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.


Assistive Technology Reading Resources

Assistive technology (AT) reading supports are available to help individuals with many types of disabilities — from cognitive problems to physical impairment. There are a wide range of AT tools available to help individuals who struggle with reading. Recorded books allow users to listen to text and are available in a variety of formats, such as audio-cassettes, CDs, MP3 downloads that can then be accessed through a variety of ways, such as using an MP3 player, the computer, a tablet or specialized tools.

The use of technology to support learning is an effective approach for many students. Students often experience greater success when they are allowed to use their strengths to help compensate for their challenges. AT can allow a student to have access to greater knowledge and course materials while receiving instruction on learning to read. Research has shown that AT can improve certain skill deficits, such as reading and spelling, while helping to compensate for individual challenges.

In Common Core, the PARCC will allow reading accommodations to be used however, it states that 
  • the accommodations must be a regular part of the student's instruction
  • they must be receiving direct reading instruction 
  • accommodations must be in the student's IEP or 504 plan 
  • there must be documentation of evidence that the student needs the accommodations (see PAR assessment information at the end of this posting)
To learn more about PARCC types of accesibility features and accommodations, see their PowerPoint: PowerPoint on How to Register Accessibility ... - PARCC

To learn more about accessing texts, spend some time on the Accessible Educational Materials website. This site serves as a resource to educators, parents, publishers, conversion houses, accessible media producers, and others interested in learning more about and implementing AIM and NIMAS.

Sites to Support Developing Materials:
  • Bookbuilder - Use this site to create, share, publish, and read digital books that engage and support diverse learners according to their individual needs, interests, and skills. 
  • Bookshare - this project is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.  Bookshare is an accessible online library for qualifying print disabled individuals. (See separate posting on Bookshare.) 
    • Read2Go is an accessible e-book reader app for readers with print disabilities.
    • VoiceDream Reader is an app that will provide text-to-speech for any printed material.
  • iBooks Author  - allows you to create eBooks for the iPad (Free app on iDevices.) making text more accessible.
  • DotEPub  - is software in the cloud that allows you to convert any webpage into an e-book. Download webpages to any epub-compatible device (such as: e-readers, tablets, smartphones, netbooks, desktop computers).
  • MyeBookMaker - allows you to create eBooks in the cloud for free. Download your books in ePub format ready to access in eBook format.
  • Readability is an extension you can add to your browser. It reduces webpage visual clutter for distraction-free reading.
  • Readlist - allows you to group of web pages—articles, recipes, course materials, anything—bundled into an e-book you can send to your Kindle, iPad, or iPhone.
  • Rewordify  - will automatically define, or substitute simpler words in place of words provided.
  • Send to Kindle - makes reading your documents and web content on Kindle easier than ever. Use Send to Kindle applications to read on your Kindle devices and free reading apps on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android phone and tablet.
  • Start-to-Finish - supports students at their reading level and builds their skills to prepare them for the new reading expectations.  Start-to-Finish includes a wide selection of engaging, leveled fiction and non-fiction chapter books. 
  • Tarheel Reader - offers a collection of easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, the IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches.
  • Text Compactor - is a free online automatic text summarization tool.
  • TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read)  is a Plugin - a free extension that creates a summary of any web article without leaving the original page.It provides a streamlined way to get a condensed synopsis view of news, blog posts, and other articles online for quick and easy reading.
  • 60 Second Recap - provides video recaps of classic literature read in middle and high schools. Available online and in app format.

Products that Support Reading:
Variable-speed tape recorders:
Tape recorders/players allow a user to listen to pre-recorded text (a book) or to capture spoken information (such as a classroom lecture) and play it back later. Variable speed control (VSC) tape recorders speed up or slow down the playback rate without distorting the speaker's voice.
Resources for Alternatives to Printed Text, including Electronic Text (E-text):

Services to Consider:
  • Audible.com is a commercial audio book subscription service available to everyone, for a cost. It is part of the Amazon system. 
  • Bookshare provides an online library of accessible reading materials for people with print disabilities.This service is free to qualifying print disabled individuals until the age of 26. (Must qualify as having a print disability.)
  • Learning Ally is a subscription based library of an audio library read by volunteers. (Must qualify as having a print disability.)
  • National Library Service State Library Act for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which has a large collection of books in audio format. (Must qualify as having a print disability.)
  • Overdrive is an program through local libraries that provides books to anyone through their library system. Some libraries are more limited than others, it is often worth becoming a member of libraries outside of your immediate area for a greater selection. Their sites promotes, "Read, Listen, Watch, Enjoy. One app, thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, and videos from your local library." It is available for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Kindle Fire HD, and NOOK HD/HD+.

Scan and Read Systems:

Assessment for Reading Accommodations:
  • Protocol for Reading Accommodations  - The PAR (and online version: uPAR) manual helps you determine the most suitable reading accommodations for specific students by assessing their individual needs. Anyone on the IEP team can administer PAR to systematize how reading accommodations are recommended on a student level or across the school district. This is NOT a reading ability assessment, it is a data based assessment to assist in decision making for reading instructional accommodations. To learn more, go to the Don Johnston website to watch the demonstration.