WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (AT)?

Assistive technology is any accommodation provided that compensates a cognitive or physical deficit for people with disabilities by providing equal access to information, tasks or activities. 

Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, walking, talking, remembering, seeing, hearing, learning, and many other things. Each person is unique, and different challenges require different AT. 

 

Closing The Gap does not manufacture AT. We are a non-bias resource, publishing news and information, and providing professional development training sharing assistive technology best practices and implementation strategies. 

What are examples of assistive technology?

From low-tech everyday items in your home to high-tech commercially manufactured devices, AT is a broad term that encompasses all kinds technology and everyday devices. If you’ve ever used a spell checker or a stool to reach the top shelf in your kitchen, you’ve used AT!

How do you select the right assistive technology?

Finding the correct assistive technology to meet your specific needs begins with an assistive technology assessment. The assessment process is typically done by a team of professionals and consultants who are trained to assess the unique needs of the individual and match assistive technology to those needs. Most commonly, the team may include regular and special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, family doctor and other specialists as needed.

As technology is ever-changing, it’s imperative that assessment team members are knowledgeable and stay abreast of available products and their updates. Having an understanding of the FULL scope of available products, best practices and implementation strategies is key to the assessment process.

How can Closing The Gap help me find the right assistive technology?

We’re here to help. Closing The Gap has been a trusted resource since 1984. We’ve been at the forefront of the assistive technology field, publishing the first magazine dedicated to the topic of assistive technology and continue to lead the field with state-of-the-art professional development tools, online training opportunities and our annual, international conference.

Assistive Technology Resources

Discover Over 1,500 Products for Children and Adults with Disabilities

The Resource Directory is a culmination of an extensive, year-round search for the latest software, hardware and other assistive technology products that are on the market today, as well as their producers. It is a tool to assist members, discover, research and compare.

Resource Directory
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Supporting Educators, Practitioners, Parents and Specialists

Convenient and on-demand, our Membership platform offers professional development training, resources and tools for individuals, school districts, rehabilitation centers, non profit organizations and universities who are using assistive technologies to support children and adults with disabilities.

Membership & Training
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Get Hands-On and Develop Your AT Skills

Held annually, each Fall in Minnesota, the Closing The Gap conference is recognized as the best educational assistive technology conference in the country.

Discover the latest technologies and best practices that are making a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities.

Annual Conference

GLOSSARY OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TERMINOLOGY

AAC

Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

 

Access Software

Software that supports input to the computer by devices other than the standard keyboard or supports output from the computer in formats other than those normally provided by the standard monitor.

 

Adapted Keyboard/Switch Access

Software created or modified to allow adapted access via touch boards, touch screens, switches with scanning, single hand or finger keyboard use.

 

Adapted Play

Toy that can be made accessible through simple adaptations such as switches.

 

Alternative Keyboard

A hardware device that replaces or works in addition to the standard keyboard and is positioned to meet the specific needs of the user.

 

Authorable Content

Software that allows the user to add to or change its content.

 

Basic Living Skills

Software that enhances an individual’s ability to survive in society, from sight words to job readiness.

 

Braille

Software that translates from English to Braille, Braille to English, or functions as a Braille training program.

 

Braille Input

A hardware device that allows input to the computer via a Braille style keyboard or specific keys on a standard keyboard that function in Braille patterns.

 

Braille Output

A hardware device that produces hard copy Braille or paperless, refreshable Braille as output from the computer.

 

Cause/Effect Software

Software in which one specific action produces an effect such as a specific sound or graphical output. Can be used with any kind of input device.

 

CCTV

Closed Circuit Television. They use a camera to project a magnified image onto a monitor. Desktop magnifiers are ideal for reading, writing, viewing photographs

 

Cognitive Redevelopment

Software that provides retraining in skills lost through trauma.

 

Communication Board

Allows expressive communication by touching or gazing at a printed word, symbol, or picture.

 

Dedicated Communicator

A hardware device that provides speech output for non-verbal users. It is often portable and allows input from a variety of methods.

Early Childhood

Software that develops primal cognitive or motor skills.

 

ECU (Environmental Control Unit)

A hardware device that allows programmed or spontaneous control over remote, electricity-operated appliances.

 

Headstick

Device that allows users (who are unable to use their hands) to perform computer functions by means of a headset and control unit that measure the rotation of the user’s head and translate it into cursor/pointer movements on the screen.

 

IEP/IPP

Individualized Education Plan. Individualized Program Plan. Software of this type plans and tracks delivery of service to students or clients.

 

Input Device

Any device that enters information into the computer by an operator or another device.

 

Joystick

An input device that consists of a rod or lever which a person pushes in the direction of intended movement, as in controlling a cursor/pointer or wheelchair.

 

Keyboard Emulator

A hardware device that connects to the computer and allows input from a source other than the standard keyboard. Runs regular software.

 

Keyguard

A hardware device that covers a standard or alternative keyboard and provides direction for a finger or prod. It allows the user to slide his/her hands around the surface without accidentally activating keys.

 

Large Print

1. Software that provides large print on either the computer screen or on paper.  2. A hardware device that enlarges and/or brightens the type that is displayed on the computer monitor.

 

Mouse Emulator

A hardware device that imitates and takes the place of a mouse.

 

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

1.  A hardware device that reads scanned text into a computer and translates it into ASCII text format.  2. Software that reads scanned text and translates it into a text format.

 

Output Device

A device that receives information produced by the computer and makes it available to the operator in an understandable form.

 

Scanning

Software that automatically steps through allowable responses that users select by single switch or multi switch activation.

 

Screen Reader

A text-to-speech software program that speaks the text content of a computer display.

 

Seating/Positioning/Mobility

Items which assist a disabled individual with obtaining the correct position (e.g. adjustable tables, chairs, powered mobility toy, etc.).

 

Speech Output

1. A hardware device that allows the computer to produce sounds similar to human speech through the use of a synthesizer or digitizer.  2. Software that supports the generation of speech through speech output devices.

 

Speech Recognition

The ability of a computer to understand spoken commands.

 

Speech Synthesizer

A hardware device that allows the computer to produce sounds similar to human speech.

 

Speech Trainer

A hardware device that analyzes pitch, rhythm, and amplitude of spoken words and provides a graphic display of that unique sound on the computer screen.

 

Switch

A hardware device that allows a user with little motor control to operate a computer or other electrical device.

 

Switch Interface

Hardware that allows the convenient connection of a switch to a computer.

 

Tactile Display

Translating the information on the computer screen into tactile form so that a user can feel the shape of each letter, line, or graphic.

 

TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf):

A device that allows a user to transmit typed-in messages over phone lines.

 

Text-To-Speech

Speech output equipment that will pronounce (or spell) whatever text is input.

 

Touch Pad/Touch Tablet

A pressure-sensitive input device used to control a computer whereby users make choices by pressing selected portions of the pad.

 

Touch Screen/Touch Window

A transparent, pressure-sensitive pad for computer input, which usually mounts in front of monitor.

 

Voice Recognition

1. A hardware device that sends signals or information to the computer when the user speaks into an attached microphone.  2. Software that allows the computer to understand verbal commands.

 

Word Prediction Software

Software that predicts upcoming words based on the first letter typed or input through another device. Prediction is based upon word commonality, or frequency of use in a user’s vocabulary.