Assistive Technology

Posted on 18 May 2007 in Educational Technology | Comments Off on Assistive Technology

How come eye glasses aren’t considered assistive technology? They assit people to see objects in front of their face, assit us to read, drive, or to do our work – and they are fairly modern pieces of technology (you can’t really make a pair on you own, can you). So, why aren’t they called an assistive technology? I’ll tell you why: because they were stolen from the relm of special education.

That’s right, stolen! I mean that in a theoretical sense. You see, technology has the ability to level the playing field for students in special education. Technology doesn’t necessarily give these students an edge, it merely let’s them compete. However, any tool that seems to level the playing field is given the label “assistive” technology to remind people that they wouldn’t be able to compete without assistance. But then when the tool is used by people who don’t receive special education services, the “assistive” label is dropped. I wonder why…?


This theory holds true for a lot of other technology that assits people. Let’s look around us. How many people use the spell check on their word processor or email program? This is a great piece of assistive technology for people with learning disabilities, dyslexia, or a traumatic brain injury – but “assistive” is dropped and it is now just technology for you and I. Or, how about the address book or speed dial on your cell phone? Now you don’t need to remember phone numbers. This feature is also helpful for people with memory problems like mental retardation, Downs Syndrome, or ADD/ADHD. But we’ve stolen the address book too and now consider it a standard feature that we could never do without and not an assistive technology.

The point…there are a lot of technological innovations that level the playing field for special education students:

  • word predition writing software
  • text-to-speach program
  • auditory communicaiton devices
  • cochlear implants
  • power wheelchairs
  • handheld computers

Why do we insits on calling this technoloy assistive? Why can’t we just call it technology? After all, assistive today may become standard tomorrow and benefit us all.