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Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Tulika Nair
Every year more and more children with disabilities are joining general classrooms and in such a scenario using assistive technology can be of great help. In this article, we will try and provide you with an overview of this technology.
What is assistive technology and what are the devices that are used in the classroom? This technology, in the simplest of terms, consists of those tools, devices, and strategies that help lower and break down the barriers that can be created by disabilities.
The use of this technology can help liberate students with disabilities and compensate for their learning problems. In most public schools, this form of technology is used in order to better physical, social, and communicative abilities of the student. Educational reforms have brought about a change in the way classrooms function.
In order to make the classroom more inclusive, it is important that children who are challenged physically be provided with assistance to make the learning process simpler.
Assistive Technology in Classrooms
This is one of those technologies that are known by several different names which include rehabilitation devices, adaptive materials, assistive devices, and adaptive technologies. As mentioned earlier, it is used to help children with disabilities cope with the technologies and materials that are an integral part of the classroom today.
Assistive technologies are used for different purposes. There are specific devices that are designed for students who are either visually impaired or have a vision problem. There are also devices for the hearing impaired and for those children who have learning disabilities and find it difficult to learn things.
For such students, assistive technologies help by improving their learning, behavioral, and cognitive abilities. There are some students who may have a problem in communication or in understanding the information that is being supplied. There are specific devices for such students as well.
While using assistive technologies one uses both access technologies and adaptive technologies. When one talks about access technologies, the reference is to those technologies that are used in order to provide students with technologies better access to the instructional and educational material that they need to use.
With such technologies, you try and adapt those technologies that students use normally. Access technologies help by making up for the limitations that are faced by those students who are disabled. Adaptive technologies help students with disabilities to move about and communicate better with others in the classroom.
These technologies are specifically developed for people with disabilities. They may not have been created only for educational purposes and can be used outside of the classroom as well.

Assistive Technology Used in Classrooms

Vision [Hearing - Learning]

Slate and Braille stylus
[Hearing aids - Pictorial schedule]

Tape recorders
[Vibrotactile devices - Graphic organizers]

Voice activated calculators
[Photographic equipment - Text scanners]

Braille writer
[Closed captioned television - Voice recognition devices]

Braille translation software
[Telecaption decoders - Electronic organizers]

Speech output enabled computers
[TDD/TTY phone services - Word prediction software]
Voice activated and output enabled dictionaries
[Audio amplification devices - Spelling assistive devices]

Voice projectors
[Communication boards - Concept development devices]
For children who have learning problems, the use of computer devices for the physically challenged and tools such as bigger pencils, foot pedals instead of the mouse for a computer, voice recognition software, large pad keyboards are all an integral part of this type of technological devices. 
For children who have a problem communicating due to limited verbal abilities or skills, there are devices such as voice output devices, text to voice translation software, and pictorial software that are used. With assistive technology, as is true for any other type of technology proper training is important.
In order to make the use of this type of technology a success, it is important that the children and the teachers both learn how to use the devices properly and effectively. Without proper training, these devices could end up being a waste of time and energy.