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Digital revolution changing lives of students with disabilities

The Refreshabraille has a Braille keyboard that allows students to write as well as read.

Kyle Beasley is a smart second-grader with an infectious grin.

He’s also functionally blind.

Until last fall, the 7-year-old used 8-by-11-inch Braille texts that teachers printed for him on a special machine.

Each page cost about $1. He once had four lockers just to store his textbooks.

Today, the student at Roosevelt Elementary School in Janesville, Wis., easily carries his own iPad and a special Braille translator that allow him to read all his textbooks, send eMails, access the internet, check the weather, and do just about anything anyone else can do with a computer.

It’s new technology that is fundamentally changing how blind people interact with their world, but it appears the digital revolution is just getting started when it comes to improving the lives of people with all sorts of disabilities.

Some of the developments border on the magical, compared with what was available 20 years ago. Schools often are the places where people first encounter them.

Educators are scrambling to keep up with developments for those who can’t see, can’t hear, whose minds have trouble with the written word, who can’t use their arms or legs, and even those who can do little more than move their eyes.

The Janesville School District employs a teacher whose job is to find the technology that best suits each student who has a disability. Her name is Kathy White.

“Technology is exploding for us,” White said.

Keeping up is a challenge, but colleagues said White is very good at it.

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