What is Assistive Technology and How Can it Support My Child?
Children who are blind/visually impaired (B/VI) use a variety of assistive technology (AT), devices to access education and participate in recreation. AT can be low-tech or high tech and includes tools and adaptations that may or may not contain electronic or mechanical components. If your child is under age three, it is important to go through the AT consideration process with your individualized family service plan (IFSP) team. If your child is school age, it is important to work with your child’s individualized education program (IEP) team to determine your child’s AT needs.
Regardless of your child’s age, you can consider your child’s AT needs with professionals providing early intervention, medical, or health services. The AT consideration process is a critical point in which educational, medical, and health professionals can come together to address your child’s specific needs.
Assistive Technology Consideration Process
Individualized education program (IEP) teams are required to consider assistive technology (AT) as a part of a student’s annual IEP meeting. Technology should fit the student instead of fitting the student to the technology. During the AT consideration process, the team determines a student’s need for AT. The AT consideration process results in one of three outcomes: (1) the student does not need AT, (2) AT is needed and specific details regarding how, when, and where the devices and services will be provided have been documented or, (3) AT is needed, but further assessment is necessary. If further assessment is needed, this is when the AT assessment process begins.
Resources to support the AT consideration process include:
- OCALI’s Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) Module: AT Consideration in the IEP Process
- OCALI’s AT Resource Guide: AT Consideration in the IEP You may want to share these resources with your child’s team in order to find assistive technology which will match your child’s needs.
If the team decides an AT assessment is needed, they should determine your child’s needs, environments, and tasks your child needs to accomplish. This process may include trying AT free for a trial period through OCALI’s Lending Library, or Assistive Technology of Ohio.
Below are some examples of AT used by the people who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI). In addition to these links, a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) can provide information about AT options. A variety of B/VI apps are available through Google Play from an Apple or Android device. Resources to search for appropriate apps based on features identified through the AT assessment process are available through OCALI’s Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center. Lastly, some technology companies provide a free trial period upon request.
- Freedom Scientific
This company is well known for ZoomText, Job Access with Speech (JAWS), Optical Character Recognition (OCR) devices, and braille displays. ZoomText is a computer program that enlarges font and creates color contrast. JAWS is a screen reader software which enables people who are B/VI to use a computer with keystrokes. Freedom Scientific also has a software program called Zoom Fusion, which is a combination of ZoomText and JAWS. In addition, this company offers a multitude of OCR devices that can scan and read print documents. You can find online tutorials and user guides on the Freedom Scientific website to learn to use their AT products.
This company is known for its braille note taker and audio devices. BrailleNotes have the abilities of a laptop, which includes a refreshable electronic braille display. Humanware provides online instruction as to how to use their AT products.
Not all AT has to be high tech. This company produces a wide range of tools and devices for various situations including, mobility, medical, household, computers, magnifiers, canes, watches, pens, and more.
- Sight Savers America
Sight Savers America has a low vision program which donates AT to families at no cost. If you are interested in receiving AT through this program, please ask your child’s TVI or low vision doctor to make a referral to Saving Sight America. You may also contact the organization directly by clicking here.
- Teaching Students with Vision Impairments
This website lists AT commonly used by people who are B/VI. The content is written by a TVI and contains other information related to children who are B/VI.