Difference between revisions of "Assistive Technology"

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* Braille embossers transfer computer generated text into embossed Braille output. Braille translation programs convert text scanned in or generated via standard word processing programs into Braille, which can be printed on the embosser. <ref>http://www.microsoft.com/enable/default.aspx</ref>
* Braille embossers transfer computer generated text into embossed Braille output. Braille translation programs convert text scanned in or generated via standard word processing programs into Braille, which can be printed on the embosser. <ref>http://www.microsoft.com/enable/default.aspx</ref>

Revision as of 11:09, 13 October 2017


Assistive or Adaptive Technology commonly refers to "...products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities..."Assistive Technology Act of 1998

Assistive Technology Services support people with disabilities or their caregivers to help them select, acquire, or use adaptive devices. Such services include functional evaluations, training on devices, product demonstration, and equipment purchasing or leasing.[1]

Assistive Technology Software

Tool for Finding Assistive Technology

Finding the assistive technology on the market can be challenging. The following are some resources that can help you narrow your search.

Types of Assistive Technology

Includes No-Tech, Low-Tech and Hi-Tech solutions

Click to View PDF presentation of AT for PostSecondary Students. This presentation was developed in conjunction with The Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (GPAT)]

Assistive Technology Feature Glossary

Information adapted from http://www.nationaltechcenter.org

Text to Speech Tools

Convert written language into spoken language. Use these tools with individuals who have visual impairments or who struggle with decoding or vocabulary. They can provide the scaffolding for students to read independently at a higher and more challenging level.

  • Synthesized Speech is the electronic voice of the computer, which sounds more mechanical than a human voice but can be used with a wide range of texts. Use texts with this feature to help students with decoding and pronunciation of individual words.
  • Recorded Human Narration is a recording of a live person which provides a more natural inflection than a synthesized voice. Use texts with these narrations to promote fluency through repeated readings and choral readings.
  • Multiple Voices is a program option that allows the user to select from a variety of voices, which may include a male, female, or child's voice, or various character voices. Use these choices to find a voice that is appropriate to the text or appeals to the student.
  • Reading Rate control allows the user to customize the speed at which the text is spoken. Use this feature to adjust the reading pace to match an individual student. When working on a goal of increasing reading speed, try having the student increase the rate slightly.
  • Dynamic Highlighting allows the user to select how the screen reader highlights (colors) text as it is read – by word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph. This feature helps students track the text and stay in sync with the narration. As a general rule of thumb, more fluent readers can focus on whole paragraphs while early and struggling students may need a word by word focus.
  • Read InstructionsThis feature reads activity instructions, as well as text within an activity or passage. Use this feature to help students with low vision or blindness to complete assignments independently.
  • Read Graphocs This feature reads the descriptive tags that accompany graphics and images. Use this feature to help students with low vision or blindness navigate programs independently.
  • Read Menus/Toolbars/Dialog Boxes This feature reads navigational components, such as the menus, toolbars, and dialog boxes. Use this feature to help students with low vision or blindness to navigate through or interact with the computer program.

Customizable Interface

Allows the user to adjust and arrange the visual and audio components of the program according to his/her preferences and needs. Users can adjust the size and color of the text. Use increased font size to help students with minor visual impairments or those who would benefit from less text per screen view. Use color choices to organize or accentuate information on the screen or increase the contrast of text to background for students with low vision or for whom reading on the screen causes eye fatigue.

  • Desktop View Options are controls that adjust the appearance of items on the desktop. Use this feature to adjust the size of icons for students with minor visual impairments, or the amount and position of icons to keep the desktop clutter-free and easy to navigate.
  • Adjustable Response Time allows the user to adjust how long a program will wait for a response after a prompt. Use this feature to individualize activities for different students, allowing more time for students who struggle or who have slow response capabilities.
  • Multilingual Options offer the user the opportunity to select the language of the program. Use this feature to help students who are learning English - or learning another language - by presenting curriculum materials in a language other than English.
  • Adjustable Sensitivity Adjusting the pressure, rate, or control options of a device allows a user to match it to his or her ability to respond and control.
  • Adjustable Repeat Rate Features changes frequency of response to clicks and button pushes.
  • Sound Adjustment Sound can be turned on or off. Use the sound on feature to access audio materials or to alert students to shift activities or stay on task. Use the sound off feature to eliminate distractions.
  • Graphics On and Off Graphics can be turned on or off. Use the graphics on feature to access visual materials. Use the graphics off feature to isolate and strengthen auditory skills.

Embedded Resources

Reference and study resources that exist as a part of the program and can be accessed from within the program. Use these resources to save students’ time looking in extra materials.

  • E-dictionary allows the user to access a digital dictionary and immediately get a definition of a selected word. Use this feature to build vocabulary and English language skills and to promote independent work habits.
  • E-thesaurus allows users to access a digital thesaurus and immediately get an entry for a selected word. Use this feature to help students expand their vocabulary and improve their writing.
  • Text Notes or Tags give users the ability to take notes on the screen as they read. Use this feature to encourage students to interact with text as active readers and promote better reading comprehension.
  • Export User Notes Users' notes can be collected and exported into a separate document. Use this feature to help students gather their notes to outline a response paper or an expository essay.
  • Audio Notes allow the user to record notes in an audio format instead of in print. Use this feature for students who have difficulty writing or typing. Post strategy prompts in assigned readings through these audio notes.
  • Bookmarks allow individual users to annotate a passage or mark where they ended a session.
  • Search & Find Digital text offers the capability to look for certain words or terms within the program. Use this feature to find particular quotes or passages more quickly.
  • Calculator performs basic mathematical functions. Use an embedded calculator to seamlessly support mathematical reasoning and enhance math skills.
  • Highlighting gives the user the capability of adding highlights to text on the screen. Use this as an instructional feature to mark the main idea, topic sentence, or important details, or for editing feedback. Most programs have multiple colors so that users can color-code their annotations. Have students use the features as a study activity.
  • Editing or Revising guide provides support for writing. Use this feature to help students edit their writing.
  • Outline Template provides a structure to organize information and ideas for writing. Use this template as a beginning step in the writing process, giving students a place to assemble and arrange their ideas before drafting. Some programs have genre-specific templates for different types of writing supports.
  • 'Comprehension Tools page per page topical prompts can be customized by the educator to assist the student in focusing on the most important concepts on the page.

Writing/Composing Support

Highlights key elements seen as essential to improving the writing skills of students. Technologies that scaffold the writing process are most effective when combined with explicit and systematic writing instruction.

  • Planning and OrganizingTechnology that supports the planning and organizing stage of the writing process has been shown to improve the quality of writing for students with learning disabilities. Examples include genre-specific supports, procedural supports, and visual-graphic mapping.
  • Transcribing Technology that supports the transcribing step helps struggling students with the cognitive juggling act of turning ideas into sentences, selecting words, monitoring ideas, and producing text. Examples include word processing, word prediction and word cuing, and speech recognition.
  • Editing & Revising Technology that supports the final step in the writing process helps students improve the accuracy of their writing (editing) and the clarity of their composition (revising). Examples include spell checkers, word processors, and speech output.

Word Prediction

Programs reduce the number of keystrokes necessary to type a word by offering a list of frequently used words using the initial letters typed. Suggestions may be based on word frequency, word recency, syntactic rules, or word associations.

  • Word Cueing makes a prediction about a typed word based on the first letter or letters, drawing words from dictionaries used by the specific program. Use word cueing to help students with spelling difficulties increase their spelling accuracy.
  • Dynamic Word Prediction the suggested word list changes as more letters are typed. With each additional letter, the word list becomes more narrow and more accurate.
  • Reads Suggested Words This feature uses voice output to read the suggested words aloud instead of requiring that the user visually recognize the correct word. Use this feature for students with severe reading and spelling problems.
  • Costomized Word Lists Users can customize the word list to include only topic-specific words or only difficult words. Customized word lists can be as small as a few user-selected words, or as large as multiple dictionaries. Create word lists for particular lessons or to offer select support to individual students.


The process of putting ideas in written form. Several tools can help make the drafting process more accessible and understandable to students.

  • Outlining Tool helps students organize their thoughts and structure their writing. Use this feature to provide a format for prioritizing and sequencing information for writing.
  • Created from Note, Web, or Outline This feature will support students in creating a draft from their notes, from a brainstorming web, or from an outline. Use this tool to help students transfer their prewriting into draft form.
  • Graphic Organizer These create a visual map of a student's ideas, arranged thematically. It places detailed information into broader categories that can be turned into paragraph topics. Use this feature to help students brainstorm, arrange their thoughts, and identify main ideas.


The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a professional organization for math teachers, has determined five major content areas of math instruction.

  • Number and operations refers to an understanding of the number line, whole numbers and fractions, the ability to solve basic computation problems, and the ability to estimate.
  • Geometry is a mathematical representation of objects in space. It requires an understanding of geometric vocabulary, such as parallel and perpendicular, and the ability to find congruence in objects using distances and angles.
  • Measurement is the use of units of measure to describe the length, area, or volume of an object. It requires the ability to approximate, as well as the ability to use tools to gauge a precise measurement.
  • Data analysis and Probability involve the ability to see patterns in data, to predict outcomes based on experiments, to understand the difference between certain and uncertain events, and to collect and display data in multiple and organized forms.
  • Algebra is the symbolic representation of numbers. It requires the ability to recognize, create, and extend patterns of numbers.

Cursor control options

Offer the user multiple ways to navigate and make selections on a computer screen. The most common way is by using a mouse, but several other options exist based on different user preferences and needs.

  • Movement recognition device is a camera that tracks the gestures of a user, usually hand or head movements, to select or control applications. With an eye tracking device, users can select icons on the screen with a blink or focused pause. By eliminating the need for a keyboard or a mouse, users with physical disabilities can interact with the computer by using sign language or other recognized gestures.
  • Touch screens are display overlays which can display and receive information on the same screen. Use this feature with students who have difficulty with hand-eye coordination or visual tracking problems, and who find use of a mouse troublesome.
  • Eye Tracking devices link the eye movements of the user to the motion of the cursor. Users can click on items on the screen by blinking or staring at the desired item. Use this feature with students who have limited mobility.
  • Head Controlled device uses a camera to track a reflective point placed on the user's head. Use this feature with students who have limited mobility.
  • Scanning is a manner in which items on the screen are sequentially highlighted and users can make selections as they become illuminated by using a switch. Use this feature with students who have limited mobility or control.
  • Arrow Keys can be used instead of a mouse to control cursor movement on the screen. Use this feature for students who have difficulty with hand-eye coordination or visual tracking.
  • Switches are devices that are used in collaboration with scanning software to select highlighted items. Switches are connected to the computer mouse, but can be operated by a finger, toe, or other body part that can be moved voluntarily. Use this feature with students who have limited mobility or control. Switches are devices that are used in collaboration with scanning software to select highlighted items. Switches are connected to the computer mouse, but can be operated by a finger, toe, or other body part that can be moved voluntarily. Use this feature with students who have limited mobility or control.
  • Sip and Puff device is a head mounted accessory that allows the user to control the cursor using his or her breath. A mouth tube connects to a switch box that uses breathing input to make selections on the screen. Use this feature with students who have extremely limited mobility.

Input Options

  • One-handed keying allows the user to perform all of the same functions of a standard keyboard using one hand. Use this feature with students who have good control of one hand (right or left)
  • On-screen Keying allows users to input information on a virtual keyboard displayed on the computer screen. Users may access the virtual keyboard using a joystick or pointer. Use this feature with students with mobility impairments or students who do not know how to type.
  • Programmable Keyboards allow a user to assign certain commands (or macros) to specific keys or key combinations. Users can also rearrange key layouts (i.e. Dvorak) to create an alternative keyboard. Some programmable keyboards use changeable overlays to allow users to completely alter keyboard function. Use this feature with students who have difficulty using a standard keyboard or users who frequently use the same commands (i.e. to read text on screen, speak pre-recorded greetings, etc.).
  • Voice Recognition / Speech Recognition converts the user’s speech to text. These computer programs allow users to access a computer (typing documents, using the internet, etc.) with voice alone. Use this feature with students who cannot use a mouse or keyboard and have control of their voice.
  • Scanning Input allows users to select an item (communication symbols, items from a menu, etc.) from a group of items on the computer screen, generally using a switch. The program highlights each item on the screen in order; users press a switch when their desired item is highlighted. Use this feature with students who cannot use a keyboard or mouse to access a computer.
  • Morse Code allows users to transmit information using a series of long and short marks representing letters, numbers and punctuation. It can be used by individuals with a variety of disabilities as a means of inputting information. Users should have at least minimal motor control. This feature can be used with students who have motor disabilities and other sensory impairments (vision and/or hearing) as Morse code signals can be transmitted using a skin buzzer. Users can also input Morse code using a sip and puff device.

Output Devices

  • Print or Save Results

This feature allows users to print or save their work. Use this feature to track progress of students who cannot use pencil or pen to complete assignments.

  • Sound Output for Visual TasksThis feature provides users with an audible output when completing visual tasks. This may take the form of a simple sound when a user has selected an item or redundant auditory output in addition to a visual display (descriptions of images, etc.). Use this feature with students who have visual impairments.
  • Braille output This feature converts text into Braille for users with visual impairments. Use this feature for students who are blind and can read Braille.
  • Tactile GraphicsTactile graphics are created using specialized printers resulting in raised and embossed versions of standard 2-D images. These graphics may also be accompanied by Braille descriptions (i.e. maps for geography classes). Use this feature with students who are blind.
  • Captioning Captioning provides matching text descriptions for all audio tracks on a variety of visual media (movies, flash animations, etc.). Captions generally provide both the speech elements of the media as well as descriptors of non-speech sounds (music playing, laughter, etc.). Use this feature with students who have hearing impairments.
  • American Sign Language This feature converts text to American sign language in video clips or graphics.


Describes the ability to individualize a program to meet students' differing needs and monitor progress.

  • Teacher ControlTeacher control allows the teacher to program components of an activity to meet individual students' needs.
  • Student Control Student control allows the student to adjust program components according to his or her skill level and comfort level.
  • Adjustable Levels Adjustable levels provide practice on a single skill or group of skills at a variety of levels. Use adjustable levels to have students practice independently at a lower level, and with scaffolded support at a higher level.
  • Multiple Activities and Level These programs offer practice in a single skill using both multiple activities and multiple levels, giving the teacher greater flexibility and a greater number of options to * Individualize the Curriculum.

user data stored for progress monitoring This feature records and saves user activity and responses so that they can be reviewed and assessed later. Use this feature to track and monitor student progress. multiple user profiles Multiple user profiles allows several users to work on the same program and save their activity and responses separately.

Reading Components

The National Reading Panel convened in 2000 to determine the essential components of reading instruction. These components are: alphabetics (phonemic awareness and phonics), fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  • Alphabetics (phonemic awareness and phonics) Alphabetics is the representation of spoken sounds with letters. Students must first acquire phonemic awareness (the understanding that words are made up of a series of distinct sounds) before they can begin practice with phonics (mapping sounds to letters). Phonics-based programs emphasize the connection between letters and sounds to help students crack the code of reading.
  • Fluency is the ability to read quickly and accurately. When students are able to spend less cognitive energy decoding each word, they are better able to attend to the meaning and cadence of the passage. Fluency-based programs use timed readings and repeat readings at or slightly below a student's reading level to provide practice reading quickly and with expression.
  • Vocabulary is the understanding of word meanings. This can be defined as the number of words a person recognizes (breadth) as well as the level at which the person understands and uses them (depth). Vocabulary-based programs focus on expanding both the breadth and depth of students' vocabularies, as well as teaching prefixes, suffixes, and roots, which help students uncover word meanings independently.
  • Comprehension is a measure of how well a person understands the meaning of a passage. This is the ultimate goal of reading. It relies on the reader's combined skill with alphabetics, fluency, and vocabulary, as well as the reader's background knowledge about the subject. Comprehension-based programs help students visualize as they read, and draw conclusions about the author's intentions and attitudes.

Text-embedded prompts

Alert users to problems with their writing.

  • Grammar Check Grammar check highlights grammatical errors within a written passage.
  • Spell Check Spell check highlights spelling errors within a written passage.
  • Spelling Auto-Correction Spelling auto-correction corrects misspelled words automatically.
  • Customizable Error Prompts/Auto Corrections This feature gives users the opportunity to customize which prompts and auto-corrections would be helpful for them and to minimize distractions. Use this feature to customize the level and type of proofreading support to offer each student.
  • Customizable Length Suggestion ListWhen a program identifies a spelling or grammar error, it offers a list of suggestions. Customization allows users to adjust the length of this list.
  • Provides Sentence Clues This feature will supply a sentence clue to help a user identify which correction or word would be most appropriate.
  • Reads Suggested Words and Prompts This feature reads suggested words and prompts aloud. Use this with students who have difficulty with reading or spelling.
  • Audio Recorded Prompts Audio recorded prompts give students a verbal alert to errors within a passage, in addition to the visual cue on the screen. Use this with students who respond better to auditory input than to visual.

Approximate Grade Level

  • Early Elementary
  • Intermediate Elementary
  • Middle School
  • Secondary
  • Post-secondary

Operating System

  • Microsoft 98+
  • OS 10+
  • Linux
  • Java based
  • Flash based
  • Web Based


  • Screen enlargers (or screen magnifiers) work like a magnifying glass. They enlarge a portion of the screen as the user moves the focus—increasing legibility for some users. Some screen enlargers allow a user to zoom in and out on a particular area of the screen. [2]
  • Large-print word processors allow the user to view everything in large text without added screen enlargement. [3]
  • Talking word processors are software programs that use speech synthesizers to provide auditory feedback of what is typed. [4]
  • Screen readers are software programs that present graphics and text as speech. A screen reader is used to verbalize, or "speak," everything on the screen including names and descriptions of control buttons, menus, text, and punctuation. [5]
  • Speech recognition systems, also called voice recognition programs, allow people to give commands and enter data using their voices rather than a mouse or keyboard. [6]
  • Speech synthesizers (often referred to as text-to-speech (TTS) systems) receive information going to the screen in the form of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, and then "speak" it out loud. Using speech synthesizers allows blind users to review their input as they type. [7]
  • Word prediction programs allow the user to select a desired word from an on-screen list located in the prediction window. This list, generated by the computer, predicts words from the first one or two letters typed by the user. The word can then be selected from the list and inserted into the text by typing a number, clicking the mouse or scanning with a switch. These programs help users increase written productivity and accuracy, and increase vocabulary skills through word prompting. [8]
  • Reading comprehension programs focus on establishing or improving reading skills through ready-made activities, stories, exercises, or games. These programs can help users practice letter sound recognition and can increase the understanding of words by adding graphics, sound, and possibly animation. [9]
  • Reading tools and learning disability programs include software designed to make text-based materials more accessible for people who struggle with reading. Options can include scanning, reformatting, navigating, or speaking text out loud. These programs help people who have difficulty seeing or manipulating conventional print materials; people who are developing new literacy skills or who are learning English as a foreign language; and people who comprehend better when they hear and see text highlighted simultaneously. [10]


  • Refreshable Braille displays provide tactile output of information represented on the computer screen. The user reads the Braille letters with his or her fingers, and then, after a line is read, refreshes the display to read the next line. [11]
  • Braille embossers transfer computer generated text into embossed Braille output. Braille translation programs convert text scanned in or generated via standard word processing programs into Braille, which can be printed on the embosser. [12]