What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Accessibility Built into your System

There are many accessibility options built right into the programming. 

Apple has always provided great accessibility options (explore: Apple's Commitment to Accessibility (which includes their iDevices) and Windows just keeps getting better. (In fact Windows 7 has a speech recognition program built in that is comparable to Dragon Naturally!) Your internet browsers are rich on options as are many of the off the shelf software programs. Get to know what is at your fingertips without an extra charge!

Resources to help you find what you need:
  • 4 All - Tech Ease provides help and “how to” tutorials for Accessibility options using Universal Access in Apple’s Mac OS X and Ease of Access in Microsoft Windows
These 2 options leverage the built-in keyboard and mouse settings, such as repeat rate, pointer speed, and the like. The software determines what settings best match a user's needs, and then activates those settings, with the user's approval:
  • Koester Performance Research offers "Pointing Wizard. Just follow the steps in the Pointing Wizard, and it will determine if there are changes to the Windows mouse settings that may make it faster and easier to use the mouse. Works for trackballs, trackpads, and other pointing devices, too! Available for Windows."
  • Koester also shares the Keyboard Wizard, "If you or someone you know has physical difficulty with typing, try Keyboard Wizard. Just type a sentence into Keyboard Wizard, and it will determine if there are changes to the Windows keyboard settings that may make typing faster and easier. Available for Windows."
Each system has their own site providing detailed information. 
This blurb by Microsoft will provide you will a little run down as to what things mean and how they work. 

A couple of examples of added accessibility features:

Speech-to-Text: Do you have Office vs. 10? Then you have text-to-speech built in. It doesn’t highlight each word as it is read but it reads it with pretty good voice quality. Once you follow the directions for inserting the symbol into the toolbar, highlight a sentence or page and click on the symbol.

Want to create talking books?  An add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2010 helps you produce accessible documents for people who have visual or reading disabilities. There is a "Save as Daisy" add-in for Word which allows Word documents to be saved into DAISY XML. This can then be converted into DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB) format which is compatible with many available reading programs. 

Automatically correct spelling mistakes correct typos and misspelled words as you compose by using the AutoCorrect feature. AutoCorrect is set up by default with a list of typical misspellings and symbols, but you can modify the list to suit your need by adding your own commonly misspelled words. 

Speech recognition allows you to navigate your computer by voice rather than the keyboard and mouse available in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and you can set up speech recognition in Windows 7 to work with Office 2010. There is no need to buy Dragon Naturally Speaking if you have Windows 7. Speech recognition features are not available in the Office 2010 programs, but are available in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

To set up speech recognition on your computer, see Set up Speech Recognition
To use speech recognition features, see Use speech Recognition to operate windows and programs. To learn more about speech recognition commands, see Common commands in Speech RecognitionWindows 8, Windows 7, Vista, Windows 98

·    More information:
  • If your operating system is Microsoft Windows XP, you must run a previous version of a Microsoft Office system program to use speech recognition features.

Hear written text read aloud with the ability of your computer to playback written text as spoken word is a text-to-speech (TTS) function. Depending upon your configuration and installed TTS engines, you can hear most text that appears on your screen in Word 2010, Outlook 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010. See Using the Speak text-to-speech feature.

The iPhone has the best accessibility features for on the go. The iDevices are pushing the standard.  It has built in text-to-speech, support for braille displays and much more.A faster processor means that apps run faster enabling apps such as Read2Go and ZoomReader to work better and faster. The faster processor will also open the door to exciting new assistive technology apps. A better camera benefits people using apps such as OCR apps, magnification apps, and money reader apps . The camera helps users to be able to recognize text more accurately and magnify printed text with higher resolution. The latest iDevices run iOS 5 which includes many wonderful accessibility features. Read more to see if it will do what you need it to do.

This world is only going to get better!