Assistive technology is any product or service that maintains or improves the ability of individuals with disabilities or impairments to communicate, learn and live independent, fulfilling and productive lives
Source: British Assistive Technology Association (BATA)
This definition, focuses on learner’ benefits from the use of technology and moves the meaning away from the technology itself. This overcomes the problem of how to categorise the likes of hand held devices and apps that provide many of the functions that specialised hardware and software previously afforded.
Using this definition, both very specialised assistive augmented communication (AAC) aids and a calendar app for organisation could be called assistive technology. It is important to recognise that while a technology may be designed and used for mainstream functions, it can also be useful and beneficial for learners with difficulties or disabilities. Similarly, technology that is mainly designed for those with disabilities can provide many benefits for learners who have no diagnosed or declared disability.
In the hierarchy of technology need – access is the fundamental requirement. If learners cannot access content then they are failed at the start of their education journey and face a variety of barriers that prevent them from progressing at the same rate as their peers. The hierarchy of technology illustrates 4 key needs:
- provide access to information, communication and to control the environment
- communicate with others
- enable the creation of content individually and collaboratively
- design without barriers – make inclusive and accessible