Assistive Technology in Education

Assistive Technology in Education


Technology has opened many educational doors to children, particularly to children with disabilities. Substitute solutions from the world of technology are cooperating physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities in multiple manners. It is noted that individuals with disabilities often feel satisfactory due to the innovative technologies produced for them. Assistive technology (AT) is available to assist individuals with many types of disabilities that ranges from cognitive issues to physical disability. The aim of this article is to emphasize particularly on assistive technology that facilitates individuals with learning disabilities (LD). In current times, the use of technology to increase the methods and facilities for learning is an effective approach for many children. Additionally, students with learning disabilities often encounter greater success when they are given chance to use their abilities (strengths) to work around their impairment (challenges). Assistive technology methodology combines the best of both of these practices.

Most of the technologies that are observed currently in surrounding were initially developed to facilitate the people with disabilities. Curb cuts at the corner of the street and curb slopes were firstly designed to help people with orthopedic disabilities. Now, these facilities are more utilized by families with strollers or people with grocery carts rather than by those with wheelchairs or walkers. The optical character reader, produced to help individuals who are unable to read written text, has now been adapted in the offices to scan printed documents into computer-based editable material that ultimately helps in saving huge amounts of data entry labor.

Adopting Assistive Technology in a Modern Learning Environment

As schools are progressively making effective use of modern learning environments and combining technological innovations into classrooms and the curriculum, they must also be mindful about possible obstacles for students with special learning requirements in these spaces.

Below are discussed few ways where educators can utilize digital tools in the classroom to meet the individual requirements of their students and assist them through learning issues.

  • Blind or Visually Impaired Students

In current times, most of the devices such as Google Chromebooks are offered with audiovisual assistance. For instance, Chromebooks possess built-in screen reader known as ChromeVox, that reads content out loud for users on the Chrome browser. In addition to that, Chromebooks also have specifications that make on-screen content easier to read, including screen magnifiers, high-contrast mode and select-to-speak. Instructors can also plug in or pair a Braille keyboard with Bluetooth if there is a need for Braille support by the student. Popular cloud-based applications such as G Suite for Education and Microsoft Office 365 also possess dictation capabilities, that enables the students to type by using their voice.

  • Deaf or Hard of hearing Students

FM systems are basically wireless devices that directly convey sounds to a hearing aid to communicate clearly with those students face hearing issue or complete disability, even in a noisy classroom. For teachers using video technology in the classroom, there are educational apps such as ‘Flip grid’ with closed-caption specifications, as well as videoconferencing instruments such as Microsoft Teams, that are available with live captioning and subtitles.

  • Students with Speech Disabilities

 Speech-to-text software and word prediction tools can help students with speech disabilities during interaction with their teachers and peers. For instance, Office 365 applications have Dictate, an AI-enabled add-in that enables the students to say into a microphone and have their speech transformed into text on the computer.

  • Students with learning, cognitive and developmental disabilities

 Besides creating VR experiences for students with autism, instruments such as memory aids, audio books and text-to-speech systems are many designed for students who need help in learning, attention and organization. One specific tool is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which was specifically established to support students with dyslexia and dysgraphia. With the Immersive Reader, students are enabled to text read out loud and broken into syllables even in multiple languages. Microsoft’s Tell Me feature enables students to access commands on Office 365 applications without having to remember them. There are also downloadable fonts including ‘Open Dyslexic’, which can increase readability and reading speed for students with dyslexia, Ball says. Furthermore, there are handy smart instruments including the ‘Live scribe’, ‘Echo Smart pen’, which works as an all-in-one microphone, speaker and storage device.

  • Students Needing Mobility Assistance

The method through which the instructor can optimize their classrooms for entire class is by implementing flexible furniture, a key component of a modern learning environment. Standing deskswobble stools and even exercise balls provide students more freedom and ease to move around in the classroom. In addition, students can use communicating displays or touch-screen monitors if they are physically unable to use a keyboard or computer mouse.

Innovative Technologies of Current Times

As discussed, Assistive Technologies possess multiple advantages but still they are unable to eradicate learning problems entirely. However, they are far more helpful for the students to capitalize on their strengths and diminish their weaknesses. Among the most innovative technologies present in current times, the following five are the most popular.

1. Electronic Worksheets

Students with learning disabilities like dyslexia can make use of electronic worksheets to work on their assignments. These worksheets assist students to line up words, equations and numbers in their assignments. 

2. Phonetic Spelling Software

Phonetic spelling software is structured mainly to automatically convert the student’s typing into the word that they are willing to write. For alternative reading options, students can go for audiobooks. With the help of audiobook, students can follow along in their text and overcome reading issues.

3. Talking Calculators

Students with dyscalculia can use talking calculator. The innovative device makes it easier to check assignments, read numbers and do calculations. As the talking calculator considered simple tool, it offers an exceptional advantage for students who would otherwise struggle in math classes. 

4. Variable Speed Recorders

Everyone has a distinct learning style, and many students struggle with understanding aural lectures. For such students, a variable speed recorder is considered as a perfect solution. The student is only required to hit record while they are in class. Consequently, the recording can be slowed down or speed up for the student to listen to it again and again.

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