Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Assistive Technology: Resource Roundup

An educator's and parent's guide to websites, blogs, articles, and videos that provide information and tools related to understanding, selecting, and assessing assistive technology and accessible instructional materials.

Edutopia's guide to assistive technology will help you navigate some of the available websites, resources, and tools related to assistive technology and accessible instructional materials -- from getting started, to tips, to finding appropriate technology and need-specific resources. Before you dive in, visit VideoAmy's "Five-Minute Film Festival: The Power of Assistive Technology" and our special education community discussion on the question, “How has assistive technology changed and how has it impacted students?

Getting Started

Whether low-tech, high-tech, or somewhere in between, assistive technology and related services play an important role in reducing barriers to learning for students with a variety of special needs and challenges. Listen to parent Jeanne Dwyer, as she discusses her experiences using technology to help her son build independence, in this video from the Maryland State Department of Education:

For Educators

For general information on assistive technology (AT) and accessible instructional materials (AIM), including relevant federal laws, the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at CAST provides a helpful outline. CAST's AIM Navigator is a decision-making tool -- designed for use by Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams or other collaborative teams -- for determining the need, selection, acquisition, and use of AIM. Information about specific resources available in your state is included in their State AT Resources. For school districts, Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) provides various quality indicators and other resources useful for evaluating the effectiveness of assistive technology services. Additional resources for educators and districts are available from the National Assistive Technology in Education Network (NATE), including information about different models of service delivery and a collection of downloadable data collection forms. NATE also provides information about the best sources of AT research.

For Parents

Assistive Technology: a Parent’s Guide, from GreatSchools, includes articles and worksheets to help parents identify assistive technology tools and resources that can help bypass learning difficulties. Assistive Technology 101 from The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) is another good resource; FCTD also provides helpful fact sheets for parents related to AT and IEPs, Assistive Technology Laws, terminology via an AT glossary, and family information guides (also available in Spanish). Joanne Karger, J.D., Ed.D. and Mary Brownell, Ph.D. offer helpful advice for parents in this video on Assistive Technology and Learning Disabilities from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD):

Back to Top

Finding Assistive Technology

For Educators

As Matthew Lynch discusses in Education Week’s "Assistive Technology: A Necessity for Student Success," there have been great strides in recent years to improve available technologies. To learn more about what's available, there are several websites that provide information about specific technologies and guidance on finding appropriate tools. TechMatrix, funded through a grant by the U.S. Department of Education and maintained by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), is a searchable database of over 400 assistive and educational technology tools and resources. The products are searchable by content area, grade level, IDEA disability category, and the type of instructional support. TechMatrix also provides a useful consumer guide for school administrators looking to purchase assistive and learning technologies and aggregates research articles on the theory and practice of using technology to improve student learning.

For Parents

For parents and families, the FCTD hosts a resource review database listing hundreds of assistive and instructional technology resources including books, articles, research, and other materials. Common Sense Media has an online resource and downloadable guide, "Power Up! Apps for Kids with Special Needs and Learning Differences." Graphite, a service of Common Sense Media, also maintains a collection of reviews of Great Special Ed Apps and Sites recommended by educators and experts working with children with special needs and learning differences.

Back to Top

Tips and Tools

  • Creating a "Least Restrictive Environment" with Mobile Devices, by Beth Holland (2013)

    Holland of EdTechTeacher looks at how mobile devices can help create a "least restrictive environment," not only for students with disabilities, but for everyone else as well.

  • Dictation Technology Will Change Writing Instruction, by Robert Rosenberger (2013)

    Rosenberger, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Public Policy, offers a thoughtful examination of how dictation technology is likely to change the future of writing instruction.

  • Assistive Technology: Enhanced Learning for All, by Lisa Wahl (2003)

    Assistive technology can help students with a range of disabilities to excel. In this article, Wahl provides several examples of how technology can be used to support the learning experiences of students with unique challenges.

Back to Top

Need-specific Resources

Sensory Impairments

  • Assistive Technology and the 1:1 Student, by Andrew Marcinek (2012)

    Edutopia blogger Marcinek, in another story about Burlington High's 1:1 program, describes one student's easy use of the iPad as assistive technology.

  • Berberi's Tools, by Alise Brann, Tracy Gray, Heidi Silver-Pacuilla (2008)

    Brann, Gray, and Silver-Pacuilla discuss several of the technologies that Albano Berberi -- a blind Advanced Placement computer science student, devoted gamer, and violin prodigy -- uses throughout his day.

  • The Sound of Learning: Albano Berberi (2008)

    In this video, see how assistive technology helps Albano Berberi, a blind computer science student and devoted gamer, to pursue his passions.

  • Out of Sight: Technology Helps Visually Impaired Students Thrive, by Sara Ring (2008)

    Ring discusses the tools that make learning accessible for visually impaired students at one Brooklyn high school.

Cognitive Differences

Physical Challenges

  • Assistive Technology Makes a Difference for Lukas Bratcher (2005)

    Thanks to some ingenious assistive technology, this high school student didn't let a birth condition stifle his passion for music. He played euphonium in his school's award-winning marching band from his wheelchair.

  • Disabled Bodies, Able Minds, by Diane Curtis (2005)

    Assistive technology, including speech-generation devices and joystick technology, makes it possible for students with physical and mobility challenges to participate more fully in class and school activities.

  • How Assistive Technology Enables Dreams (2005)

    From voice-activated software to customized laptops, tech is changing the way disabled students communicate, learn, and play.

Back to Top

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

For information on the basics of universal design for learning (UDL), take a look at What is UDL? from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning. The role of technology in UDL is explored on their UDL and Technology page. UDL strategies do not replace the need for AT, but UDL and AT can be complementary. For a concise illustration of the relationship between UDL and AT, check out this handy chart, AT and UDL in Partnership, from Maryland Learning Links.

Back to Top

Was this page helpful? Are you familiar with other useful resources? Please share your feedback in the comments, and let us know if you'd like to see other types of resources included on this page.

Comments Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.