Assistive Technology

Mount Union Area School District

Assistive Technology

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) requires a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) team to consider whether assistive technology devices and services are needed to meet a student’s educational goals. If the IEP team determines that a student needs assistive technology devices or services to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that they are available for the student.

Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a student with a disability.  An assistive technology service is any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device in the student’s customary environment. 

This includes:

  • The evaluation of the needs of the student, including a functional evaluation of an assistive technology device in the student’s customary environment.

  • Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by a student.

  • Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices.

  • Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs.

  • Assistive technology training and technical assistance for an individual with a disability, or where appropriate, the family of an individual with disabilities.

  • Training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or other individuals who provide services to employ or otherwise are substantially involved in the major life functions of an individual with disabilities.

The district’s director of special education and IEP team works with TIU 11 consultants and parents to determine the educational necessity of assistive technology and appropriate solutions to meet a student’s needs in the areas of writing, reading, math, adapted environmental controls, activities of daily living, mobility and communication. We are fortunate to live in an age with so many useful tools available to help people with learning differences. However, choosing the best technology for a student requires some time and patience. The right product depends upon the individual student, the setting in which it will be used and the tasks to be accomplished. Assistive technology cannot fix or eliminate learning difficulties; however, by learning to capitalize on strengths and bypass weaknesses, individuals with learning differences can experience success in their educational settings.

Assistive technology includes, but is not limited to:

Adaptive Keyboards

These are alternative keyboards that allow students who experience difficulty with conventional keyboard configurations to use computers. These products are available in different sizes and layouts. They can often be purchased with a key guard to prevent accidental key activation.

Adaptive Pointing Devices

Adapted mice, track balls, and joysticks represent input devices that require two actions: cursor movement and a click. Some products use a separate switch to act as the click to prevent accidental activation. In some products, a pause can be used in place of a click. Additional input devices include the use of a camera to track the user's eye movements or to track a specific target. Touch screens can also replace the mouse for cursor control.

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC)

AACs are any device, system or method that improves the ability of a student with communication impairment to communicate effectively.

Computer Access

This means the ability to operate a computer by using a standard keyboard or an adapted input method.

Digitized Speech

This is digitally stored human voices speaking actual words and sentences.

Direct Selection

This is an access method in which the user indicates choices and makes selections by pointing with a body part or a technology tool. 

Dynamic Display Scanning

A communication aid or computer displays that changes after each selection and branches to additional communication selections.

Environmental Control Unit

These are hardware and software systems that allow meaningful and purposeful interaction with the environment. These devices may include switch-activated toys and remote devices that control lights, small and large appliances, open windows and doors, etc.

On Screen Keyboards

A virtual or onscreen keyboard can provide text entry access for students with motor impairment. The keyboard displayed on the computer screen can be accessed using a pointing device. Therefore, a standard mouse or any alternative-pointing device can be used to make text selections right on the screen.

Portable Word Processor

These lightweight, inexpensive devices can be easily taken from class-to-class to provide access to word processing without a computer. Text can be downloaded to a computer or printed with a single cable. Some products also include organizational features such as those in personal digital assistants (PDAs).


Scanning is an indirect access method used with communication devices or computer access. Choices are highlighted systematically and the student uses a switch to make selections as the highlighter moves from symbol to symbol.

Screen Readers

Academic screen readers were specifically designed for students with reading and writing difficulties, especially dyslexia. Generally, they provide speech synthesis, text entry, spell check, word prediction, highlighting and note taking capabilities. Screen readers may also be used to provide computer access for visual impairment.

Synthesized Speech

Speech generated by a computer that sounds similar to the human voice. 

Talking Word Processors

Talking Word Processors use text-to-speech technology to provide speech feedback to help students to select words or sentences to be read to them. It allows them to read teacher-prepared material or to check their own compositions.

Voice Recognition

Voice recognition allows the use of a student's voice as an input device. Voice recognition may be used to dictate text into the computer or to give commands to the computer (such as opening application programs, pulling down menus, or saving work). 




Mrs. Dianne Thomas, Director of Special Education/Pupil Services

[email protected]

(814) 542-2518, Ext. 162


Mrs. Sandi Dinardi, Director of Special Education

Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11


[email protected]