Eliminating Barriers, Creating Possibilities With Technology

Do you know what assistive technology is? Is it defined by complex software and advanced machines? While the use of the word technology would imply such, the name actually refers any tool or device that a student with a disability uses to do a task that (1) he or she could not otherwise do without it or (2) a tool the student uses to do a task more easily, faster, or in a better way. It can be a computer device, but the full scope of these tools also includes commercial products or something that someone fashions by hand or other means. It can also be a simple, low-tech device such as a pencil grip.

The legal definition of assistive technology is, “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 the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1401(1))

Any student with a disability from mild to severe may benefit from the use of assistive technology. Such items assist with reading, writing, remembering, walking, sitting, seeing, hearing, and communicating. Any student who needs help with any of these life functions may benefit significantly from the use of assistive technology.

In the Fargo Public Schools, the following are common examples of assistive technology:

Reading:  Kindle, iPad, iPod, text readers, e-books, audiobooks, pictures/symbols
Writing:  Smart Pen, word processors, word prediction software, voice recognition software, portable spell checkers, pencil grip, slant board, voice recorders
Communication:  Speech-generating devices, iPads, single-message buttons, communication book, talking photo album, picture wallet
Hearing:  Closed-captioning, text-to-speech, sound field systems, video phones
Vision:  Magnification software, large-print books, large-print calculator, talking calculator, CCTV and Victor Vibe
Computer Access:  Switches, adapted keyboards, touchscreen monitors, voice recognition software

There are four main factors to consider when exploring assistive technology.  First and foremost are the student’s needs and abilities. It is important for each student to know about their learning style and disability. This allows them to identify the different types of technology that work best for them. This approach leads to self-advocacy and independence.

Second, we must consider the environment in which the technology is to be used. Factors to identify include the supports and materials needed as well as the learning and physical arrangements of the classroom.

Next, we focus on what tasks we want the student to complete based on the activities of their peers. And finally, technology is considered that allows the student to complete the tasks. Through trials over time, assistive technology can be identified to enhance a student’s success in the classroom.

It is hard to estimate the number of students in the Fargo Public Schools who use assistive technology on a daily basis. Some resources are shared between students and classrooms.  However, the number of students in the Fargo Public Schools who have a determined need for assistive technology is increasing each year. This technology can be a bridge for students to success in the classroom.

To learn more about assistive technology in the Fargo Public Schools, contact Alyce Wiemken, at wiemkea@fargo.k12.nd.us.