5 questions to consider when choosing assistive technology tools

Are you exploring assistive technology (AT)? Whether you’re looking at tools for your child, your student, or yourself, there are many options. But it can be hard to know which ones might help. Here are questions to ask when considering AT tools.

1. Does the tool address the user’s needs or challenges?

The tool must address the need or challenge the user is facing. Consider:

  • Does it leverage strengths to help make up for weaknesses?

  • Does it reduce the impact of the challenge?

  • Does it support or enhance learning strategies?

2. Is the user willing to use this (or any) tool?

Some people — kids and adults — are reluctant to use AT. They may not want to look “different” from their classmates or co-workers. Or they might have had a poor experience in the past with similar tools. Understanding the reason can make it easier to choose a tool the user will be more comfortable with.

3. Is the tool compatible with other technology?

A tool that doesn’t work with the other technology a person uses isn’t very helpful. If everyone in the office uses Macs, avoid tools that require a PC. If all the students in a class use Chromebooks, look for Chrome extensions that have the needed capabilities.

4. How easy is the tool to learn to use?

In specific, ask:

  • What learning resources are available? Are there cheat sheets or video tutorials? Is there training for users and for people who work with them, like parents and teachers?

  • Is there a simpler tool or strategy that would work just as well and produce similar results?

  • Is there technology support to help set up the tool and address problems?

5. Does the tool makes sense for the task or environment?

Think about where the tool can and can’t be helpful. For example, speech-to-text for in-class writing isn’t practical. Recording certain class discussions or work meetings for replay later may be prohibited.

One of the best ways to know if a particular tool is a good fit is to try it out. Most AT companies offer free versions and trial subscriptions that allow users to “test drive” a tool.

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