Assistive TechnologyThe Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (PL 100-407) defined an "assistive technology device" 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 functional capabilities of individual with disabilities" (U.S. Congress, 1988, p.1046).
To students with sensory, motor, or cognitive disabilities, assistive technology provides alternative ways to access the learning process. For example, a small dedicated device with speech output can enable a nonspeaking child with cerebral palsy to interact with peers and teachers. Using a combination of adaptive software and hardware, a student who is blind can use a braille keyboard for word processing and subsequently print out work in braille for her own reference and in text for her teachers and peers. Adapted keyboards, specialized printing devices, and in some cases, switches positioned at the head, mouth, knee, or foot can allow students with physical limitations to control a computer or other electronic devices in their environment. Adapted software features such as word prediction and abbreviation expansion can provide students with mild learning disabilities access to online spelling assistance while writing. Captioning can provide access to video, television, and multimedia applications for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.