ET7 Adaptive Technologies

ET7 Adaptive Technologies

If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

- Barbara Colorose


Assistive Technologies

Assistive Technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.

Adaptive Technologies

The term Adaptive Technology is often used as the synonym for Assistive Technology, however, they are different terms. Assistive Technology refers to “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”, while Adaptive Technology covers items that are specifically designed for persons with disabilities and would seldom be used by non-disabled persons. In other words, “Assistive Technology is any object or system that increases or maintains the capabilities of people with disabilities”, while Adaptive Technology is “any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities”. Consequently, Adaptive Technology is a subset of Assistive Technology. Adaptive Technology often refers specifically to electronic and Information Technology access.

Mobility impairment and wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are devices that can be manually propelled or electrically propelled and that include a seating system and are designed to be a substitute for the normal mobility that most people enjoy. Wheelchairs and other mobility devices allow people to perform mobility related Activities of Daily Living which include Feeding, Toileting, Dressing Grooming and Bathing. The devices comes in a number of variations where they can be propelled either by hand or by motors where the occupant uses electrical controls to manage motors and seating control actuators through a joystick or other input devices. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing or input devices for caregivers. Wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness, injury, or disability. People with both sitting and walking disability often need to use a wheelchair or walker.

A walker or walking frame or Rollator is a tool for disabled people who need additional support to maintain balance or stability while walking. It consists of a frame that is about waist high, approximately twelve inches deep and slightly wider than the user. Walkers are also available in other sizes such as Pediatric or Bariatric. Modern walkers are height adjustable. The front two legs of the walker may or may not have wheels attached depending on the strength and abilities of the person using it. It is also common to see caster wheels or glides on the back legs of a walker with wheels on the front.

Personal Emergency Response Systems and Telecare

This voter with a manual dexterity disability is making choices on a touchscreen with a head dauber.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), or Telecare (UK term), are a particular sort of Assistive Technology that use electronic sensors connected to an alarm system to help caregivers manage risk and help vulnerable people stay independent at home longer. An example would be the systems being put in place for senior people such as fall detectors, thermometers (for hypothermia risk), flooding and unlit gas sensors (for people with mild dementia). Notably, these alerts can be customized to the particular person's risks. When the alert is triggered, a message is sent to a caregiver or contact center who can respond appropriately.

Computer accessibility

In human–computer interaction, computer accessibility (also known as Accessible computing) refers to the accessibility of a computer system to all people, regardless of disability or severity of impairment, examples include Web accessibility guidelines. Another approach is for the user to present a token to the computer terminal, such as a smart card, that has configuration information to adjust the computer speed, text size, etc. to their particular needs. This is useful where users want to access public computer based terminals in Libraries, ATM, Information kiosks etc. The concept is encompassed by the CEN EN 1332-4 Identification Card Systems - Man-Machine Interface. This development of this standard has been supported in Europe by SNAPI and has been successfully incorporated into the Lasseo specifications, but with limited success due to the lack of interest from public computer terminal suppliers.

Assistive Technology for visual impairment

Many people with serious visual impairments live independently, using a wide range of tools and techniques. Examples of Assistive Technology for visually impairment include the Canadian currency tactile feature, which a system of raised dots in one corner, based on Braille cells but not standard Braille. For general computer use access technology such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and refreshable Braille displays has been widely taken up along with standalone reading aids that integrate a scanner, optical character recognition (OCR) software, and speech software in a single machine. These function together without a separate PC.

Augmentative and alternative communication

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses methods of communication for those with impairments or restrictions on the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. AAC systems are extremely diverse and depend on the capabilities of the user. They may be as basic as pictures on a board that the are used to request food, drink, or other care; or they can be advanced speech generating devices, based on speech synthesis, that are capable of storing hundreds of phrases and words.

Cognitive orthotics

Assistive Technology for Cognition (ATC) is the use of technology (usually high tech) to augment and assistive cognitive processes such as attention, memory, self-regulation, navigation, emotion recognition and management, planning, and sequencing activity. Systematic reviews of the field have found that the number of ATC are growing rapidly, but have focused on memory and planning, that there is emerging evidence for efficacy, that a lot of scope exists to develop new ATC. Examples of ATC include: NeuroPage which prompt users about meetings, Wakamaru, which provides companionship and reminds users to take medicine and calls for help if something is wrong, and telephone Reassurance systems.


A prosthesis, prosthetic, or prosthetic limb is a device that replaces a missing body part. It is part of the field of biomechatronics, the science of using mechanical devices with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems to assist or enhance motor control lost by trauma, disease, or defect. Prostheses are typically used to replace parts lost by injury (traumatic) or missing from birth (congenital) or to supplement defective body parts. Inside the body, artificial heart valves are in common use with artificial hearts and lungs seeing less common use but under active technology development. Other medical devices and aids that can be considered prosthetics include hearing aids, artificial eyes, palatal obturator, gastric bands, and dentures.

Prosthetics are specifically not orthotics, although given certain circumstances a prosthetic might end up performing some or all of the same functionary benefits as an orthotic. Prostheses are technically the complete finished item. For instance, a C-Leg knee alone is not a prosthesis, but only a prosthetic part. The complete prosthesis would consist of the stump attachment system — usually a "socket", and all the attachment hardware parts all the way down to and including the foot. Keep this in mind as nomenclature is often interchanged.

Assistive Technology and sports

Assistive Technology and sports is an area of technology design that is growing. Assistive Technology is the array of new devices created to enable sports enthusiasts who have disabilities to play. Assistive Technology may be used in adaptive sports, where an existing sport is modified to enable players with a disability to participate; or, Assistive Technology may be used to invent completely new sports with athletes with disabilities exclusively in mind.

An increasing number of people with disabilities are participating in sports, leading to the development of new Assistive Technology. Assistive Technology devices can be simple, or "low-tech", or they may use highly advanced technology, with some even using computers. Assistive technology for sports may also be simple, or advanced. Accordingly, Assistive Technology can be found in sports ranging from local community recreation to elite Paralympic games. More complex Assistive Technology devices have been developed over time, and as a result, sports for people with disabilities "have changed from being a clinical therapeutic tool to an increasingly competition-oriented activity".

Computer accessibility

One of the largest problems that affect students with disabilities is discomfort with prosthesis. A new computer program is used to create the most comfortable and useful prosthetics. An experiment performed in Massachusetts utilised 20 patients with various sensors attached to their arms. The patients tried different arm exercises, and the sensors recorded their movements. All of the data helped engineers develop new engineering concepts that for prosthetics. Alternatively, Assistive Technology may attempt to improve the ergonomics of the devices themselves such as Dvorak and other alternative layouts, which offer more ergonomic layouts of the keys.


The SMART Table is an interactive learning center. Students can work together around the SMART table and simultaneously touch the surface. The SMART table is a form of the SMART Board only in the form of a table instead of on the wall as a projection screen. Students can sit in chairs around the table using their hands and fingers to work. The SMART table can benefit students with fine motor disabilities. The interactive table can serve as a positive reinforcement for students to build their fine motor skills by allowing them to interact. The students have to use their finger in order to interact with the programs allowing them to increase fine motor muscles.

IPad/IPod/IPhone/Mp3 Players

iPods can be used to read testing materials to students. The individual use headphones and take the test in the classroom instead of having to leave the room. The pause button allows the students to take the test at their own pace. Some states are allowing students to take their tests this way. iPods have applications that that allow the capability for students to learn in a language that is different from the language being taught in. For example, I have seen a teacher set up the devise so that when they read a story to the class, a deaf student could see the words of the story signed. This was amazing as the teacher did not know sign language but was still able to read a story that the child could hear. Students can even learn new languages with this tool.
The Iphone and Ipod can serve as an adaptive technology device for so many students with a different range of disabilities. There is an abundance amount of applications that can be downloaded onto the Iphone or Ipod that students can carry with them throughout the day. These tools can be used by students with disabilities at his or her desk. The can be a benefit to students who needs the use of applications to communicate with other students. The Iphone and Ipad are also a more appropriate way to connect with other classmates. Classmates will be more accepting to students who use these types of adaptive technology because they are more modern versus always sitting by a computer. Students who need adaptive technology to communicate can now use the Iphone or Ipad devices right at his or her desk. Many applications for the iPad,iPod, and iPhone support special education.

Using Mp3 Players in the classroom can benefit students with Autism, Cognitive Delay, and Speech and Language Impairment. Mp3 players can serve as a listening device for students. Teacher can record books and instruction on Mp3 players and have students who benefit from hearing instruction multiple times listen to the instruction through his or her device. Students who may need to hear oral instruction verses written instruction can also benefit from the use of Mp3 players in the classroom. For additional ways to use Mp3 players in the classroom you can read about it on this website:


Dynavox are computers that include a touch screen tablet that can be attached to the computer. This device can be used by people with disabilities by allowing them to communicate, play, and learn. Dynavox includes many different types of devices that can serve different disabilities. V & VMax is a device that can serve the need of people with communication disabilities. The device includes options for many different communication situations. For example, the device includes face-to-face conversations, text messaging, and e-mail. EyeMax is one of the newest devices that assist people with gross motor disabilities. Someone with the disability that does not allow them to move their hands can benefit from EyeMax. EyeMax allows someone to be able to use their eyes to control the device and communicate. The device tracks the person's eye movements on the screen and with a code for how many blinks the person does the computer responds as if he or she were clicking with a mouse. In the article "Employing Adaptive Technology for Advanced Special Education," writer Eric Smith records David Cattell, the head of assistive technology for the Chester County Intermediate Unit, explanation that eye gaze technology (such as EyeMax and other tools)tracks eye movements by employing a camera connected to the computer. The computer is equipped in such a way that it interprets what the student is ordering it to do through the student's gaze. Cattell reveals that the price for eyegaze technology is currently around $15,000(Smith, 2010).

Flip Page Turner

A flip page turner is a device that allows individuals who could not otherwise hold a book and turn the pages to read. The price for this capability is around $3900. The unit sits on a table and allows an individual to easily turn the pages of a book, magazine, or whatever is desired to be read up to 5 at a time by pushing a button or by using a mouth piece. The reading material can be changed rather quickly in approximately 2 minutes.

Reading Pens

This technology allows individuals to hear the words on a page by gliding the pen over them. This tool is useful for people that have reading or literacy impairments like dyslexia. Because they are a little larger than regular pens they are light and transportable. There are a few varieties to choose from. The basic model is for made for elementary school students. The advanced model is designed for adult level reading. There is a dictionary function so unknown words can be easily looked up. The price of these pens range from $199.00 to $229.00. 

Text Readers

Free downloadable Text Readers are available online for teachers to use for student with communication disabilities. For students with reading and writing disabilities the text can be read out loud to the students through computer interaction. Word Talk is a free text-to-speech plug-in developed for Microsoft Word. Free download can be found at In addition to Word Talk another text readers that can be assistance to students with communication disabilities can benefit from Spoken Text. Student that are non-verbal can use Spoken Text because it converts text into speech. This is another free download that teachers can include in their classrooms because it allows students to participate in presentations and projects with groups. This download can be found at

Future Direction of Adaptive Technology in Special Education

The present advancements in adaptive technology shadow just a glimpse of what is to come next in the field of Adaptive Technology in Special Education. Implications of this widening field spread far beyond the special education classroom. Perhaps the most revolutionising implication of the use of adaptive technology in special education in the future is, in fact, that students who do not have disabilities will also use adaptive technology, since the common use by both groups of people would offer a way for students with or without disabilities to see that they are not so different from each other; but rather that each have needs that can be met by similar means. 

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.

Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be unique, the UDL framework, first defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology(CAST) in the 1990s, calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:
  • Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.
Curriculum, as defined in the UDL literature, has four parts: instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments. UDL is intended to increase access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning, as well as other obstacles. UDL principles also lend themselves to implementing inclusionary practices in the classroom.

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