— Understanding Education Assisted Technology
The History of Education Assisted Technology
In 2019 and 2020, 7 million students received special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This composed as much as 14 percent of all public school students.
Since IDEA’s enactment in 1975, public schools have established special education provisions to create a more equitable learning environment and support academic success for all students. The Assisted Technology Act of 1988 later identified the need for schools to supply these provisions through technology and equipment.
What is Assisted Technology?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act defines assisted technology (AT) as “any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially or modified or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”
This broad scope of assisted technology includes a range of equipment varying from physical accessibility tools and hardware to software or specialized learning materials.
In schools, assisted technology facilitates the learning process for students with disabilities. While schools are required to provide basic accessibility technologies, resources vary from school to school.
Different Types of Assisted Technology?
There are two main types of Assisted Technology: high-tech and low-tech.
High-tech assistive technology includes devices that have digital or electronic features. These are often technologically advanced with computerization abilities.
The increasing use of technologies like AI, VR, and Bluetooth in education assistance increases the capabilities of high-tech tools. High-tech is particularly useful for individuals with visual, hearing, speech, and cognitive disabilities. Smart technology employs features that enable individuals with these disabilities to engage these senses.
Many schools get Google Chromebooks because they provide audiovisual assistance. Chromebooks provide many visual accessibility features such as high contrast mode, screen magnifiers, and ports for Braille keyboards. They also provide screen reader audio capabilities through a built-in text reader as well as Select-to-Speak features. These are also useful for students with speech disabilities.
Bluetooth assistive technology allows teachers to reach students with hearing disabilities. Teachers can pair Bluetooth transmitters to hearing aids so students can receive direct audio.
For students with cognitive disabilities, assistive technology with VR abilities provides more immersive learning experiences.
Low-tech physical tools are just as essential to accessibility as high-tech tools. They include more physical tools and equipment rather than digital or electronic devices. For this reason, they may require less financial investment and training. Low-tech especially assists individuals with physical access needs.
Basic examples include items such as wheelchairs and walking canes. Low-tech can also assist students with developmental and behavioral needs. Items like stress balls and fidget knick-knacks are low-tech items that help students focus by keeping them physically engaged. Other tools include classroom items like adaptive pencils or pencil grips.
How to Receive Assistive Technology for Your School or Child
The Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) provides technical assistance on the national, state, and local level. Here are some steps you can take and what the process looks like:
- Contact your State Assistive Technology Program
- AT professionals perform device demonstrations for your requested equipment
- Loan or purchase devices
- Receive state financing options
Getting the Right Equipment
Your state Assistive Technology Program can provide information on the best solutions for your needs. However, special needs service organizations can also offer more information on specific requirements.
The Learning Disability Association of America offers a list of best practices to assess special needs and approaches to intervention.
The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North of America (RESNA) also provides AT standards on tech implementation.
For teachers and administrators who want structured AT guides, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) offers these for specific disabilities.
The Future of Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology During the Pandemic
The pandemic marks a time of potential learning loss for all students, but it proved uniquely challenging for students who rely on assistive technology. Without access to these in-person tools, there is more demand for remote resources. High-tech AT resources are the most equipped to address most of the demands of distanced learning.
However, providing access to these high-tech tools was a significant challenge at the beginning of the pandemic. Some schools were able to jump these hurdles more quickly than others. Connecticut, for example, was the first state in the U.S. to provide learning devices to students PK-12. In coordination with the nonprofit Partnership for Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont helped deliver 141,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections.
Calls for more high-tech resources could make schools more resilient to post-pandemic learning environments, but the return to normal school sessions presents less urgent conditions.
Whether schools are quick to adopt in-person, remote, or hybrid learning, there is still a need for consistent learning support.
We’ve developed the Homework Helpline with a mission to put students, teachers, and parents on that path.
The Homework Helpline is a student performance platform that provides live out-of-classroom assistance to students. To learn more about Homework Helpline, check out the full list of features.