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What is assistive technology?

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a Glance

  • Assistive technology can help people who learn and think differently work around their challenges.

  • One example is an app that reads text aloud.

  • Assistive technology can empower people to do things for themselves.

People who learn and think differently can use technology tools to work around their challenges. These tools are called assistive technology (AT).

AT is any device, software, or equipment that helps people with learn, communicate, or function better. AT can be as high-tech as a computer. Or as low-tech as a walking stick.

Here are more examples of AT:

  • A wheelchair

  • An app that reads text aloud

  • A keyboard for typing

Students who struggle with learning can use AT to help with subjects like reading, writing, and math. AT can also help kids and adults with the tasks of daily life. And many workers use these tools on the job.

Using AT can help people become more confident and independent. That’s because AT empowers people to do things for themselves.

Dive deeper

Assistive technology for learning

There’s a wide range of AT for people with learning and thinking differences.

Adaptive tools  — like highlighters, organizers, and timers — are a common type of AT. A great example of a simple AT tool is a pencil grip.

Many AT tools are high-tech, and depend on digital devices. There are hundreds of these tools that can help with learning. For examples, explore:

Myths about assistive technology

There are lots of myths about AT. Some wrongly believe that using AT is “cheating.” Others worry that kids who use AT may become too reliant on it.

One of the biggest myths is that using AT will prevent kids from learning academic skills. Education experts say that’s not true.

At the same time, keep in mind that AT can’t replace good teaching or instruction. And it won’t “cure” a learning difference like dyslexia or ADHD.

Watch a video debunking five myths about AT .

How to find the right assistive technology

Finding the right AT tool can be overwhelming. One good approach is to choose AT that targets a specific activity. For example, if reading is a challenge, look for a tool that helps with reading.

If you don’t know where to start, try text-to-speech . It can make a big difference for people who have trouble with reading or focus.

For students, another approach is to ask the school to recommend AT. Read about when and how schools are required to provide AT to kids .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom