Who needs assistive technology?
SEN Magazine online: 22 June 2017
Antony Ruck looks at how technology can transform classrooms and open up avenues to work for students with disabilities
Assistive technology (AT) is any technology or piece of equipment that is designed to improve or maintain the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities, impairments or specific learning difficulties. This includes any type of computer hardware or software, or a combination of both, that has been designed for people with disabilities, impairments or learning difficulties to improve or maintain aspects of their day-to-day lives.
AT promotes greater independence, allowing people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to do or struggled to accomplish. It can enable disabled children and young people to work and learn effectively and increase their productivity, as well as helping to reduce stress by empowering them and removing barriers to learning.
In an educational context, AT helps children and young people to live as full a life as possible by assisting them when performing tasks such as writing essays or reports, reading text books or websites, taking notes in lessons or lectures or doing homework. This is achieved by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.
Over time, social and technological developments have helped reduce any stigma and embarrassment people may feel when using AT in the classroom or lecture hall, which in turn has increased its use. Two important recent developments in AT have helped to make learning environments more inclusive.
The increased portability of devices with wireless connections such as mobile phones, tablets, and light laptops now allow school pupils and students with disabilities, impairments or learning difficulties far greater independence. Also, the AT now in-built into these devices has brought AT into the mainstream and we’ve seen AT companies developing really creative apps to cater to a diverse range of needs.
As interest in AT has grown, so has the desire from teachers, parents, and disability and inclusion professionals involved in education to get to know much more about exactly what AT products are available and how to get the best out of them.
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