Assistive technology includes devices, tools, hardware and software that enable people with disability to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Developments in assistive technology have significantly improved opportunities for access to information and education for people with disability. Each student’s needs are different and should be individually evaluated to ensure successful outcomes.
The following is an overview of the kinds of assistive technology used by students with disability.
Text-to-speech or screen-reading software allows the user to hear (via a speech synthesiser) or touch (via a Braille display) the information on the screen, to navigate a document, and to obtain a list of web links without having to read the whole document.
Speech-to-text or speech-recognition software allows the user to speak into a microphone to enter text and control the computer functions by voice. Examples include Dragon Naturally Speaking and Via Voice.
Screen-magnification software increases the size of text and graphics on a screen for users with low vision.
Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) enlarge text and images from documents and books and are used by people with low vision. CCTVs use either a fixed camera over a table holding the document, or mobile units that can be used in libraries, shops, in the workplace etc.
Tactile graphics systems generate tactile versions of graphs and diagrams.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems use software to translate printed into electronic text.
Hearing-related technology, such as FM systems, hearing aids and cochlear implants, assist people with hearing impairment.
Text Telephones (TTYs) are used by Deaf or speech-impaired people to communicate via telephone.
Reading and writing software combines a number of features to improve access to print material by reading text aloud, predicting words and checking grammar. These programs may be of particular assistance to people with learning disabilities (LD).
Other assistive technology:
- talking calculators that speak aloud as keys are pressed
- music-transcription software such as Toccata, which transcribes music into Braille
- ergonomic chairs and height-adjustable desks
- aids such as copy-holders and wrist supports
- keyboard and mouse alternatives.