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Assistive Technology Glossary

Family Center on Technology and Disability

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Architectural Adaptations:
Architectural adaptations are structural fabrications or remodeling in the home, work site, or other area. Examples that remove or reduce physical barriers for an individual with a disability include ramps, lifts, lighting, altering counter top heights and widening door frames.

Articulated Forearm Support:
An articulated forearm support follows the user’s movements and drastically reduces the muscle work involved in sustained keying or mouse use.

Assistive Technology Device:
An assistive technology (AT) device includes any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functioning of individuals with disabilities. It may be purchased commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such a device.

Example: Almost every example in this glossary is an example of an AT device. From low tech, such as a pen or pencil grip; to high tech, such as a computer that responds to touch and allows a child to communicate more effectively, the tools fall within the category of AT devices.

Assistive Technology Service:
An assistive technology service is one that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Examples include evaluating, selecting, buying, designing, fitting, customizing, maintaining, repairing, replacing, coordinating, and training of students, teachers and family members.

Augmentative Communication System:
An augmentative communication system is any system that increases or improves communication of individuals with receptive or expressive communication impairments. The system can include speech, gestures, sign language, symbols, synthesized speech, dedicated communication devices, microcomputers, and other communication systems.

Auxiliary Aids and Services:
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (see definition above), professionals and organizations must communicate as effectively with people with disabilities as they do with others. Auxiliary aids and services assist in this effort. Auxiliary aids may include taped texts, interpreters or other effective methods of making materials usually delivered orally available to students with hearing impairments; readers in libraries for students with visual impairments; classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments; and other similar services and actions.


Battery Interrupter:
A battery interrupter allows the user to modify battery-operated devices for switch input. Simply place the battery interrupter between the battery and its connection point in the battery compartment. Make a notch in the compartment lid allowing the cord to pass through when it is closed and then secure the lid. Place the battery-operated device in its ON position. Plug your switch into the input jack of the battery interrupter and you’re set.

A system of writing and printing for blind or visually impaired people, in which varied arrangements of raised dots representing letters and numerals are identified by touch. Each raised dot configuration represents a letter or word combination.

Braille Display:
A Braille display is a tactile device consisting of a row of special ‘soft’ cells. A soft cell has 6 or 8 pins made of metal or nylon; the pins are controlled electronically to move up and down to display characters as they appear on the display of the source system - usually a computer or Braille note taker...They can also be used for advanced math work and for computer coding. A number of cells are placed next to each other to form a soft or refreshable Braille line. As the little pins of each cell pop up and down, they form a line of Braille text that can be read by touch.

Braille Embossers and Translators:
A Braille embosser transfers computer-generated text into embossed Braille output. Transla tion programs convert text, scanned in or generated via standard word processing programs, into Braille that can be printed on the embosser.


A text transcript of the audio portion of multimedia products, such as video and television, that is synchronized to the visual events taking place on screen.

Example: For a child with a severe hearing impairment, captioning of television, video, and multimedia makes an enormous difference. When captioned, a CD-Rom that uses audio narration to tell a story, will allow a child to enjoy and understand the material the same way a child without a hearing impairment would.


Digitized Speech:
Digitized Speech is speech that has been digitally recorded for later play-back. As it is a recording, the quality is good and easy to understand. Digitized speech may be used in CD-Roms for talking stories, in encyclopedias, and in software packages where teachers and students are able to record sounds, words and sentences themselves. Digitized Speech has a finite, predetermined vocabulary and so does not offer full access to mainstream software.

Due Process Hearing:
You may request a due process hearing at any time if you are unable to resolve your differences with the school. A due process hearing is more formal than mediation, and the parties generally are represented by attorneys. An impartial hearing officer hears both sides of the dispute and issues a written decision within 45 calendar days of the hearing request. If either the parents or the school disagrees with the decision of the hearing officer, the decision may be appealed through the court system.


Electronic Pointing Devices:
Electronic pointing devices allow the user to control the cursor on the screen using ultrasound, an infrared beam, eye movements, nerve signals, or brain waves. When used with an on-screen keyboard, electronic pointing devices also allow the user to enter text and data.

Example: Electronic pointing devices might look a bit like something from the space age, but the technology is life changing for people with little or no mobility. Take the case of Vanya, a teenager with a traumatic brain injury. Vanya’s ocular movement was tracked and registered. She is now able to use a device that lets her interact with her computer, and thereby control her environment, solely with eye movement.

From the Family Center on Technology and Disability. Used with permission. www.fctd.info.


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