Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technologies Guide: Chapter 2.1 - Assistive Technology as a Tool

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Assistive Technology as a Tool

  • A Tool for Living
  • A Tool for Learning
  • A Tool for Working


Tools --or assistive technology-- are devices and equipment designed to make your life easier or to help you perform a specific task. Everyone uses tools. A dictionary is used to spell a word. Color high lighters are used to help people pick out important words in a book.

If you are one of more than 49 million Americans with disabilities, matching the right tools with your disability can give more options for greater freedom in your life. These assistive devices help you become more involved at work, at school, or in everyday living.

Tools are for people of all ages and with all disabilities, illnesses or impairments.

Tools can be as simple as those mentioned above or as complex as a customized talking computer. Whatever your needs, you can take the following steps:

  • Find out what tools are available through information and referral services.
  • Discover possible resources to help pay for devices.
  • Learn how to get, use, and take care of assistive technology at resource centers in your state.
  • Make changes in public agencies that pay for tools and services.

An assistive technology device is . . .

Any item, piece of equipment, or product that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the abilities of people with disabilities.

An assistive technology service is . . .

Any service that directly assists a person with a disability in selecting, obtaining, or using an assistive technology device.

(Referencee: The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 as amended in 1994 (PL 103-218).)

Assistive technology is a growing and complex field. New developments occur daily. Assistive technology provides the tools that can enable many people with learning difficulties:

  • to have more effective control over all aspects of their own lives: living, learning, working, and playing;
  • to become more involved in and have greater access to the daily activities within their community (e.g., reading a neighborhood newspaper, finding a phone number, deciphering a map, or taking notes at a city council meeting); and
  • to have the same choices that are readily available to people without disabilities.

A growing number of technology-related options are now available. Unfortunately, ongoing myths about AT services and devices cause technology solutions to be overlooked or avoided in meeting the needs of people with disabilities.

Some, but not all, common misunderstandings are discussed in Myths, realities, and action steps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Assistive technology provides tools that help people of all ages with learning disabilities to be included in the community and its activities.

For example...

  • A check-writing template and a signature stamp make paying bills easier.
  • Computer software and hand-held devices help plot and find destinations.
  • Telephone speed dialing, caller ID, free 411 directory assistance, and hand-held voice organizers assist access by telephone.
  • Digital watches, talking clocks, and digital timers help tell time and stay on task.
  • Talk radio shows, computer on-line news services, and pagers with news headlines can keep individuals up-to-date on current events.
  • Electronic calendars and computer organizers help manage schedules and other personal information.


Assistive technology helps people of all ages and disabilities learn, practice, and use the skills necessary to be independent and successful.

For example...

  • Color-coding on files, drawers, and clothing help a person with a learning disability remember something important.
  • Books on tape make textbooks and popular works accessible to people with reading difficulties.
  • Tape recorders help students review class materials.
  • Changing a computer monitor’s background colors assists reading.


Assistive technology may give people with learning disabilities tools to help them obtain and keep a job. It may help people become taxpaying citizens.

For example...

  • Computers that talk help people with reading and writing difficulties.
  • Talking calculators assist those with math or perceptual disabilities.
  • An optical character recognition system lets the worker enter text or printed material into a computer by use of a scanner.
  • Speech recognition systems enable the user to dictate to the computer, converting oral language to written text.
  • Workers with learning disabilities can make their work more efficient by altering colors, font, or print size on a computer screen.
  • Software programs can ease concerns about grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.

Basic Principles of Assistive Technology

  • A team approach is best when deciding upon the most appropriate technology.
  • User and family are the most important team members.
  • The user should seek a professional evaluation of needs and written recommendations.
  • The search for assistive technology should focus on function

and options.

  • The user should request a trial period of use.

Benefits of Assistive Technology: An Overview

Assistive technology tools can help you or someone you know be more functional and independent.

“Tools” mean more choices and greater freedom in your daily life.

  • Assistive technology provides tools to enable a person to experience

success at home, work, or school, perhaps for the first time.

  • Assistive technology helps people of all ages and disabilities.
  • Assistive technology can make the difference between dependence and independence for people with disabilities and their families.

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