Thursday, October 17th, 2019

What is Assistive Technology?

June 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

A New Phrase:

There is a new phrase to add to our technology jargon: Assistive Technology (AT). This new phrase desribes a broad range of very different things.  In order to figure out how it might best be used, we should first explore what is included in AT.  Assistive Technology (AT) includes:

  • Speech-to-Text technologies (most popular example: Dragon Naturally Speaking, but there are others)
  • Text-to-Speech technologies (includes both hardware/firmware combinations, and computer software)
    • Read Please (free ware version and for-fee version)
    • Read-Out-Loud (uses Daisy file format)
    • Kurzweill 1000 and 3000 (uses Daisy file format)
    • Intel Reader (creates and uses both text and Daisy file formats)
  • Smart Boards
  • Document Cameras (new age opaque projectors)
  • Digital Cameras (both still photos and video clips)
  • Powerpoint and other presentation-creating software
  • Other creative software

More About AT:

Speech-to-Text software is particularly useful when it is hard to get thoughts down on paper for any reason.  This is basically a computerized dicataphone that can work with a wordprocessor (including dictating e-mail) and make use of spell and grammar-check and look-ahead auto-correction.  Is it 100% accurate? No.  Usually it one needs to train it to one’s speech an enunciation patterns and one may need to learn certain control command words.  Nevertheless, it can speed getting ideas on paper for later refinement, and especially when there is vision impairment or blindness.

Text-to-Speech technologies work just the opposite, meaning that they read the text on the screen out loud over speakers or a headset.  These too can have small problems in contextual expression.  This is a broad sub-category of AT that includes older MicroSoft® and Apple® software in their word processor applications, free-ware like Read Please™, purchased applications with expansive additional note-taking and other capabilities (e.g., Read-Out-Loud®, Kurzweill™ 1000 and 3000, etc.), and may be incorporated into other hardware with multiple functions (e.g., Intel Reader®, etc.).  Text-to-Speech technology is particulary useful to help when reading rate is slow, or when there is a vision impairment or blindness.

Scanners (particulary flat-bed scanners) help convert written material into a format that the text-to-speech technology can use and turn into audible language.  This is due to something called OCR (optical character recognition) functionality.  This same technology is used by the Intel Reader® to capture and convert information to audible language and visually-tracked words on the display screen without a computer.

Using document cameras or LCD projectors with text-to-speech software or presentation software (with or without voice narration) can liven up even the most dry lesson material.  This may be the real magic of AT: creating a lesson and delivering it in such a way as to capture the interest and imagination of the student.  So, its use should not be reserved only for the teacher, but the student should help to create the lesson or their response to the lesson.

We at Personal Best Educational Services, LLC are able to show both students and teachers how to use AT to liven up learning.  We hope we may have an opportunity to show you how, and to demonstrate the Intel Reader® in particular.


9 Responses to “What is Assistive Technology?”
  1. Mckenzie says:

    There are also manufacturers like Ai Squared ( who make ZoomText Magnifier and Magnifier/Reader computer software. Magnifiers are a powerful tool in the assistive technology world as well, but there is no mention of them here. And with something like ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, you have both a screen magnifier and a screen reader combined into one product – that’s much easier for students to learn and use on a daily basis. Just thought I’d mention that.

  2. baftcrota says:

    t’s such a tickety-boo site. fanciful, quite intriguing!!!




  3. admin says:

    McKenzie: Thanks for your post, and additions to the category of AT. Of course it is difficult to be exhaustive on this subject because there are new softwares and technologies released everyday, so posts like yours are very welcome here. AT (Assistivie Technology is not just about things like the Intel Reader ( We did not mean to leave anything out, and you are very correct, magnifiers are VERY important to people with low vision and other vision impairments that really need the text to be able to be made larger to allow them to read it. Thank you for your valuable post and visit to

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