As an assistive technology student, I have encountered a lot of interesting assumptions and false information about what assistive technology is (read more about why I study assistive technology on my 100th post here). This comes from people who have never heard the term before, but I've also heard these things from parents, students, and others who do not have much experience with the topic. So today for my 200th blog post, I will be sharing five myths about assistive technology, demystified.
Myth #1- It's all high tech devices
Assistive technology can include high-tech devices like computers and tablets, but it's not just limited to that. Here are the different types of assistive technology:
No tech/low tech assistive technology
No tech and low tech devices are defined as devices that do not have a battery or power source. This doesn't mean that they aren't useful though! Examples include blindness canes, stands, pencil grips, tactile displays, and magnifying glasses. Read my post on creating tactile images here.
Mid tech assistive technology
Mid tech devices are less common and are often used in conjunction with high tech devices. They are often powered by a battery. Examples include portable scanners, calculators, timers, or portable typing devices. Read my review of a mid tech device, the Scanmarker Air, here.
High tech assistive technology
High tech devices are frequently what comes to mind when thinking of assistive technology. These are often computers, electronics, or applications. Examples include hearing aids, screen readers, video magnifiers, note taking apps, and voice recognition devices. Read my review of a high tech device, the E-Bot Pro, here.
Myth #2- Assistive technology is only used in the classroom
While assistive technology can be used in the classroom, it can be used anywhere and at any time. Some examples include:
- Working with accessibility settings to read a magazine on the iPad- read my review of RBDigital and Zinio for Libraries here.
- Scanning in a menu with a phone or tablet camera- read my review of Microsoft Office Lens here.
- Exploring the world with a blindness cane- read my love letter to my blindness cane here.
- Listening to descriptive audio at the theater- read more about using descriptive audio here.
- Navigating public transportation- read more about my experiences using the DC Metro here.
Myth #3- The devices only help people with disabilities
Have you ever watched those TV commercials for the Snuggie, the Clapper, the Reacher, or similar products? These were developed for people with disabilities and marketed to a large audience. The Snuggie was invented to allow people in wheelchairs to have blankets. The Clapper makes it easy to turn lights on and off simply by clapping, great for people who can't or find it difficult to get up and turn off the lights. And the Reacher can help people reach objects or pick them up off the floor. These devices can also benefit people who may need situational or short term accommodations- maybe they want to wear a blanket on the couch, don't want to get up to turn the lights out, have their hands full and can't bend down to pick something up, or similar.
There are also many apps that can benefit all students, not just people with disabilities. Microsoft Office Sway can be used as a PowerPoint alternative with great screen reading capabilities, and can also be used to show presentations on any device- read more about Microsoft Office Sway here. Amazon Alexa can be used to read books out loud for the blind, or for people who want to listen to books- read more about how Amazon Alexa can help you read here. And of course eReaders are great for storing accessible books and carrying an entire library on one device- read more about eReaders here.
Myth #4- What works great for one student will work great for another
Every student has their own unique preferences when it comes to assistive technology, so no assistive technology solution is perfect for every single student, even if they have the same impairment. For example, my friend and I have very similar vision impairments, but couldn't be any more different when it comes to our assistive technology preferences. I love exploring high tech and discovering new things, and using apps on my various devices. My friend on the other hand shys away from high tech devices and prefers no tech/low tech things that have been around for years. Everyone should experiment with different assistive technologies and figure out what works for them.
Myth #5- No one really cares about assistive technology
As many as one in five people are identified as having a disability, making the disabled community one of the largest minorities in society. Many of these people require some type of assistive technology to help them in their day-to-day life such as a wheelchair, or rely on accessibility settings on their computers or phones to access materials. Major companies are also investing in assistive technology and researching accessibility. For example, I was featured by Microsoft for my use of assistive technology- read more about it here. Assistive technology isn't going anywhere, in fact it's going to keep growing.
I want to thank all of my lovely readers for following along and reading my posts. It's been amazing to be able to write 200 posts for this website and share what I have learned with others, and I can't wait to share even more. If you want to collaborate with me or submit a post idea, feel free to contact me using this form here. Again, thank you for following along, and cheers to the future of assistive technology!