Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect the civil rights of people with disabilities, including young children and students. One of the ways schools comply with the ADA and improve learning outcomes for students is by incorporating assistive technology in their classrooms.
At Promethean, we believe every student deserves a chance to succeed in the classroom, regardless of background, income, or ability. We are dedicated to providing high-caliber, intuitive products that help all students learn and succeed. Keep reading to learn more about how Promethean is leading the way in assistive technology for students with disabilities.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT) involves the use of hardware and software programs to support positive learning outcomes. The different forms that AT takes range depending on the needs of the student.
For blind students, this may look like instruction packets printed in Braille, or interactive display boards that can, among many other things, play videos aloud so students can join along. AT for students with ADHD may involve white-noise generators to help them maintain their focus.
Some educators argue that the term “assistive technology” is redundant since all technology ultimately works to “assist” us users in some aspect of our lives, be it smartphones, elevators – or even our watches.
When designers create technology with the core principle of accessibility in mind, the end product almost always becomes a net benefit for the whole of its user base.
Examples of assistive technology in the classroom
In the 1990s, researchers began applying the principles of Universal Design to the classroom. In the following decades, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) researchers would develop different tools and software for practical application in the classroom.
Speech-recognition programs complement traditional word processors by translating diction into written text.
Users speak into a microphone, where an AI-assisted algorithm works to accurately capture the dialogue and put it to paper.
This type of technology is often bundled into comprehensive software packages like ActivInspire and provides a crucial benefit to students who struggle with their writing skills.
Speech synthesizers/screen readers
Speech synthesizers are the inverse of speech-recognition systems. These programs can read aloud text from a digital device such as websites, scanned books, or even live text from a word processor.
These tools are invaluable for visually impaired students. It can also benefit students that struggle with written comprehension such as those affected with dyslexia and dyscalculia.
Computer access tools
Computer access tools can be broadly defined as any technology that helps students connect to and interface with digital learning materials.
One example is a digital classroom assistant such as Merlyn Mind’s Symphony Classroom – a program designed to help teachers manage their space using voice-activated commands.
The program doesn’t just assist classroom function by operating as speech recognition and synthesis software. It frees up the educator to dedicate more of their time and attention to the students who need it most.
Top assistive technology platforms for students with disabilities
In recent years, high-quality assistive technology platforms appeared on the market. Each aims to transform the way educators interact with their students, and vice versa. Using the principles of UDL, these learning platforms each tackle a unique challenge present in modern classroom settings.
Speechify is a speech synthesis program that reads text and translates it into audible speech. This program is extremely useful for students with visual disabilities or attention deficits.
It’s able to dictate text from a variety of different sources including phones, tablets, computers, and scanned physical media such as textbooks.
Kurzweil 3000 is a literature support system designed by Kurzweil Education. Compatible with both Mac operating systems and various web browsers, the Kurzweil 3000 comes with several pragmatic assistive technologies. PDF readers, text-to-speech synthesis, and text translation are just a few of the tools that come standard with Kurzweil 3000.
As well as translating audio into text, the program can predict what words or phrases a user intended on using, providing immense benefit to students with special needs. A proprietary prediction engine parses through text to discern the correct grammatical form whenever a writer uses an improper conjugation or spelling.
Tobii is one of the most unique offerings in the assistive technology market. Billed as an alternative to a traditional computer mouse, Tobii turns a user’s own gaze into a digital cursor.
By tracking a user’s eyes with a mixture of infrared lights and cameras, Tobii gives students with physical or verbal disabilities the ability to interact with digital devices with the same level of precision and accuracy as their peers.
In response to the massive shift in classroom management following the 2020 pandemic, cloud-based teaching platforms like ClassFlow have become an integral part of classroom function.
These collaborative learning programs help educators reach even their most remote students, creating hybrid classrooms where remote and in-person instruction occur simultaneously.
Quizzes, instant polls, interactive learning activities, and more – all available at the touch of a button. When coupled with Promethean’s latest generation of interactive display boards, educators are able to address and meet the needs of even their most underserved students.
The future of assistive technology
While many students have returned to the classroom since the 2020 pandemic, the need for bespoke assistive technologies remains. Moving forward, there is still much progress to be made in the field of educational technology.
Firms across the board are experimenting with artificial intelligence, generative mapping, and language learning models. Yet, more work is needed on the ground floor to integrate these new technologies into the classroom.
Making these sorts of advanced assistive technologies available to educators is one of the core objectives of Promethean. This is why we’ve donated our assistive learning tools to classrooms all across the nation.
Promethean: A champion of assistive technology in education
Assistive technology improves the daily lives of disabled students, but the underlying technology can be used to help able-bodied students as well. When educators take the needs of their most vulnerable pupils into account when designing their classroom, the whole class benefits.
Promethean offers a variety of assistive technologies designed to help students achieve their best learning outcomes. Find out why thousands of teachers across the country are switching to interactive displays and online learning software.