Technology that helps overcome barriers

The main medium for the transmission of information both in printed and digital form is by text. If, a learner is not able to read text then they need to be able to use either software or hardware to change the text into a format that they can access.

In the hierarchy of technology needs – access is the fundamental requirement. If learners cannot access content then they fail at the start of their education journey and are faced with barriers that prevent them from progressing at the same rate as their peers.

pyramid of need
Hierarchy of technology needs

Access barriers might include: not able to access the written word. There may be a variety of reasons for this such as sight impairment, dyslexia, motor difficulties so that manipulation of a book or a page is not possible, cognitive impairment or difficulties associated with being on the autistic spectrum.

The main sorts of technology in this category involve:

  • changing the appearance of text and its context
  • access via speech
  • access via images
  • tactile representation of text

Learners who benefit from access technology include those who are:

  • blind
  • partially sighted
  • dyslexic or have other specific learning difficulties
  • on the autistic spectrum
  • unable to hold or manipulate digital devices, books or documents
  • colour blind
  • unable to read due to cognitive difficulties

Print Impairment

Print impairment is a catch all phrase that refers to anyone who, for whatever reason, is unable to access printed text.  This could be due to physical disability, sight impairment or a learning disability of some sort.

For some learners, with a print impairment, it is necessary to convert standard printed text into an alternative format. Some will benefit from being able to listen to the text being read out loud. This will increase learner independence, enable easy repetition of information and ehance reinforcement of learning. Others will need to be able to magnify the text or change the colour of the text and/or the background.