she said. "It can be completely life-changing when the right thing is introduced."

She said MonTECH plans to host multiple webinars for teachers this fall to showcase the tools available through the program.

Disclosure: Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Health Issues, Rural/Farming, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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