Assistive Technologies

All children exhibit differences in both physical characteristics (in regards to abilities)  and learning abilities, however, these differences are usually small in scope and the majority of children find success in the general education classroom. Some children, however, display differences that are significant enough to label them as “exceptional”. The educational needs of students identified as “exceptional students” are wide and varied. “The physical attributes and/or learning characteristics of exceptional children differ from the norm (either below or above) to such an extent that they require an individualized program of special education and related services to fully benefit from education” (Heward 2013, p.7).  The term exceptional children encompasses everything from children with learning and/or behavior problems, children with physical disabilities or sensory impairments, and children with superior abilities. When we refer to children with disabilities, we do not include those considered gifted or exceptionally talented. Furthermore, students identified as at-risk may be those who are not identified with a physical disability but may have learning needs stemming from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students must be identified as having a disability in or to receive special education services. “People with disabilities have a fundamental right to live and participate in the same settings and programs – in school, at home, in the workplace, and in the community – as do people without disabilities.” (Heward 2013, p.1). It is with this in mind that we can explore what assistive and adaptive technologies are available to people with disabilities or impairments.

I use a MacBook Pro laptop computer that runs on the Mac OS Sierra operating system. Various technologies are available under the system preferences on the accessibility tab .  These assistive technologies are:

  • Vision: for blind or low-vision users
    • Display – Options to invert colors, use grayscale, differentiate without color, increase contrast, or reduce transparency
    • Zoom – Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom, smooth images
    • Voiceover – provides spoken and Braille descriptions of items on the computer screen and provides control of the computer through the use of the keyboard
  • Media: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Descriptions – Video descriptions provide a spoken description of visual content in media
    • Captions – Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing or closed captions will be used instead of standard subtitles
  • Hearing: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Audio – flash the screen when an alert sound occurs, play stereo audio as mono (for deaf or hearing impairments in one ear)
  • Interacting: for users with physical disabilities
    • Keyboard – Sticky keys allow modifier keys to be set without having to held the key down; Slow keys adjust the amount of time between when a key is pressed and when it is activated
    • Mouse & Trackpad – Mouse keys allows the mouse pointer to be controlled using the keyboard number pad; Double click speed can be adjusted from slow to fast
    • Switch Control – Allows the computer to be controlled using one or more switches. These can be mouse, keyboard, gamepad buttons or dedicated devices.
    • Dictation – Dictation commands allow you to edit text and interact with your computer by speaking to it.


According to Special Education, “We believe that technology can provide great learning tools for all learning abilities. Every Mac and iOS device comes standard with innovative accessibility features.” These features built into the Mac and Apple operating systems can help students with various disabilities or impairments to be on a level playing field with students who do not have disabilities. As stated above, it is the right of every child to have the opportunity to learn.  Assistive devices and tools can help all students have these opportunities.

Apple – Education – Special Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Heward, W. L. (2013). Exceptional Children, An Introduction to Special Education (10th ed.). The Ohio State University: Pearson.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.


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