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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Series: AT in the IEP series, February 2021

Determining What Accessible Assistive Technology You Need in School

What is Assistive Technology?

In the IDEA, the federal law that created IEPs, “assistive technology devices” (AT devices) have a broad definition and, essentially, anything that helps a student with a disability do something is an AT device (see the legal definition below). In fact, if the last three words (with a disability) were deleted, everything from pencil and papers to iPads and laptops would be considered AT devices for all students.

What is Accessible Assistive Technology?

Accessible AT devices are those that can be used efficiently, effectively, and sustainably by a person with a disability. Examples of accessible AT devices include screen reading software (JAWS, VoiceOver), refreshable Braille displays, video digital magnifiers (CCTVs), etc. These tools allow blind/low vision students to access the same educational information that non-disabled students do.

What Do I Need?

Before deciding on what accessible AT device you need, you must determine why you need it. A great tool to use in this determination is the SETT Framework (see below for more information). SETT stands for Student, Environment, Task, Tools. In other words, you want to think about:

Student: You.

  • Your strengths, skills, etc.: touch typing, Braille knowledge; ability to use magnification well
  • Your needs: How much use are visual materials? Is audio at all helpful? Can you use a mouse? Keyboard? Switch?

Environment: Your school.

  • In-person: buses, classrooms, school hallways, cafeteria, whiteboards, SmartBoards/Promethean Boards, laptops, software used by the school, books, lighting in various areas (too much, too little, glare, photophobia concerns, etc.)
  • Virtual: platform used, screenshots, screen sharing, online software and simulations, lighting in your study area (too much, too little, glare, photophobia concerns, etc.)

Task: What you need to do.

  • Access materials efficiently: understand the structure of documents, understand graphics and pictures, using what is happening in videos, interact with text and numbers
  • Show what you know: sharing your work with peers and the teacher (in a format they can access), create materials (including documents, spreadsheets, graphics, videos, etc.)

Tools: What you need to do things.

  • In order to read and create documents, need: documents provided in accessible format; laptop computer (not a Chromebook) with screen reader software (like JAWS) and/or screen enlargement software (like ZoomText) (Note: Fusion combines JAWS and ZoomText); Mac laptop; refreshable Braille display, large monitor; accessible tablet (like an iPad); Braille embosser, laser printer, Perkins Brailler, slate and stylus
  • In order to read graphics, need: tactile graphics, alt text descriptions, high color contrast
  • In order to make graphics, need: tactile graph paper; graphic art tape, tactile markers, accessible drawing tools (Sensational Blackboard, TactileDoodle, inTact SketchPad/Draftsman); Braille embosser, laser printer
  • Videos: audio description
  • Software and platforms: accessible interfaces
  • In order to measure: tactile caliper, click rule, Braille/large print ruler, tactile/large print protractor, Braille/large print measuring cups and spoons
  • Data collection in biology, chemistry, and physics: Sci-Voice TM Talking LabQuest 2 Version 2.3 Package, including Logger Pro software (allows you to collect data and analyze it without the use of vision at all)

Resources mentioned in this Transition Tip

Definition of assistive technology device

“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 functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” 20 U.S.C. §1401(1).

SETT Framework

More about training for JAWS, Fusion, and ZoomText

Accessible assistive technology available for loan in Maryland

Tactile graph paper options

Tactile drawing tools:

Sensational Blackboard

TactileDoodle

inTact Sketchpad (includes an eraser option)

Accessible measuring tools:

Tactile caliper (inches)

Tactile caliper (metric)

Click rule (metric click rule available also)

Braille/large print ruler options

Tactile/large print protractor options

Braille/large print measuring cups and spoons

Sci-Voice TM Talking LabQuest 2 Version 2.3 Package, including Logger Pro software

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Explore all of this February’s Accessible Assistive Technology in Your IEP Series:

Part 1: Determining What You Need in School

Part 2: Determining What You Need at Home and in the Community

Part 3: Determining the Training You Need

Part 4: Getting the Accessible AT Devices and Training You Need into Your IEP

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