Classrooms to be Better Equipped to Serve Students with Disabilities

New computer workstations align with recent review of district’s Special Education Program

April 06, 2011
HISD students with disabilities will have increased and improved access to technology, thanks to new computer workstations (click here to see a photo) that will soon be delivered to classrooms throughout the district. The Universally Designed for Learning (UDL) workstations align directly with recommendations made in a review of the district’s Special Education Program.

The recently completed review (see the full report here, .pdf, or read a summary in Spanish, .pdf), conducted by Dr. Tom Hehir of the School Leadership Program at Harvard University, found several areas where HISD can improve the services it provides to the 16,000-plus special needs students attending HISD schools. They include increasing access to appropriate technology for students with disabilities and developing service models that emphasize effective Universal Design for Learning principles. The acquisition of the new workstations aligns with both recommendations.

Universal Design for Learning is an extension of the architectural design movement called Universal Design which addresses architectural barriers that limit building access for disabled individuals. Research has shown that this design principle benefits all of society, not just those with disabilities.

“These new workstations will provide HISD teachers flexibility when designing instruction for special needs students and offer students more flexibility in how they engage and respond to that instruction,” said HISD Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services Sowmya Kumar. “In addition, not only will they serve our students who experience significant instructional challenges, but the entire HISD student body as well.”

Funding to cover the $3.5 million project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Special Education teachers, department chairpersons and program specialists will receive notice in the next few weeks of the specific configurations coming to their classrooms. Introductory professional development on the new workstations is scheduled throughout June 2011, with more comprehensive professional development planned for the 2011–2012 school year.

A mock-up of the computer workstation is available in the Office of Special Education Services.