What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is any hardware or software designed to help a user compensate for areas of disability or impairment.  AT gives individuals with disabilities the same access to information available to users who are not disabled.  Screen magnifiers and screen readers are the two main types of AT used by people who are blind or visually impaired.

Screen-Magnification – Screen-magnification programs increase the size of text and images displayed on your PC’s monitor. Once you’ve loaded a screen-magnification program on your PC, this specialized software will interact with both your PC’s operating system and any applications you’re running. ZoomText Fusion (from Freedom Scientific) is a good screen-magnification program for people with vision loss.

Screen-Reading – Screen-reading programs use a voice synthesizer to read aloud information displayed on your PC’s monitor. Once you’ve installed a screen-reading program on your PC, it will start each time you boot up your machine, interacting with your PC’s operating system as well as any applications you’re running. The two major screen-reading programs are JAWS® for Windows (from Freedom Scientific) and NVDA (from NV Access).

Other AT – Another popular type of AT is scan-to-speech. Scan-to-speech uses a scanner and software to scan printed material and read it. The two main scan-to-speech software programs are Open Book® (by Freedom Scientific), and Kurzweil 1000® (by Kurzweil Educational Systems).

Resources for Low-Cost Assistive Technology

Screen Magnifiers

Screen Readers