Melissa Shumate
ED 505
Assistive Technology Paper
November 14, 2011
Assistive technology is defined by Roblyer (2010) as devices that extend the abilities of
an individual in ways that provides physical and sensory access. The IRIS Center further defines
assistive technology as any device that improves the functional performance of any person with a
disability (2011). Assistive technology helps a student reach their Individualized Education Plan
(IEP) goals within a school setting. AT devices include items as simple as pencil grips or
highlighters to more complex devices such as specialized keyboards or communication devices.
AT devices can not only enhance a child’s academic performance, but they can also help a child
communicate, participate in social and extracurricular activities, access materials, and move
around the classroom/school. What follows is a brief and general description of AT devices
available for classroom use.
Generally speaking, children with mild disabilities need more assistance with reading,
writing, memory, and retention of information (Roblyer 2010). In particular students who have
difficulty with writing might benefit from talking word processing software, such as
Write:OutLoud, which enables students to hear what they have written. For students who need
assistance with their reading, a text-to-speech product that might be useful is the Quicktionary
Reading Pen which scans a word, defines and pronounces the word.
For students with moderate and severe cognitive disabilities much time is devoted to
helping these students acquire basic living skills related to personal hygiene, shopping, and use
of public transportation (Robyler, 2010). Software exists that helps students acquire money
management skills. Customized alternative keyboards are used to assist students in their
interaction with computers. Keyboards can be customized by removing keys that are not
significant for a software program or keys can be enlarged to create easier access.
Students with physical disabilities are typically affected in the areas of mobility and
agility so AT devices tend to address gross- or fine-motor movement (Roblyer, 2010). Students
with severe physical disabilities may need a power wheelchair operated by a joystick, which can
also control the movement of a cursor on a computer screen which can in turn manipulate word
processing software.
Sensory disabilities typically involve impairments with hearing or vision. Many assistive
technology devices exist to aid students with sensory disabilities in their academic endeavors.
For example, the visually impaired student who is partially sighted might benefit from using a
closed-circuit television (CCTV) magnification system can be used to enlarge text to a size that
is comfortable for the user to read. For the hearing impaired, multimedia software exists that
includes closed captioning on audio tracks which enables students with hearing impairment to
utilize multimedia tools that involve sound.
Students with at-risk behaviors or in at-risk situations are not labeled disabled as defined
by federal laws; however, these students’ lack of school success parallels the low performance
levels of students with disabilities. The use of assistive technology by students with disabilities
has brought awareness to the idea of how assistive technology might be useful for at-risk
students. For example, students who have difficulty with written expression may benefit from a
predictive word processor like Co:Writer. Students who have difficulty reading and
comprehending might benefit from a text-to-speech program like ReadPlease.
Students with gifts and talents can benefit from assistive technology devices (software
and websites) because the students can be provided “with greater connectivity and
independence” (Roblyer, 2010). Using the Internet enables gifted students to conduct research at
a deeper level, and presenting research in a multimedia presentation allows students to showcase
their new knowledge in a way that leads to more independence.
Assistive technology provides students with disabilities the means to acquire an
education to the greatest extent possible. Teachers and students alike benefit from acquiring
knowledge, training, and support in the effective use of these devices.
Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th
ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Iris Center (2011, November 11). Retrieved from