What does state of the art assistive and educational technology look like for students with disabilities?

“…what used to fit in a building now fits in your pocket, what fits in your pocket now will fit inside a blood cell in 25 years” – Ray Kurzweil

The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (1988), is also called the Tech Act (P.L. 100-407; source). The several reauthorizations in the next 26 years led to the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, (source)  strengthening the commitment and responsibility of state and local education agencies to provide necessary technology for students with disabilities

The National Center on Technology Innovation (NCTI), contacted leaders in AT to paint a picture of the future of assistive and educational technology tools for students with disabilities.  See the 2010 NCTI report Unleashing the Power of Innovation for Assistive Technology

The five key trends highlight changes in the field and future directions.

  • Convergence – the shift from various systems and tools into a single platform or device. Examples include smartphones and tablets capable of running multiple AT apps, such as Proloquo2Go.
  • Customizability and Universal Design for Learning – tools that are designed to be configured to the meet the unique needs of the user. Examples include Read&Write Gold (also available for Google and the iPad), a customizable toolbar to support literacy
  • Evidence-based – with rapidly changing technology, many educators and researchers are shifting from a focus on specific tools to looking at features and supports that are effective for students with disabilities.
  • Portability and Promotion of Independence – assistive technology that offers the flexibility to be used in various settings and situations and can move with the user. Examples include tablets and smartphones with AT apps, or AT in the cloud,
  • Interoperability – devices and software and tools that work together, sharing information across platforms

Students with disabilities have access to more technology tools and resources today than ever before. With smaller devices, faster processors, cloud computing options, cheaper technology, and new options for customization, state of the art assistive technology looks very different today than it did even just a few years ago.  

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