Assistive Technology

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines an assistive technology device as, “… 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 such device.”

In simple terms, assistive technology can be anything that a person needs in order to overcome the effects of a disability. A tool or technique that might be convenient for a person without a disability, might actually be necessary for a person with a disability. For example, some people prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to complete tasks on a computer because they find it to be faster than using a mouse. However, a person whose vision prohibits them from seeing a mouse pointer will need computer systems and software that can be fully operated using only the keyboard. For this person, keyboard operation is not a preference, it is a necessity.

Below are links to some of the most commonly used types of assistive technology used.

  • NVDA - Free open source screen reader for Windows.
  • JAWS - Screen reader for Windows (demo version available, license required for full version).
  • Narrator - Built-in screen reader for Windows.
  • VoiceOver - Built-in screen reader for Mac desktop and iPhone/iPod.
  • ChromeVox - Built-in screen reader for Chrome OS.
  • Talkback - Built-in screen reader for Android.
  • ZoomText - Screen magnifier for Windows (demo version available, license required for full version).
  • Dragon - Speech recognition software (license required).
  • AbleNet - Developer of a variety of interface assistive technology including switches and speech generating devices.