Overview of Assistive Technology
By: Carmen Willings
Updated November 22, 2015
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 individuals who are visually impaired (with and without additional disabilities) increase their access to the curriculum or job and improves their performance.
Assistive technology devices are available in a variety of categories to address functional capabilities of individuals 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. While not all devices are vision specific, the vision specialist will want to support the team in selection of devices that meet the individuals unique visual needs. For an overview of vision specific assistive technology vision the VI Assistive Technology page.
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.
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Due to shortage of funds, many schools are using outdated equipment.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 Forms
Sign up for free membership to access the FREE VI AT forms and references on the Free VIAT Printables page. Simply click on the Log In | Register link in the navigation bar. If you haven't joined yet, you will be prompted to create a password. Below are just a few examples of the free VI AT Printables.
Selecting the Right AT for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired Recorded Presentation
Are you overwhelmed by the process of selecting assistive technology for your students? This presentation will encompass the process and steps of selecting the right assistive technology for students who are blind or visually impaired using the SETT framework. Key points covered in this presentation include identification of the current problem; consideration of current skills; understanding unique visual and learning needs; awareness of AT for VI; AT equipment considerations; the process of building a toolkit; instructional strategies; and next steps.
Request a Certificate of Completion
To receive a certificate of completion for 1 contact hour, complete the short "Selecting the Right AT" quiz on Google Forms and receive a score of at least 80%. Don't worry. If you don't pass, you can re-watch the presentation and retake the test! If you have any accessibility issues with the form, please don't hesitate to let me know and we can make other arrangements.
Presentations are recorded PowerPoint presentations. You must be able to access PowerPoint to view the PowerPoint presentation. Please note that the presentation pages are closed member pages available to individuals who have purchase access to the presentation.
*Please contact me if you need to purchase using a purchase order. I am happy to help guide you in the process of adding Teaching Students with Visual Impairments as an approved vendor for your school or program or you can visit the product support page for information on using a PO.
"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
History of vi
Vi organizations & Agencies
VI book resources
Individual Learning Differences
Medical vision exams
Community Based Experiences
Concepts to Teach
Access to Instruction
Organization & Study Skills
Movies & Assemblies
Lectures & Instruction
Board Work (Chalk, White, etc.)
Numbers & Counting
Cranmer Abacus Instruction
Geometry & Spatial Sense
Measurement & Data
Early Literacy Experiences
Create Tactual Books
Social Studies Adaptations
Accessible Educational Materials
Individual Schedules & Communication Cards
Optical Devices for Near
Optical Devices for Distance
Optical Device Use
Pictures & Worksheets
Word Processing and Shortcuts
Navigate Computer w/o a Mouse
Braille Instruction Materials
Summer Reading (braille)
Signature & Handwriting
Nemeth Braille Code
Tactile Graphics Guidelines
Creating Tactile Graphics
Tactile Graphics Instruction
Teacher Made Materials
Overview of Assistive Technology
VI AT Resources
Non-Optical Low Vision Devices
Video Magnifier Instruction
Screen Enlargement & Readers
Low/Med. Tech Tactual Devices
Tactile Graphics Technology
Auditory Access Devices
Accessing Audio Books
iPads as Instructional Tools
Making iOS Device Accessible
iOS Accessibility Resources
Apps for VI
Note Taking apps
Apps for Accessing Books
Navigation & Location Apps
Sound Making Apps
Cause & Effect Apps
Vision Skills Apps
Apps for Early Learning
Read to Me Story Apps
Apps for Communication
Android Apps for VI
Encourage Use of Vision
Sensory Area & Rooms
Sensory Activities for Students with Multiple Disabilities
Visual Efficiency Skills
Visual Attend and Scan Activities
Visual Tracking Activities
Visual Discrimination Activities
Visual Motor Activities
Developing Skillful Hands
Listening Skill Instruction
orientation & Mobility
recreation & Leisure