Assistive Technology

Our goal is to provide information regarding the definition of Assistive Technology and its use throughout our school district. Whether you are a student, parent, community member or staff member, we welcome you to explore and learn more about the many ways Assistive Technology tools are identified and used to help ensure successful educational opportunities for our students.

What is Assistive Technology?

As defined in federal and state law, assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. Assistive technology devices range from a simple switch for a child with particular physical limitations to a sophisticated vocal output augmentative communication device for a child with severe speech impairment.

Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.

The principal reason for providing assistive technology is to enable students to meet the instructional goals set forth for them. Within the school setting it is important to distinguish assistive technology from instructional or educational technology and software.

Assistive technology provides a method to bypass or compensate for communication problems, physical challenges, and/or learning difficulties and is considered when a student is unable to effectively access or participate in the curriculum.

Instructional software is designed to assist students in acquiring and developing specific skills in the curricular content areas. Teachers may use instructional software to teach material within a curricular/subject area.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law reauthorized in 1997, requires schools to consider a student’s need for assistive technology devices and services whenever an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is written. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require schools to provide assistive technology for students with disabilities, if needed to assure equal access to the school’s programs and services.

Medford Public Schools Procedures and Forms help to guide the IEP Team through this process of considering each student’s need for Assistive Technology.

Assistive Technology Tools

(Adapted from Assistive Technology Guide for Massachusetts Schools, Massachusetts Department of Education)

Assistive technologies provide creative solutions that enable students with disabilities to be more independent and productive. These tools can also help students with disabilities participate more fully in both the academic and social activities in a school.

Assistive technology devices can be grouped into three categories: low-tech, mid-tech and high-tech. Low-tech devices are typically easy to use, inexpensive to purchase, widely available, and involve little or no training. Mid-tech devices are somewhat more complex, often requiring a battery. High-tech devices tend to be more costly and frequently require some training.

Accessibility Features in Software

Many common software applications have built-in capabilities that can be useful to students with disabilities. For example, most applications allow the user to modify the size and color of text, which can be useful for a student with low vision. Also many popular word-processing applications offer a text-to-speech feature, which is useful for students with a variety of disabilities. In addition, most computer operating systems have accessibility features, for example allowing the user to magnify the screen, change the size of icons, and adjust the way the mouse and keyboard react.

Assistive Technology Tools available through Medford Public Schools

Medford Public Schools has available a variety of assistive technology tools including all of the low, mid and high tech tools described on this site. For more information and to access available devices for trial, please contact Jan Hollenbeck, Coordinator of Related Services & Assistive Technology Specialist at jhollenbeck@medford.k12.ma.us.