If you use Assistive Technology (A.T.), it would be interesting to hear how you’re A.T. trainer handled the training you received and what materials were used. The reason being that it is quite varied how users describe their trainers and the level of training they received. I not only mean if the trainer was knowledgeable about the material, although this is not always the case, but how was the training explained with regards to goals and homework, for example.
In the school system we follow a curriculum, i.e. there are specific standards set that the schools, and therefore teachers, have to follow. Students are expected to be taught specific material in accordance with their progression, i.e. how far they have come in their studies.
I´ve been teaching blind and low vision individuals how to use A.T. for a number of years now and I can´t help but think: Why are we, A.T. trainers, not expected to work similarly?
Granted, it wouldn´t be practical to simply copy the curriculum method. People start using A.T. at different times in their life. Though some start using screen readers and magnification software at an early age, others begin to use such solutions later in life. But, I feel that the principal still applies. If we create some guidelines on what to teach, how to teach it and when, we are thereby making sure that the necessary material is covered. And no, I don´t just mean the basics of the A.T. you´re working with, but also the basics of the operating system, file system and computer you´re working with, hence, necessary material. Raise your hand if you´ve ever heard the phrase: “Yes I saved my file, it´s saved in Microsoft Word….. What do you mean: Where? I told you, it´s saved in Microsoft Word.”
Some might argue that there is a specific curriculum that is being followed. It would be excellent if I´m corrected here, nothing would please me more! But this is not done in Scandinavia, as far as I know.
It´s important that we differentiate between the guidelines that the respective workplace set´s and national guidelines. If there are no prerequisites set by the government, then there are no actual standards, at least none that can be quantified on a national level.
Why is this important? It´s because you should be able to receive the same level of training from every government funded training center, no matter where you live and no matter which training center you go to. If this was regulated, on a national level, I feel confident that the level of training would be improved as well as the training material. Scandinavia, roughly speaking, is pretty well of – so this should not pose as a big problem. But for anything to happen, we have to draw attention to the matter. We have to speak out about the training that is being received, what can be improved, what is working, what´s missing. And, as I said, if the Ministry of Education in the respective country set´s the standards – then we have something measurable to work with and the users know exactly what they should expect from their assistive technology trainer.
Granted, in other parts of the world not everyone has the option of going to a government funded training center; therefore it would perhaps be a bit more problematic to apply these rules. Or would it?