Assistive technology to help people with disabilities

Assistive technology (AT) is an “item or piece of equipment or product system acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified, or customized, and used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capability for an individual with disabilities” (Beard, Carpenter, & Johnston (2011, p. 4).

Assistive technology can cover an entire spectrum of no-tech, to light tech, to high tech.

Put simply, AT can be used to increase function, support, and opportunities for participation for individuals with disabilities.

There are also many other uses of AT designed to help all students, not just learning disabled students. The use of technology to enhance learning, and support all learners is an effective in the lives of many individuals.

Screentime and AT

As we think about screentime, and uses of technology, there is often a focus on only individuals that do not have a disability. This year at some the developer conferences for big tech, there was news about advances in technology as it relates to AT.

Microsoft used its Build 2019 developer conference to talk about AI and accessibility. Some of this is highlighted by InnerVoice AI.

Google did the same at its I/O 2019 developer conference to unveil three separate efforts. Project Euphonia to help people with speech impairments.

Live Relay to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Finally, Project Diva to give people some independence and autonomy via Google Assistant.

It is exciting to think about these possible uses in and out of our classrooms.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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