Assistive Technology

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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.<ref></ref>

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.

AT List Serve

Types of Assistive Technology

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

Assistive Technology Feature Glossary

Information adapted from

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

are 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.


  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>
  • 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. <ref></ref>


  • 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. <ref></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></ref>

See Also

Assistive Technology Suggestions / Resources

Assistive Technology Decision Tree

See Also

Freeware & Other Software




Assistive Technology Class

  • Overview

Assistive Technology Definition

  • Define

Educational Technology

  • Give/show examples (Define AT give/show examples )
  • Discuss Mainstream Technology and its benefits
  • Impact of technology on Education

Disabilities and their effect on Students

Vision Impairment Hearing Impairment Learning LD Writing LD Reading Communication Dexterity



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