By: Carmen Willings
Any adaptive device or service that increases participation, achievement or independence for a student with a disability may be considered assistive technology (AT). Assistive technology helps students who are visually impaired (with and without additional disabilities) increase their access to the general curriculum and improve their academic performance. It is important to thoughtfully consider what devices, tools and technologies will be appropriate to meet the student's individual and unique learning needs. AT devices should not give students an unfair advantage, but instead, should provide them with the independence to compete effectively with peers.
Consideration of Assistive Technology (AT) is required during the development of every IEP. This is to ensure the student receives a free and appropriate education. If the team determines that the student needs AT, the school district must provide the necessary devices and services.
A range of assistive technology devices are available for students who are blind or visually impaired. Some are considered "low tech" and inexpensive while others are more "high tech" and can be more expensive. Assistive technology devices are available in a variety of categories to address functional capabilities of students with disabilities. Categories of assistive technology include: academic and learning aids; aids for daily living; assistive listening devices and environmental aids; augmentative communication; computer access and instruction; environmental control; mobility aids; pre-vocational and vocational and vocational aids, recreation and leisure aids, seating and positioning, and visual aids.
What is the School Responsible for?
Questions to Ask Prior to Purchasing A.T.
Overview of Assistive Technology
The following are just examples of AT devices that may be considered.
Activities of Daily Living:
Adapted eating utensils; adapted drinking devices; adaptive dressing devices; specially designed toilet seats; restroom modifications; aids for grooming; robotic and electronic feeders; adapted cooking tools; or universal cuff to hold items. Learn more about adaptations and strategies for Independent Living Skills.
Assistive Listening: hearing aids; sound cancelling headphones; classroom amplification; personal FM system; captioning; signaling device; TDD/TTY; screen flash on computer; or phone amplification.
Communication boards and wallets with pictures, words or letters; eye gaze board; simple voice output device; electronic communication devices; speech synthesizers for typing; communication enhancement software; or computer based communication system.
Keyboard with built in accessibility options on standard computer; key guard; arm support; track ball/track pad; joystick with onscreen keyboard; alternate keyboard; mouth stick/head pointer; head mouse/head master, tracker; touch screen; voice recognition software; switch and Morse code; switch with scanning; screen reader; or word prediction/abbreviated expansion.
Computer with Access to Technology
Due to shortage of funds, many schools are using outdated equipment. Although it is understandable that schools are "tightening their purse strings," administrators need to understand that the majority of the special software programs and technology needed by students with visual impairments will not operate functionally on old or outdated equipment. When funds are tight it may require looking to alternative sources for funding.
Switch interfaces for appliances; adapted on/off switches; remote control switch access; switch latch timers; switch interface for battery operated devices; or task lighting.
Learner & Studying:
Picture/print schedules; low tech aids; highlighted text; highlighters; voice output reminder; electronic organizer; low or mid tech timer; software for organizing ideas; or software for concept development.
Walkers; grab rails; manual or powered wheelchairs; powered recreational vehicles; building modifications and adaptations; white canes; electronic image sensors; and telescopic aids.
Physical Education, Leisure, and Play:
Adapted toys and games; adapted puzzles; switch activations with battery interrupter; adapted sporting equipment; universal cuff to hold crayons, markers; modified stampers and scissors; beeping balls; arm support for drawing; graphic design software; or adaptive computer games.
Change in text size, spacing, color, background color; use of pictures with text; adapted page turning; book stands; talking electronic dictionary; scanner with talking word processor; electronic text books; highlighted text; recorded material; multimedia presentation formats; books on tape, CD, or MP3; optical character reader; braille books; electronic magnifier (CCTV); or screen reader/text reader.
Seating and Positioning:
These types of AT may allow access to the educational activities: non-slip surface on chair; blocks for feet; bolster or rolled towel for positioning; adapted or alternate chair; side-lying frames; standing frame; floor sitter; chair insert; wheelchairs; custom fitted wheelchair; straps; head supports; trays; adapted desk/table; book stand; or bean bag chairs.
Increased contrast; enlarged images; use of tactile and auditory materials; books on tape; eye glasses; magnifier; large print books; low vision aids; screen magnifier; screen magnification software; electronic magnifier (sometimes called a CCTV); screen reader; braille keyboard or notetaker; braille translator software; braille printer/embosser; brailled materials; scanners; optical character readers; or reading machine.
Pencil with adaptive grip; adapted paper; slant board; typewriter; portable word processor; talking word processing; computer with word processing; word processing with spell/grammar checking; word prediction; electronic dictionary/thesaurus/spell checker; word cards/word book/word wall; voice recognition software; braille keyboard or notetaker; or braille printer.
"Assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of that device."
"Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device."
Learn More on These Pages...
This page provides a list of devices that may be used by a student for near viewing.
This page provides a list of devices that may be used by a student for distance viewing.
This page discusses different devices for accessing auditory books as well as materials and software to access information in auditory format.
This page discusses some tactual adaptations including braille materials and equipment as well as how to create tactual graphics.
The majority of students who are blind or visually impaired will need some form of assistive technology in order access print on paper as well as electronic forms. Assistive technology (AT) also provides a means for producing written information. Each students unique visual and learning needs must be considered when selecting the appropriate technology. The purpose of the Assistive Technology Assessment is to determine which AT tools are appropriate for meeting the students current and future needs. This page provides information on the components of the Assistive Technology Assessment.
AbleData is a publicly funded organization through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education. It provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the US.
AccessWorld is a branch of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) that offers comprehensive product evaluations, user-friendly explanations of current technology, practical tips on using technologies, news and reports from the field specific to technology. It also features interviews with industry leaders. All current and past issues and articles can be accessed online or through the AFB Access World app, AFBAW.
The American Foundation for the Bind (AFB) provides a comprehensive product database of assistive technology products used by persons who are blind or visually impaired. Users can browse products by category, manufacturer, or by task. You can also link to product reviews found on AccessWorld.
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