There are more than 16,000 special needs students in the HISD. The new workstations are designed to help the third of them who are the most mentally and physically impaired. Sowmya Kumar is the HISD's Assistant Superintendent for Special Education.
"These are kids that were born with disabilities, have continued to have the disability impact them in multiple ways. Physically, they're severely disabled. Mentally, they're several grade levels behind."
The workstations feature desktops that can easily accommodate wheelchairs or other special seating. The monitors are adjustable. And the keyboard and mice are designed to be easier to use for students who don't have fine motor skills. Kumar says students won't have to rely as much on teachers to read to them and record their responses.
"The adults could set things up for them, and then, really, the student can take charge of their own learning. It truly is about using technology to create a more independent learning environment for kids."
The $3.5 million price tag for the workstations will be covered by stimulus funds. Kumar says they'll be installed in 583 classrooms, from pre-k through 12th grade. The desks will arrive within the next month or so. The district will train teachers on them over the summer, and students will get to use them full time at the start of the next school year.