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Assistive Technology and Learning Disabilities

What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology, also known as adaptive technology and AT, is any application or device that is used to increase, maintain or improve physical ability or academic performance. People generally think of mechanical devices, electronics, computers, hardware and software, but there is actually a range of assistive technology.

Low-tech Assistive Technology
  • Pencil grips. 
  • Graph paper.
  • Highlighting pens. 
  • Planners.
  • Digital clocks. 
  • Calculators.
  • Computers. 
  • Dictionaries and spell checkers.
Mid to Hi-tech Assistive Technology
  • Digital recorders. 

  • Talking calculators. 
  • Portable keyboards. 
  • Electronic spell checkers and dictionaries. 
  • Reading systems that use a computer, scanner, and software to read scanned book pages out loud. 
  • Speech recognition software that allows a computer to operate by speaking to it. 
  • Mind mapping/outlining software. 
  • Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Smartphones, cellular phones, PDAs, iPods, MP3 players.



Benefits of Assistive Technology
  • Assistive technology can help an individual with learning disabilities (LD) be more independent.
- Using AT can provide more choices and greater freedom in daily life.
  • AT provides tools to enable an individual to experience success at home, at school, at work and/or in the community. 
  • AT helps people of all ages.
  • AT, successfully applied, can increase an individual’s confidence and self-esteem. 
  • AT improves the quality of life, and removes barriers providing the tools for possible employment and educational opportunities.
Who can access Assistive Technology services?
Students registered with the disability services office at a post-secondary institution can access AT services. You will be assessed for AT requirements based on your academic area of study and your LD-related needs to determine a best fit. The AT specialist will talk about your learning challenges and strengths and will introduce and train you on adaptive technologies using your course material.

The AT specialist will determine the right AT solution for you by asking the following questions:
  • Does the AT use any of your strengths?
  • Does the AT work around some of your weaker areas?
  • Is it easier to accomplish your task with the AT?
  • Is it faster to accomplish your task with the AT?
  • Is your task more understandable?
The key to effective assistive technology is finding the right match between the AT tool, the learning disability and the task. Finding the right tool is easy, addressing the problem(s) and making it work may not be as easy and may require a trial and error approach.

Students with learning disabilities will most often require AT that assists with reading, language, organizational skills and processing information.

Cost is often a factor, but your disability services office will be able to guide you in finding the appropriate funding sources and training.