Students with disabilities eliminate barriers with Kinect
According to the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, one in six people in the European Union has a disability so severe that it prevents them from fully taking part in society due to environmental and attitudinal barriers.
With the population increasing, so is the number of children born with disabilities. To improve the situation for people with disabilities, the strategy focuses on raising awareness of disability issues and fostering greater knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately, with a focus on the barriers for disabled people it often results in negative connotations. However, at Escola Secundária da Lagoa we want to focus on the opportunities and resources instead and have found great results amongst our disabled students when we decided to integrate Kinect, a motion sensing input device into the curriculum.
Introducing Kinect into the Classroom
We had already experienced positive outcomes with video games. When played cooperatively, they stimulate communication and socialization which are often some of the areas students with disabilities are challenged in. However, none of us were prepared for the success Kinect turned out to be for our students with disabilities.
With Kinect the students were no longer limited to a chair plugged to a table, they were dancing with their peers in front of the screen and in this way also practicing their motoric and coordination skills. This dynamic allowed us to shape the game according to the student´s needs, adding extra rules etc. and in this way we could continue to develop the students´ skills.
We had a particular activity where one of our students with major difficulties in expressing himself (associated with mild retardation) actually coordinated the activity and taught students without disabilities how to play the game. In that moment they all naturally bonded with Kinect adventures. For us that demonstrated that all kids are the same and that under the right circumstances, using the right tools, they can all interact and learn together.
Our School Principal Leonardo Amaral puts it this way: “First and foremost, Kinect directly supports our mission to provide a meaningful and stimulating education for all of our students; second, it helps teachers reinforce teamwork – while still providing personalised learning experiences; and it is a fantastic tool for measuring the amazing progress that our students are making every day. With Kinect the range of possibilities of which may be taught and learned by our students with disabilities has undoubtedly increased. It opens new horizons in personal relationships, improves cooperation between peers and develops personal mobility. Kinect also enables an easier inclusion of our special needs students in a future social working environment”.
Empower students to eliminate barriers
During the Kinect activities all the students take part on an equal basis. We wish the same will happen for our students outside the school. Students with and without disabilities are our future workforce. Integrating accessible technology into schools, and introducing it to students with disabilities early in their educational lives will not only enhance their learning but also their future employment potential. If students with disabilities experience success in their early school years and we focus on their success and development, there is a great chance that they will also succeed later in life. As educators and politicians we are responsible for facilitating that development by providing the right tools. This will be an important step to eliminate the barriers and instead empower our students with disabilities so that they can participate fully in society on an equal basis with others.
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