The new OU Access Bus, made possible by a donation of £43000 from the Halifax and designed to take enabling technologies into communities for on-site assessment of disabled students’ IT needs, arrived on-site on Tuesday.
At present the assistive technology needs of students either being supported through the Access Technology Loan Scheme (ATLS) and now those receiving Disabled Student’s Allowances are assessed by a combination of external specialists (mostly Access Centres) and OU
staff. However, many students in the more remote parts of the UK are difficult to support properly because they live large distances from the nearest assessment centres and sometimes find travel difficult or even impossible.
The new vehicle will carry a comprehensive range of access technology, which the students could try, either within the vehicle itself or, where appropriate, within their homes. The vehicle is accessed through a powered wheelchair lift, side steps and a ramp. Inside there would be a fully adjustable workstation area, storage space for the assistive technology, mains power, and communication links to provide E-mail and Internet connections.
In addition to its role directly supporting students, the vehicle would also be used at Open University events at Regional Centres where it may be used to help bring an understanding of the part assistive technology has to play in the support of disabled learners. During 2002 up to the next Open Day, it will tour the UK to visit all the OU’s Regional Centres.