Assistive technology is changing the ways people with disabilities can interact in the world around them. The number of students enrolled in a special education setting is increasing each year.  One way educators are helping ensure that each student’s individual needs are met is through technology. 

Using Assistive Technology to Help People with Disabilities

Types of Technology

There are several different types of assistive technology geared towards people with disabilities.  They are usually categorized into two categories; high and low tech.  Here are some of the main ones; text to speech, graphic organizers, assistive listening systems, sip-and-puff systems, AAC devices and power wheelchairs.

High tech refers to any devices or equipment with digital or electrical components.  Low tech refers to simple adaptive tools.

Using Technology in the Classroom

For students who are blind or visually impaired, there are several digital tools that can be used.  A Chromebook for example, has a built in feature called ChromeVox which reads the content out loud for the user.  Another option teachers can use is a braille keyboard, or using a program that allows the students to type with their voice.

Most classrooms are equipped with an FM system.  This piece of technology is particularly useful for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Some FM systems and hearing aid technology can connect with each other so the student is able to receive the instruction provided by the teacher regardless of the background noise.

Augmentative and alternative communication devices or AAC are extremely helpful for a variety of disabilities. People with physical and cognitive disabilities have been able to benefit from the use of AAC devices.  AAC devices can either be high or low tech.  They can range from picture books to speech-generating devices. These devices and systems are very beneficial for people who are non-verbal and for people with low muscle control.

For some students, their need for assistance may be small.  Graphic organizers are considered to be low tech.  They are worksheets that help students organize their thoughts during the writing process. 

Using Technology in Everyday Life

Reaching beyond the classroom, people with disabilities use technology to assist them in their everyday lives. A great example of this is text to speech.  This software helps individuals who have trouble reading standard print.

For individuals who have mobility challenges, sip-and-puff systems are designed to allow the individual to control computers, or mobile devices by using their mouth.  Each sip-and-puff system is custom made depending on the specific abilities and needs for each person. 

One of the most commonly used pieces of assistive technology is a power wheelchair.  This use of technology has opened doors and helped thousands of people gain mobility and independence.

Google Making a Difference

The giant tech company announced recently they are working on technology that will help people who are nonverbal communicate with people around them.  Their app “Action Blocks” is an app that allows users to simplify steps on their phone that would normally require several steps such as calling someone. 

The app allows the creation of a one-touch button to simplify tasks. Google has since updated the app to work with AAC.

Takeaways

Technology has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.  There are dozens of different types of technology that can be used to help those with disabilities adapt to the world around them.  As technology advances, the uses for people with disabilities will continue to grow and the ability to become more inclusive will grow as well.

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