Assistive Technology Benefits for Students with Disabilities

Journal of School Health, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Assistive Technology Benefits for Students with Disabilities


While special educators have used assistive technology for some time, recent legislation has brought this technology into the mainstream classroom. Public Law 94-142 and the Americans with Disabilities Act have given strength to efforts to adapt technology so that all students have equal access to educational opportunity.[1] In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) reinforced the recognition that assistive technology devices can help disabled students meaningfully participate in educational opportunities. The movement toward inclusive classrooms has facilitated development of less expensive and more versatile assistive devices.[2]

Federal legislation 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 functional capabilities of children with disabilities."[3] These devices may include such low-tech devices as pencil grips, picture boards, taped instructions, and workbooks, or high-tech devices such as alternative keyboards, listening aids, speech-synthesis devices, voice recognition systems, data managers, talking calculators, variable speed tape recorders, and optical character recognition systems. Figure 1 lists a few of these devices and their distributors.

Figure 1 Examples of Assistive Devices

Feature                  Utility

Keyboard Adaptations     Adaptive devices and
                         software improve
                         use of the keyboard.

Touch Screens            Students interact with the
                         computer by touching a screen
                         rather than working with
                         a keyboard.

Input Devices            Students with severely
                         limited physical
                         abilities are provided
                         with alternatives
                         for controlling computers.

Braille Embossers        Output devices generate
                         Braille rather
                         than text.

Text Magnifier           Text is magnified on computer
                         screen for students with
                         vision difficulties.

Voice Recognition        Students control computer
 Systems                 through voice inputs.

Closed Captioning        Students with hearing
                         disabilities can
                         comprehend television and movies.

Speech Output            Students unable to speak are
Devices                  provided with a voice.

Feature                  Distributors

Keyboard Adaptations     Keytime (Seattle, WA)
                         206/522-8973
                         IntelliTools (Novato, CA)
                         800/899-6687
                         Microsystems
                         (Framingham, MA)
                         508/626-8515

Touch Screens            Keytee (Richardson, TX)
                         800/624-4289
                         Troll Touch (Valencia, CA)
                         800/201-1160
                         Don Johnsotnn, Inc.
                         (Wauconda, IL)
                         800/999-4660

Input Devices            McIntyre Computer Systems
                         (Birmingham, MI)
                         810/645-5090
                         Prentke Romich Co.
                         (Wooster, OH)
                         800/262-1984
                         Wacom (Vancouver, WA)
                         360/750-8882

Braille Embosser         Duxbury Systems
                         (Littleton, MA)
                         Humanware, Inc.
                         (Loomis, CA)
                         916/652-7253

Text Magnifier           New Concepts Marketing
                         (Port Richey, FL)
                         Berkeley Access
                         (Berkeley, CA)
                         510/883-6280

Voice Recognition        Dragon Dictate
 Systems                 Peter Cohen Associates
                         (Palm Beach, FL)
                         508/655-7711

Closed Captioning        International Computers
                         (Wauwatosa, WI)
                         414/764-9000
                         Ultimate Learning Technology
                         (Peabody, MA)
                         508/538-0036

Speech Output            Sentient Systems
Devices                  (Pittsburgh, PA)
                         800/344-1778

Types of Assistive Technology

The types of assistive technology devices available include[3]:

Computers and software. …

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