What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technologies are tools and methods used to make web information available to people of all abilities. With the leaps and bounds made in technology in the last few years, you may not be aware of all of the different kinds of assistive technology available.
Let’s look at some technologies that have made significant changes to the way web pages are interpreted.
A range of different assistive technologies
Assistive technology is a term that includes devices used to assist with completing day-to-day tasks. People with disabilities may use them to eat, groom and travel.
There’s a broad spectrum of assistive devices, ranging from specialized motor vehicles to specifically modified computer input devices. While these are all considered assistive devices, our focus today is on computer or web-based assistive technologies, which may be in the form of either hardware or software. For example:
- Did you know that computer operating systems have many types of assistive technology already built in?
- Did you know that many people with disabilities don’t need additional devices to operate their computers and other equipment?
- Did you know that apps on mobile devices are extremely powerful and have become one of the largest areas of assistive technology?
When we discuss assistive technology, the most recognizable equipment is a screen reader. Screen readers come in different forms: software-based technology like JAWS®, and hardware-based technology like braille displays and screen magnifiers. JAWS® reads aloud the text on the screen and gives the user a set of tools for navigating and accessing web pages and screen content.
A refreshable braille display is a device that displays braille characters by dynamically moving round-tipped pins up through holes in a flat surface. Blind users then read the braille output. Braille displays work in conjunction with screen reader software.
Other assistive devices you may be less familiar with include devices which assist with both cognitive and mobility disabilities—switches. Switches often look like buttons, but may come in a wide variety of styles and functionality depending on the action used to activate them.
Want to learn more about Assistive Technology?
Check out our on demand webinar to learn more about assistive technology, and how it works. The webinar is a valuable way to understand some of the different tools your users rely on to complete their computer-based tasks. We discuss:
- Microsoft and Apple operating systems
- Assistive software
- Assistive device hardware
- Assistive technology used by people with cognitive disabilities
- How mobile devices empower people with disabilities