Quick Reference Guide Assistive Technology Terms
Alternative keyboard layouts and other enhancements allow people who have trouble with conventional keyboard designs to use computers. The products available range from key guards that prevent accidental key activation, to alternative keyboards with differing layouts, sizes, etc. for people who have specific needs. (Center, 2008)
Alternative Mouse Systems
Alternative pointing devices, trackballs, and keypads are used to replace the traditional computer’s mouse. (Center, 2008)
Adjustable Height Tables and Workstations
Tables that allow height adjustment are essential for users that cannot access a standard computer workstation. Models include movement mechanisms to include: crank, spring assisted, and electronic. Electronic models are most ideal from an access standpoint as a user can adjust the height independently.
Refers to the transcription of books or other content (such as notes or newspapers or magazines) into a format other than standard print, e.g., large print, Braille, audio, talking books.
Apple Built-In Features
Mac OS has built-in features, such as screen reading, magnification, color contrast, text to speech, dictation, support for hearing impairment, and support for physical/motor impairment.
Augmentative Communication Devices
Devices that aid the user in communicating, may include portable speech output devices as well as those that connect directly to a computer or telephone.
Bookshare is an online library of accessible digital textbooks and other content. Eligible individuals can get a free membership. More information is available on the Bookshare website.
Commercially or at-home produced labels in Braille that can be affixed to objects requiring identification by a user who is blind.
Braille Translation Software
Converts digital files (Word, textfiles, HTML, etc.) into braille.
Computer Aided Real Time Translation
The instant translation of the spoken word into English text performed by a CART reporter using a stenotype machine, notebook computer and real time software. The text is then displayed on a computer monitor or other display device for the student who is deaf or hard of hearing to read. This technology is primarily used by people with hearing loss, but it also has been used by people with learning disabilities or those who are learning English as a second language.
Closed Circuit Televisions
Allows users to quickly magnify any objects placed under a camera unit. CCTV’s vary in size from portable pocket-sized units to stationary cameras with large displays (Center, 2008)
A device that records video in a digital format to a disk drive or other memory medium within a device, and can also be transferred to a computer via USB cable.
Digital Book Players
Hardware and software that will play digital books in a variety of formats, including Daisy, Word, and MP3.
Display Based Personal Data Assistant
Handheld computers, used mainly for organizational purposes.
Electronic Spell Checker
Portable dictionary, thesaurus, and spell checker with audio feature.
A braille embosser is a hardware device for “printing” a hard copy of electronic text documents in braille. (Center, 2008)
A variety of keyboards address positioning of the user to allow for more neutral arm, wrist, and hand positioning. Most address wrist deviation and some address pronation.
Hardware devices specifically designed to read electronic text.
An assistive listening device worn by the speaker to amplify his/her voice and transmit it directly to the listener’s ears via an electronic receiver and special earphones or the listener’s own hearing aids. The device reduces the problem of background noise interference and the problem of distance between speaker and hearing-impaired listener.
Full Spectrum Lighting
Simulated full spectrum light is color-corrected light that operates in the range of 400 to 800 nanometers. This light will simulate the optical brilliance of outdoor light at noontime.
Graphic Enhancement/Tactile Graphics
This technology creates documents with raised lines or images. The original hardcopy is photocopied onto special heat sensitive paper that is then sent through an oven of sorts. The heat raises the paper where any ink is located.
A nonprofit organization that has human-narrated audiobooks available for individuals who qualify. Please see the Learning Ally website for membership options and more information.
Software and apps available that offer features such as reading, writing, and studying support.
Microsoft Windows Built-In Features
Free accessibility features such as Magnifier, Narrator, On Screen Keyboard, Speech Recognition, adjusting visual displays, assistance with typing, and more are available in Windows Operating Systems.
Light from the sun, an alternative to fluorescent lighting is called full spectrum lighting.
Optical Character Recognition
OCR software works with a scanner to convert images from a printed page into a standard computer file.
On Screen Keyboard
This software paired with the appropriate pointing device allows the user to type with an on-screen version of keyboard. The user moves the mouse pointer over the screen selecting a keystroke and then selecting that keystroke with a mouse click. On-screen keyboards can be customized to meet user needs e.g. high contrast colors, larger keys/targets, etc.
Software that lets the user compose ideas and thoughts in a visual representation.
Personal Digital Assistant
Handheld computer also known as palmtop computers.
Portable Hand Held Magnifiers
A small magnifying device used by a person low vision to enlarge documents to a readable size.
Reduces the number of keystrokes required by the user. Examples include:
- Auto Correct – this feature in Microsoft Word (also in WordPerfect but called Quick Correct) is a great tool for expanding abbreviations as well as automatically correcting commonly misspelled words.
- Abbreviation Expansion – can be used as in auto correct or as a standalone piece of software. This software will expand abbreviations for the user in a manner that is spelled correctly. For example, the user can type “ATRC” and the software will expand into Assistive Technology Resource Center.
Refreshable Braille Keyboard
A hardware device serves as a means of receiving output for people with visual impairments that use braille. The user gets a dynamic braille display of what is conveyed on the screen. This device is often paired with the screen reading software. This allows the user to both hear the screen being read aloud as well as getting a braille display of the information.
Scan and Read Programs
This combination of hardware (flatbed or auto feed scanner) and software will allow a hard copy of a document to be scanned, converted to text the computer understands (OCR) and then read aloud by the computer. The user can choose different voices, reading speeds and other customizable options. This software also has low vision features allowing the user to create enlarged text with choices for foreground and background colors for high contrast.
Scan and Read Pens
A hardware device designed to scan, say, and define a single word. These pens have a database as large as 400,000 words.
Screen Enlargement Software
This software works in conjunction with the operating system and any application and enlarges the screen from 1 – 16 X’s the original size. Some versions of this software also have speech features and document readers.
A hardware device that is placed externally on a monitor to enlarge the image on the screen. It will only allow 1-2 times enlargement of the original. Some of these magnifiers also incorporate anti-glare features. Some users complain of distortion.
Screen Reading Software
This software uses either an external synthesizer or the sound card or sound chip inside the computer to read all information on the screen. This software will read text, menus, dialogues boxes, and web pages – virtually all information on the screen. It is accessed with hot keys on the keyboard rather than the mouse.
Handheld spellcheckers with an option of a visual display or visual display with auditory output. Most have a thesaurus.
A notebook or slate-shaped mobile computer, equipped with a touch screen or graphics tablet/screen hybrid technology which allows the user to operate the computer with a stylus or digital pen, or a fingertip, instead of a keyboard or mouse.
Talking and Tactile Feedback Calculator
A fully functioning calculator with speech options. Calculators may also have tactile feedback of graphs onscreen.
Talking and Portable Word Processors
Writing software programs that provide speech feedback as the student writes, echoing each letter as it is typed and each word as the spacebar is pressed. Additionally, files from the note-takers can quickly and easily be transferred to and from a computer.
Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf
Originally and often still called “TTY’s”, these electronic devices allow the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate via a text telephone system. This term appears in Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and legislation.
Text to Speech Software
Text-to-Speech software reads aloud digital text (e.g., Word document, web page, PDF, etc.). User is able to adjust voice, speed, and other settings.
Transcription of Audio Recordings to Text
Audio information is converted into text documents either manually or computer aided.
Visual Mapping Software
Electronic concept mapping allowing user to link ideas to each other in thematic and hierarchical ways, with simultaneous outlining function.
Voice Recognition Software
Voice Recognition allows a user to use his/her voice as an input device. Voice recognition may be used to dictate text into the computer or to give commands to the computer (such as opening application programs, pulling down menus, or saving work).
Universal accessibility to the Web means that all people, regardless of their physical or developmental abilities or impairments, have access to Web-based information and services. Making Web pages accessible is accomplished by designing Web pages that allow the effective use of adaptive technologies to access their content.
Word Completion and Word Prediction
Word prediction technology is used to assist with the writing process. These software programs predict the word you are typing and the next word based on word frequency and context.