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The availability and use of assistive technology by people with disabilities in some selected government schools in the BUEA Municipality

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The study set out to examine the availability and used of assistive technology in public secondary school in Buea municipality South West Region of Cameroon, the specific objectives of the study were: To examine challenges encountered by secondary school teachers in using assistive technology to teach persons with disabilities, to investigate the impacts of assistive technology on the performance of persons with disability. From this objectives, two research questions were formulated and hypotheses state in both null and alternative forms were equally formulated. The study employed a structured questionnaire for data collection. The study adopted a survey research design with a sample of 30 teachers from 3selected secondary school in Buea municipality through a Purposive sampling technique and convenient sampling technique. The study instrument was pilot tested and equally subjected to Cronbach’s alpha coefficient using SPSS statistics to establish their validity and reliability. The calculated t-value for the hypothesis was greater than the t critical value of 0.17 at p≤0.05. The null hypothesis was rejected in favour of alternative hypothesis. It was therefore concluded that the availability and use of assistive technology by person with disability has an impact in public secondary schools in Buea municipality. some recommendations were made: that teachers should attend as many in service training, workshops and seminars as they can, also when recruiting teachers, the government should put the criterial of knowledge and competence in the use of assistive before selecting the successful employees.



1.1 Introduction

In the world there have been a rapid increase of person with disability cases in need of assistive technology especially with the fast growing information and communication technological trends. Assistive devices and technologies are those whose primary purpose is to maintain or improve on individual’s functioning and independency to facilitate participation and to enhance overall well-being. They can also help prevent impairments and secondary health conditions. Example of assistive devices and technology include wheelchairs, prostheses, hearing aids, visual aids, and specialized computer software and hardware that increase mobility, hearing, vision, or communication capacities. Assistive technology, also known as AT is define as any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified or customized, that is use to increase maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004)

Historically, the advent of assistive technology can be dated as far back as in the 1600s. Bryant and Bryant (2011) suggested three periods of assistive technology chronological development: The Foundation Period, the Establishment Period, and the Empowerment the Foundation Period (prior to 1900) began with Stone Age man’s first attempt to use a stick as a cane to assist with an injured leg (Bryant and Bryant, 2011).  Some pirates, in 1600 and 1700s, used wooden leg and a metal hook that allowed them to maintain their functional capabilities (Cook and Hussey, 1995).

1.2 Background to the Study

1.2.1 Historical Background

In 1829, Braille was introduced as a method of reading and writing through touch, rather than sight for people with blindness or partial sight. Then in 1836, Edison invented the phonograph to help his mother and individuals with hearing loss to listen to recordings (Cook and Hussey, 1995). The Establishment Period (1900 through 1972) characterized in general by establishing laws, policies and litigation (e.g., The Soldier Rehabilitation Act, which established in 1918 and extended to nonveterans in 1920). Many inventions were invented in this period (e.g., the Xframe-folding wheelchair invented in 1937, and the Hoover Cane in 1947). Tech Act established to financially support the implementation of assistive technologies. The Assistive Technology Act (ATA) in 1998 was crucial to increase the availability and access to assistive technology devices and services that require the professional knowledge and commitment of a multidisciplinary team (Assistive Technology Act, 2004). The manufacturing and demand for assistive technology has grown during this period. International Business Machines (IBM) asserted that “For most people, technology makes things easier. For persons with disabilities, technology makes things possible” (International Business Machines, 1991, p.2). IBM’s assertion reflects the empowerment that individuals with disabilities acquired from using assistive technologies.

Cameroon in general and Buea in particular have also witness a long history of the used of assistive technology as some evidence can be noted and seen clearly in some school whereby persons with disabilities make used of assistive technology.

1.2.2 Conceptual Background

Assistive technology is umbrella term for products and related services used by persons with disabilities to enable and enhance their inclusion in all domains of participation. AT can be used by people of all ages and with all types of impairment and all sorts of limitations in activities and for short or long periods of time. This variety of user groups and wide range of assistive products and related services make provision of AT a complex issue.

Assistive technology refers to the devices and services that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the capabilities of a student with a disability (Dell, Newton, & Petroff, 2012; Abbott, 2007; Abbott et al, 2011). The foundation For Assistive Technology (FAST) defines AT as any product or service designed to enable independence for disabled and older people (FAST,2001)

The term disability is used in this study as any restriction or lack (resulting from an

impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being. This definition reflects the idea that to a large extent, disability is a social construct. Most people believe they know what is and is not a disability. If you imagine “the disabled” at one end of a spectrum and people who are extremely physically and mentally capable at the other, the distinction appears to be clear.

(Bateman,1965) defined learning disabled students as “Students who manifest an

educationally significant discrepancy between their estimated intellectual potential and actual level of performance related to basic disorders in the learning process, which may or may not be accompanied by demonstrated central nervous system dysfunction and which are not secondary to generalized mental retardation, educational or cultural deprivation, severe emotional disturbances or sensory loss.”

1.2.3 Contextual background

(Bonwell and Eison, 1991). Assistive technology provides children with disabilities with equal opportunities to participate in active environments with predictive activities that are aligned to their abilities. Many assistive technology devices are available to assist teacher in improving the functional capabilities of their students via increasing students’ participation in learning opportunities and involvement in activities (Scherer, 2004). The potential value of assistive technologies for enhancing learning opportunities for students with disabilities have been recognized by many countries.

1.2.4 Theoretical background

Three theories will be used to inform the objective of the study, these theories

include: The Edyburn’s model of integrating technology, the wellness theory, Vygotsky Social Model of Disability and Oliver’s theory of disability.

Edyburn’s model of integrating technology (1993) seeks to inform the main objective of the study. This theory outlines the ways to integrate technology into the curriculum by identifying the major tasks involved in selecting, acquiring, implementing, and integrating instructional technologies into the curriculum.

Vygotsky Social Model of Disability (1993) theory seeks to inform objective number one. This theory holds that, disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society.

The Social Model of Disability: This theory seeks to inform objective number two. This theory holds that, disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society (Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).

1.3 Statement of the Problem

The availability and use of assistive technology by persons with disabilities in secondary schools in Cameroon in general and Buea municipality in specific has been a called for concern. However, this is disrupted by a number of factors surrounding them and the schools. These factors include, high cost, lack of specialist to operate them, not easy to find (availability). The above mentioned factors can have a greater influence on the education of persons with disabilities and their functioning in their daily activities. Therefore, the need to investigate whether these devices are there and are being use?

According to (Cuban,2001), making the leap from accessing technology to instructional effectiveness using technology has been lacking in schools where the focus should be on learning from technology rather than with technology. Beckett, Wetzel, Chishlom, Zambo, Buss, Padgett, Williams, and Odom (2003) and Gorder (2008) supported this statement by explaining that technology integration, in general, is no longer about the availability of technology but more about teachers’ effective use of it. Effective integration of technology is the result of many factors, but the most important factor is the teacher’s competence and ability to share instructional technology activities to meet students’ needs. Therefore, in a world inundated with application software, web-based services, wireless devices, and interactive media, teachers must determine ways to incorporate technology into their practice and guide students to employ them in their learning (Beckett et

al., 2003)

1.4 Objectives of the study

1.4.1 General objective of the study

The main objective of this study is to examine the availability and use of assistive technology by person with disabilities in some selected government schools in Buea municipality.

Specific objectives of the study

To examine challenges encountered by secondary school teachers in using assistive technology to teach persons with disabilities.

To investigate the impacts of assistive technology on the performance of persons with disability.

1.5 Research Question

The following general and specific research question have been generated to help

attain research objectives.

1.5.1 General Question

At what level is the availability and use of assistive technology by person with disabilities in some selected government schools in Buea municipality?

1.5.2 Specific Research Questions

What are some of challenges encountered by secondary school teachers in using assistive technology in teaching persons with disabilities?

What impacts does assistive technology have on the performance of persons with disabilities

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