19 January 2020

Understanding assistive technology (AT) basics

Assistive technology (AT) supports access and particpation. Sometimes it enables individuals to do things that would be impossible without AT.

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Areas where AT can make a difference​

Assistive technology (AT) is available to support learners with both cognitive difficulties and physical impairments.

AT can increase a child's self-reliance and sense of independence.

Assistive technology isn't the only way to meet additional learning needs. Sometimes adapting the curriculum or changing the learning environment can also work really well.

Universal Design for Learning and AT work together

For example, a student needs additional support in literacy.

  • An AT solution: An assistive technology tool is selected as an individualised solution to meet the specific need. Following a supervised trial a laptop with a text-to-speech tool is selected as the best fit for the student.
  • A UDL solution: All students have access to 1:1 devices. Make tools such as text-to-speech available to any students wanting to use them. Text-to-speech becomes a universal option to support learning. It becomes part of the UDL toolkit for all students.

Learners without disabilities benefit from having access to assistive technologies. For example, screen readers support learners experiencing challenges with reading or who have English as a second language.

Video hosted on Vimeo

Wellington High School teacher, Ben Britton describes the supports provided by digital technologies, which are available to all students to use as needed. For example text-to-speech supports students who have difficulty reading or prefer to learn through listening.


Building on a firm foundation: supporting students with 
more intensive support needs 
in UDL environments

Publisher: National Center on Accessible Educational Material


Assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning: Two sides of the same coin

Publisher: Handbook of Special Education Technology Research

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