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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 at Home and in the Community

Quick Review of Accessible Assistive Technology and the SETT Framework

Assistive technology (AT) is any tool, device, etc. that helps a student with a disability perform a task. Examples include magnifiers, Perkins Braillers, long white canes, etc.  Accessible assistive technology is AT that allows blind/low vision students to use the technology efficiently and effectively. For example, a laptop computer is technology for all students and AT for students with disabilities. However, blind/low vision students might not be able to use a laptop computer efficiently and effectively unless they have additional ACCESSIBLE technology, including screen reading/magnifying software, refreshable Braille displays, large monitors, etc.  In other words, blind/low vision students need MORE than just AT; they need accessible AT.

The SETT Framework helps us to determine AT needs based on the Student, the Environment, the Task, and the Tool. Read more in last week’s Bridges Blog.

Can I Use My School-provided Accessible Assistive Technology at Home and in the Community?

Absolutely! In every state, including Maryland, students with IEPs (individualized education plans) are entitled to receive from the school transition services relating to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills. In other words, school is more than just your classes; it is the place for you to develop the skills you will need before and after high school graduation.

School-related tasks that you would need accessible AT for at home include accessing the internet for information, taking notes, creating documents, etc. You also might need accessible AT for these tasks in your community or at work (volunteer or paid). Tasks that might not be part of regular school classes include cooking, cleaning, getting transportation, reading directions on box mixes, shopping in person, ordering things online, etc.

Can I get Additional School-provided Accessible Assistive Technology to Use Only at Home and in the Community—Not at School at All?

Yes. As noted above, both school-related tasks and non-school-related tasks fall under “transition services.” Thus, it is completely appropriate for your IEP to include instruction, services, and tools, including AT, to help you do things efficiently and effectively in your home and in the community, even if you are not doing those things at school.

What kind Accessible Assistive Technology Would I Need at Home?

It all depends on what you want/need to do at home. Some examples of accessible AT that might be helpful include a Braille embosser or laser printer. These tools will allow you to emboss/print out both schoolwork and other items you might want to read. Large monitors and refreshable Braille displays are important also, but they might not be enough. Non-disabled students can read many lines of text at a time on a typical-size screen. Enlarged print often provides fewer lines of text, even on large monitors. Additionally, reading on a large monitor for a long time can cause eye fatigue, especially if you have low vision, so it may be quite important to have a printer with good quality output. For Braille readers, refreshable Braille displays provide only one line of Braille at a time. It is less efficient to scroll up and down, especially when accessing Nemeth Code (math) or Music Braille. Again, non-disabled students can see many lines of text at a time at home, so it makes sense that Braille reading-students need an embosser at home as well.

Other types of accessible AT at home may include accessible kitchen tools (measuring cups and spoons, timers, thermometers, scales, text-to-speech software, etc.). Additionally, in order to master orientation and mobility tools like accessible compasses and long white canes, you should be able to use them all the time—not just in school.

What kind Accessible Assistive Technology Would I Need in the Community?

Well, what do you want to do in the community and what tools do you need to it? For example, maybe you want to be able to read a menu when you go out to eat (and if not now, you’ll likely want to when the world starts opening up again. Most restaurants don’t have accessible menus, and the lighting in many restaurants can be it difficult to read any print menu. What are some possible solutions that don’t require someone to read the menu to you?

  1. Before you go out, you could check the internet to see of the menu is there. In order to do so, you’ll need a computer or tablet, an internet connection, accessible screen reading/screen magnifying software, and a refreshable Braille display or large monitor. If, like many online menus, the menu is a picture instead of text, you’ll also need optical character recognition (OCR) software so that you can either listen to it or read it on a Braille display. Note: JAWS screen reading software has OCR built-in, so you don’t need to open up another software program to use OCR. Accessible AT your school might need to provide:
    1. Laptop
    1. Internet connection/hotspot
    1. Accessible software
      1. Screen reading software (ideally, JAWS with built-in OCR)
      1. Screen magnification software
      1. Combination screen reading and magnification software (Fusion combines JAWS and ZoomText)
  2. Practice learning how to get there on your own. Accessible AT your school might need to provide:
    1. Accessible compass
    1. Long white cane
    1. Low vision monocular
    1. If using a ride share app, an accessible tablet or Smartphone (Apple products tend to be the most accessible)
  3. When you are there, you could use a device to capture information on the menu—such as a tablet or a phone. You could then use an app like the kNFB reader to translate the text to voice or Braille output. Instead, you might use a hand-held magnifying device. Accessible AT your school might need to provide:
    1. Accessible tablet or Smartphone (Apple products tend to be the most accessible)
    1. Accessible apps (like kNFB Reader)
    1. Refreshable Braille display
    1. Hand-held magnifying devices
      1. Portable video digital magnifier
      1. Hand-held magnifier (with or without built-in lighting)
      1. Magnify glass (that lays on the object being magnified)
    1. Accessible software
      1. Screen reading software (ideally, JAWS with built-in OCR)
      1. Screen magnification software

Of course, there are many other activities in which you want to engage now or want to learn how to do for your life after high school. Think about what you want to do and what kinds of tools that might help you (even if you don’t know if they exist yet!). If you want help in this process, please contact the free Bridges Helpdesk (see contact information below).

What if I Have a Job and Need Accessible Assistive Technology to do It?

You already know the answer: YES! Employment (training for and doing) is part of transition and should be part of your IEP. Contact the free Bridges Helpdesk for more information.

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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