Understand the uses of the assistive technologies


Assistive Technologies (ATs) are those that help people to perform daily activities. Here, we focus on the most used ATs in digital education like the ones for reading digital texts.

Notice that ATs are not aimed exclusively at permanently people with disabilities. On the contrary, all people may find them useful in certain situations. ATs enhance the capabilities of people displaying the information in a way that is perceivable, understandable and usable for each individual. In order to deliver inclusive digital distance education it is important to know how they are used. In this context computer aids are the most frequently used ATs.

Related topics

Key tips

Most used ATs in the context of digital education
  • Screen readers let users interact with the content displayed on the screen. This is made possible by using audio or braille output, and special keyboard commands for navigation.
  • Screen magnifiers help users to perceive the content on the screen by enlarging it.
  • Braille displays are a hardware AT that translates the screen contents into braille digital text so that the user is able to read it using their fingers.
  • Keyboard and switch devices let users control computers without the use of pointing devices like mouse or touchscreen.
  • Eye trackers are used to perform actions on screen using only their eyes.
  • Speech recognition is similar to eye trackers since it allows users to interact with a computer but in this case, it uses the user’s speech to input commands.
Importance of the accessibility in digital content

ATs are not able to handle non-accessible digital content properly. Therefore, accessibility has to be taken into account during the creation, publication and distribution of the digital educational material. See: Accessible digital content and  Tools for creating accessible content

Visual disability aids
Motor disability aids
Cognitive and learning disabilities aids
Hearing disability aids
User and assistive technology pairing

This is a difficult topic which is tackled in depth in the Understand student accessibility needs page. An example of how to do this is the following:

  1. Assess the student’s abilities.
  2. Assess the needs that the student will have while taking a specific course.
  3. Search in a repository of ATs for those that potentially meet the needs.
  4. Create a support plan to assist the student and provide the most appropriate ATs for them to be able to follow the studies.