Assistive Technology (AT) Basics

Definition of Assistive Technology (AT)

“Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.” (Authority 20 U.S.C. 1401(1))

Types of Assistive Technologies (AT) in eLearning


Captions are used by those who are deaf or hearing-impaired. Captions are different from subtitles in that they include more information. The transcribed text includes both dialogue and sounds that are present in videos.

Screen Readers

Screen readers are software programs used by those who are blind or visually impaired. Individuals on the autism spectrum or those with dyslexia can also benefit from the use of screen readers. Users are able to navigate the content displayed on the screen and have it read aloud.

Today, there are many uses for screen readers even for nondisabled people. These uses exist in any environment where information is read aloud using technology. Think about virtual assistants or GPS navigation.

JAWS (Job Access with Speech) – PC

There are several commands that can be used to navigate JAWS.

VoiceOver – Mac

VoiceOver can be controlled using various keys or combinations.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) – PC

Unlike the previously mentioned screen readers, NVDA is an open source. This makes NVDA a very popular screen reader choice.