What is assistive technology?

What is assistive technology?
October 17, 2016 Astute
In Accessibility

At TabletTable, we believe in the power of assistive technology, because we’ve seen first-hand its impact on those of all ages with disabilities. But unless you’re familiar with the phrase “assistive technology,” you may not be totally certain as to what we’re referring to. So, let’s take a look at what assistive technology is and how it can be implemented through a number of different methods.

What is assistive technology?

As defined by the Family Center on Technology and Disability, assistive technology is simply any sort of technology that helps a person with a disability to be able to function more independently.

This means that while tablets and computers have assistive technology features, there are many other devices that can be included in this classification, including:

motorized scooters, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids for those with motor disabilities; adaptive switches for those with motor impairments, particularly for younger children to be able to play with toys and participate in games; entrance modifications like ramps and automatic door openers; and closed captioning for those with hearing impairments.

So, a device doesn’t necessarily have to be computerized to be classified as an assistive technology, although many are.

Assistive technology and multimedia

Much of the conversation about assistive technology, especially when it comes to children and their learning environments, involves multimedia assets.

In a paper published by the Pacer Center, a Minnesota-based organization that works with children with disabilities, multimedia is defined as anything that uses sound, images, text, or video. These forms of information can help level the classroom, reaching children who may have any number of learning or physical disabilities.

By diversifying teaching methods and understanding that all children of all capabilities learn differently, multimedia assets can really have a positive impact on learning.

“Multimedia allows teachers to create original and customized projects for students with disabilities, and to highlight the strengths and needs of each individual student based on their specific situation,” the paper reads.

Recommending appropriate assistive technology

So, how do you know what types of assistive technology may be appropriate for your child, especially when it comes to learning?

If your child has an IEP — an Individualized Education Program — during that evaluation process, some recommendations will be made by the IEP team.

In many cases, you will already have device or technique recommendations from your child’s doctors and therapists. There may also be another evaluation done by the IEP team, conducted by a professional trained in your child’s area of need.

Teachers and assistive technology

It is important to note, though, as understood.org points out, that assistive technology can not “make up for ineffective teaching,” and so making sure that teachers understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom is extremely important.

An article on BrightHubEducation.com highlights the various things that teachers can do to improve inclusion, including creating a buddy system for in-class work and creating handouts in a variety of formats. Even the simple arrangement of classroom supplies can help make things easier for a student with a physical disability.

“To make inclusion work, general classroom teachers, support specialists, parents and students themselves must work together to create the best educational environment possible,” the article reads. “With knowledge of inclusive practices and strategies, teachers can manage classrooms that encourage learning and discovery among all students, regardless of physical abilities.”


Family Center on Technology and Disability: http://livectd.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/file_attachments/Assistive%20Technology%20101_0.pdf

Pacer Center: http://www.pacer.org/stc/pubs/MultimediaCR.pdf

Understood.org: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/assistive-technology/assistive-technologies-basics/assistive-technology-what-it-is-and-how-it-works

BrightHubEducation.com: http://www.brighthubeducation.com/special-ed-physical-disabilities/124486-inclusion-and-teaching-students-with-physical-disabilities/

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