Assistive Technology

Introduction to Assistive Technology from The Center on Technology and Disability

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As a teacher, you will need to be aware of students’ individual needs. AT looks at tools and features specific to an individual’s needs. 

Find self-paced learning tutorials, hands-on activities, how-to videos, and resources to build technology skills including free learning modules and professional development courses.  Learn about a variety of topics that promote best practices.

IDEA defines Assistive technology (AT) devices as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate schools to consider the Assistive technology needs of students with disabilities.

The SETT Framework, developed by Dr. Joy Zabala, provides a structure to assist teams with gathering and organizing information necessary for meaningful AT consideration. SETT is an acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools.

The SETT Framework is built on the premise that in order to develop an appropriate system of Assistive technology devices and services, teams must first gather information about the student, the customary environments in which the students spend their time, and the tasks that are required for the students to be active participants in the teaching/learning processes that lead to educational success. (Dr. Joy Zabala)

AT devices are classified into three categories: 1) low-tech - simple, unpowered supports (e.g., pencil grip, graphic organizer), 2) mid-tech - somewhat simple electronic supports (adapted keyboard, calculator), and 3) high-tech – complex electronic devices (e.g., computers, tablets, software). 

Thing 21 will focus on identifying AT supports that can be offered to students through the use of the accessibility features built within each major computer platform. These include Windows, Office 365, Mac OS, IOS, and Chrome/Chromebook.

Most accessibility features fall into 4 domains:

  • Hearing
  • Learning
  • Physical/Motor
  • Vision 

Assistive Technology Terms 

Accessibility- specialized hardware or software, or a combination of both, designed to enable use of a computer by a person with a disability or impairment.

Zoom- provides a closer view of something or vice versa

Magnifier- to make something appear larger

Text to Speech -abbreviated as TTS, is a form of speech synthesis that converts text into spoken voice output

Speech to Text -abbreviated as STT, The process of converting speech input into digital text, sometimes based on speech recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) - the recognition of characters by a computer by analyzing an image. This is often done by taking an image of the document first by scanning it or taking a digital picture.

VoiceOver - VoiceOver gives you auditory descriptions of each onscreen element and provides helpful hints along the way — whether you prefer using gestures, a keyboard, or a braille display. And it supports more than 35 languages, including multiple voice options.

Technology exists in numerous platforms across devices.  The major platforms include the following:

  • iOS/iPad OS (i.e. iPad, iPod, iPhone)

The following information covers the Built-In Accessibility Features of a platform.  Each feature is grouped into one of the four domains for Assistive Technology.  Each specific item has a link to the platform that that feature is available in.  When you click on the icon of the specific platform you will be directed to a source that tells you about the feature and how to enable the feature in that platform.  If an icon is not listed next to an Accessibility Feature, this means that it is not an option as a Built-In feature to that platform.

Icon Key: 

 Windows KeyWindows

Office Avatar Office 365 

 Mac OS Mac OS

 iOS Avatar iPad/iPhone OS

 Chrome AvatarChrome/Chromebook

Vision: The majority of students who are blind or visually impaired will need some form of Assistive technology in order to access print on paper as well as electronic forms. Assistive technology (AT) also provides a means for producing written information.


Audio Descriptions Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Audio Feedback Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Display & Text Size Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Magnification  Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Motion  Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar 

Screen Reader Windows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

ZooWindows Key Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Physical and Motor: Students who lack fine motor abilities or gross motor arm control might be candidates to use Physical and Motor accessibility features of various platforms.  Examples of some users might include students who have Cerebral Palsy, students who have had a stroke and can no longer use one side of their body, or students who cannot isolate single fingers. When you enable the Physical and Motor accessibility features of a device you essentially change the way the device operates. 


Face ID and Attention  Windows Key Mac OS iOS Avatar 

Keyboards Windows Key  Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Pointer/Head Control Windows Key Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Sticky Keys  Windows Key Mac OS Chrome Avatar

Touch/Assistive Touch Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Voice Control Windows Key Mac OS Mac OS 


Hearing: Students with hearing impairments are able to use computers with the support of built-in accessibility features included within computer platforms.

Audio/Visual Alternatives Windows Key iOS Avatar

Hearing Devices Windows Key Mac OS iOS Avatar

Notifications Windows Key  Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Subtitles/Captioning Windows Key  Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Learning: Students with learning impairments have challenges with reading, writing, math, executive functioning, and/or attention deficits. Many of these students are able to benefit from the accessibility features that are built into each computer platform. 

Accessibility Shortcuts  Windows Key  Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Dictation/Speech to Text  Windows Key  Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Guided Access iOS Avatar

Immersive Reader Office Avatar

Cortana/Siri Windows Key  Mac OS iOS Avatar 

Text to Speech Windows Key  Office Avatar Mac OS iOS Avatar Chrome Avatar

Access Methods-Students with physical impairments may need alternative access methods to use their device. These access methods typically require specialized equipment and interfaces to work with a device. An Assistive technology specialist can help with setting up this equipment in alignment with the student’s specific needs. 

  • Switch Control - allows a student to control a device with only one or two buttons.
    • Switch Control Mac OS iOS Avatar
  • Eye Gaze - allows a student to control a device with their eye movements.
    • Eye Control Windows Key
  • Head Control/Facial Recognition - allows a student to control a device with the movement of their head or face.
  • Joystick Mouse - allows a student to control their device with a joystick-controlled by their mouth, arm, foot or any reliable body movement. This joystick could be the same joystick used to drive their wheelchair.

For information on who to contact for Assistive Technology, please contact your local Department of Education-

AT Contact List for Michigan:

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