A Guide to Assistive Technology Devices

Assistive technology devices are tools that provide accessibility and functionality to students who have physical and/or cognitive impairments, and to students who are disabled. These devices open up a new world of technology, communication, and learning to students who are blind, deaf, mute, and those who may suffer from other types of physical or cognitive disabilities. If you are looking to learn more about assistive technology devices, let this be your guide.

Keyboard and mouse alternatives: Alternative input devices, and other variations on the traditional keyboard, are especially efficient tools for students who cannot use their hands to operate a standard keyboard, or who require a modified keyboard. Some devices have larger or smaller keys with alternative functions, and some modified keyboards can be used with one hand. Other assistive technology devices use brain waves, infrared technology, and sip-and-puff systems (operated by inhaling and exhaling) to perform keyboard and mouse functions. Trackballs, touch screens, and wands are other popular alternative input devices.

For the blind and vision impaired: Certain assistive technology devices exist to aid the vision impaired and blind, allowing for new doors to education and communication to be opened. Braille embossers create braille output from text created by a computer, and braille software programs can translate scanned documents into braille output. For sighted students who need assistive technologies for vision impairments, there are devices available that can enlarge and/or magnify a computer screen. Some varieties allow for students to zoom in on a particular part of the screen.

Readers and speech aids: Technological advancements now allow for typed text to be spoken aloud. For students who are not able to speak, but who can enter their thoughts into a computer via a keyboard, they can now have their words heard by others. Readers are also excellent tools for blind students, in that all aspects visible on the screen, including graphics, are spoken aloud. They are also useful for students with learning disabilities, who can maximize their learning potential by having material spoken to them.

Readers and other speech aids are important tools for students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, and other tools like light signaling devices and TDD/TTY’s are also important tools for these students. Light signaling devices alert computer users, by a flashing light, when they receive new e-mail messages, or when other computer functions are complete. A device such as this one is essential for students who can’t hear or may have trouble hearing traditional computer alert sounds, while TDD/TTY’s provide an opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to converse via telephone using a keyboard.

Low technology devices: It is important to remember that not all assistive technology devices require expensive electronic equipment. Simple tools like larger pencils and pencil grips, foot pedals to control a computer mouse, modified page turners, and highlighting tape are all tools and resources that can be used to assist students with special needs.

Assistive technology devices are a testament to the opportunities that technology can present to students with learning or physical disabilities. For more information about types of assistive technology devices on the market today, please visit the following links:

Microsoft – Types of Assistive Techology Products
North Central Regional Educational Library
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