Assistive technology in schools is any device that makes it easier for a student to perform a function. Assistive technology might help children overcome obstacles resulting from learning or physical disabilities. It might be a device that only one child uses or something that is readily available to every student in the classroom. Assistive technology is becoming more popular in schools; sometimes it is even incorporated into a student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
Assistive technology comes in all forms. Some students might use a keyboard or other electronic writing device to help them with writing. Other students need listening devices, such as headphones or microphones worn by the teacher, in order to hear properly in the classroom. Still other students might use devices that help them read books, interact with peers or even move around the classroom.
Some assistive technology provides students with access to course materials and information. Some devices in this category include software that reads books and worksheets out loud for students, books on tape or other audio format, or alternative keyboards that make it easier to use the computer. This type of assistive technology helps a child read and process information in order to participate in the classroom.
Some assistive technology changes traditional things to make them useful for people with disabilities. A TTY telephone, for instance, helps a person with a hearing disability use a telephone because it types out the words spoken through the phone. A typing device is one where a student might push buttons that relate to symbols or ideas and then the device speaks for the student based on what he has typed into the device.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) explains that assistive technologies can be devices or services. According to IDEA, assistive technology is either a device that helps a student access and adapt classroom tools and information or it is a service that helps a child access these types of devices (Assistive Technology Training Online Project website).
Students use assistive technology for a variety of reasons. Assistive technology might help a student communicate with others by helping her hear or speak more clearly. It might help a child learn by providing her with the tools she needs in order to understand course materials. It might even help her manoeuvre and position herself in the classroom, such as in a wheelchair or on a scooter.