So, what is the best way to start thinking about AT devices that are appropriate? A general rule of thumb is to look at low-tech and mid-tech options first. Some good places to start include:
- The Assistive Technology Online Training Project
- Susan Fridie's Kaboodle list of Low Tech Writing Aids
- This keyboarding vs handwriting checklist
- Microsoft's AT Decision Tree
- Mid-tech Writing Aids like the Neo
- Form Pilot for completing paper forms through typing
- The Kurzweil for read-aloud of paper and electronic documents
- PhotoStory for presenting content in multiple ways
- Susan Fridie's video about low-tech writing aids. Part II.
Beyond this, there are some higher tech AT devices which may be appropriate. It's always important to remember, however, that each student should be evaluated prior to AT recommendations to ensure the correct match and effectiveness. Trial usage of AT devices should also be encouraged, as available. There are two main categories that I will discuss with regard to AT devices: Adaptive Input & Augmentative Communication.
Adaptive Input - These AT devices generally include alternatives keyboards and mice, and other input methods. There are also Adaptive Output devices such as screen readers and braille printers. Check out this interactive presentation highlighting many of the available adaptive input devices. Here are some additional resources on the subject:
- Susan Fridie's Kaboodle list of alternative keyboards & mice.
- Free Screen Readers
- Braille technologies & Braille keyboard
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking - voice recognition software
- Microsoft's Accessible Technology Guide
To introduce what I mean by Augmentative Communication, here is a video from one teacher explaining how technology has helped her improve the ability of her students to learn and communicate:
Adaptive and Augmentative Communication (AAC) - This area of AT devices encompasses the technology that allows students to be more active participants through alternative means of communication. This 30 minute AAC video highlights many of the devices available today. Other resources include:
To wrap up, you can find lots more resources at NATRI, the National Assistive Technology Research Institute including a segment on how AT services can go awry. This is useful as you prepare to utilize these technologies in the classroom. Another great resource is this Assistive Technology Implementation Plan that should be used as part of an IEP to ensure that students get what they need to be successful.