The Opportunities of Assistive Technology
Technology assists students with disabilities in many ways. Whether the students you teach have mild or significant disabilities, they can use technology to help them to communicate, complete assignments, and fully participate in school and community. Assistive technology is defined in a federal law that ensures that children and adults needing such assistance have access to it. The term refers to any device (that is, piece of equipment, product, or other item) that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with disabilities.
Assistive technology sometimes is categorized according to its complexity. Here are examples of the levels of assistive technology students might use
No Technology or Low Technology
No technology (no-tech) or low technology (low-tech) refers to items that do not include any type of electronics. These are examples of low-tech devices:
- A rubber pencil grip that enables a student with a disability to better grasp a pencil or pen
- A nonslip placemat on a student's desk that makes it easier for her to pick up items because it stops them from sliding
- A study carrel that helps a student pay closer attention to the schoolwork at hand
Devices in the mid-technology (mid-tech) category use simple electronics. Examples include the following:
- A tape recorder that a student uses to record lectures
- A calculator that assists a student in completing math computations
- A timer that lets a student know it is time to change from one activity to another
The third level of assistive technology is referred to as high technology (high-tech). Items in this category use complex technology and often are expensive compared to no-tech and mid-tech items. Examples include these:
- Voice-recognition software that allows a student to dictate information that then appears in print on the computer
- Electronic communication boards on which a student can touch a picture and a prerecorded voice communicates for him. For example, a student touches a picture of himself and a voice says "Hello. My name is Danny. What is your name?"
Technology that used to be considered sophisticated (for example, talking watches and calculators, personal digital assistants) now is readily available and provides educational access for students with disabilities. As advances in technology continue, even more opportunities will become possible. As an educator, you should anticipate that assistive technology will be part of many students' tools for learning.
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