The following is a recap of a presentation by David Baker, director of Missouri Assistive Technology,  given to the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion on February 2, 2024.

Missouri Assistive Technology (MO AT) is a state program funded through the federal Assistive Technology Act with the mission of improving access to assistive technology for people with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities like vision loss, hearing loss, developmental disabilities, mobility issues, and more, MO AT offers a suite of services that helps them get access to tools that make it easier for them to use digital devices. 

For example, one barrier many people with disabilities face is being able to input information into a computer. This could be because an individual is blind or has a vision impairment that makes it difficult for them to see the graphical interfaces on their device. For these individuals, tools like screen readers and text enlargement software can make it easier to interact with their devices. Others may struggle due to intellectual or developmental disabilities. For them, tools that help simplify interfaces can help make it easier to interact with a computer. Individuals with physical disabilities, on the other hand, may struggle to use a traditional mouse and keyboard for input. For them, specialized devices like trackpads and trackballs can make computers more accessible for those who don’t have fine motor skills. There are also a variety of alternatives to keyboards for those who struggle with typing, ranging from zoom touch keyboards with enlarged keys to voice input software and eye gaze technology. MO AT works with disabled individuals and the organizations who serve them to understand the options that are available to help improve digital access. 

For disabled individuals in low-income households, MO AT offers free assistive equipment through their Telecommunications Access Program. This program not only matches individuals up with the adaptive devices they need but can provide consultations to help someone assess their needs as well as training and support for some of the more complicated assistive technologies. 

To help individuals explore whether a particular accessibility option may be right for them, MO AT runs a device loan program that allows individuals to check out devices to trial a particular assistive device. Many school districts and disability service organizations throughout Missouri take advantage of the device loan program, but it is also open for any community organizations that have some disabled individuals within their client base. 

MO AT also holds a series of Digital Day events across the state for individuals with developmental disabilities to help understand the needs of that population and how to best assist them in learning to use the internet and digital devices. MO AT is interested in partnering with KC organizations on this work and is hoping to soon be able to offer organized digital skills classes for individuals with developmental disabilities. MO AT is also exploring options to offer training for staff members at community organizations to help them understand how they can better serve their clients with disabilities.

Further Reading

Expanding Digital Literacy Programs in the Region: A Recap of February’s Digital Inclusion Learning Circle Meeting

The goal of the Digital Inclusion Learning Circle is to provide a space for digital skills trainers to share their knowledge and expertise, get tips to improve their programs and services and brainstorm new ideas. The February Digital Inclusion Learning Circle featured presentations from Pam Rooks, Refugee Digital Access Specialist with Catholic Charities of Northeast […]

Read More

Showing the love for digital inclusion

Another Net Inclusion is in the books, with this year’s conference held in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, aligning perfectly with it overlapping with Valentine’s Day. The event, hosted by NDIA, featured three days of learning with topics ranging from digital inclusion essentials to AI and dozens of panelists from across the country.   Sessions […]

Read More