Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest column: FCAT fails to allow dyslexics, disabled to use technology

Published: June 3, 2012
Click here to listen to the commentary.

By Davis W. Graham — Commentary (

As a person with the gift of Dyslexia, today I am thriving with text-to-speech technology that enables me to read at 340 to 510 words per minute. Not all the population has the ability to access such "free" tools.

Over and over again I hear stories of people who have dyslexia and other print "disabilities" and are still struggling. Their lives, like mine, could be changed with such Tools of Engagement.

Then I began to hear of lives and families who have been devastated by the FCAT and the lack of accommodations for those with print disabilities.

Did you know a child with the gift of dyslexia is not permitted to have assistive technology to help them in the reading portion of the FCAT?

High failure rate

The recently posted scores on the 10th-grade reading test show 81 percent of kids with disabilities failed. It is suspected that means about 80 percent of the students with specific learning disabilities failing -- compared to 73 percent last year.

Once they fail this test, they are then set on a path of lifelong struggles centered on this one failure, one of which I have endured.

The cost of funding this failure is enormous. We have increased populations in juvenile detention. Some 30 to 50 percent of juvenile detainees have a reading disability.

Even if the person is not in a correctional facility, the knowledge of failure can lead to addictions which numb the present to forget the past. The list goes on.

Our test-based education system not being held to American Disabilities Act standards is blatant discrimination. ADA is required in almost every other facet in our lives.

This is the beginning of a child's life in the education system and hence begins an intelligent life being measured and changed by a discriminatory test.

It is said there is a 16-year-old who is still in middle school because of failure to pass the FCAT. If not for a counselor's intervention, a woman who has been sight impaired since age 13 would not have been allowed to graduate from high school because she did not pass FCAT -- even though she was in the top 10 percent of her class.

Technology bridges gap

People with dyslexia or other print disability are living in a technical dream-come-true world which can equip the 10 to 20 percent of those who have dyslexia with tools such as Balabolka, Readplease, Xmind (note taking tool), Read2Go and -- which will change their future outlook.

This technology has bridged the gap, but for this technology not to be allowed in today's educational journey -- such as the FCAT -- then our education system is living in a two-faced world.

When a building is built today, it is required by law to have ADA-compliant restrooms. A person in a building that does not have an ADA restroom may be put at a temporary disadvantage. Because the FCAT does not accommodate a person with a print disability, that mars the person and family for life.

We are on the edge of the digital age where we can power up all students by advocating technology, but as it stands we are asking students in some academic settings to "power down."

Davis W. Graham, is the executive director and CFO of Manatee Diagnostic Center in Bradenton.

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