OVERVIEW OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
By: Carmen Willings
Updated November 22, 2015
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. 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.
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Due to shortage of funds, many schools are using outdated equipment.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software programs and technology needed by students with visual impairments will not operate functionally on old or outdated equipment.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.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
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." -IDEA, 2004, Part A, Definitions, 300.5