Assistive technology is a generic term that describes any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around their challenges. This is a list of some of the more commonly used types of assistive technology.
Software used by blind or visually impaired people to read the content of the computer screen. Examples include JAWS for Windows, NVDA, or Voiceover for Mac.
Screen magnification software:
Allow users to control the size of text and or graphics on the screen. Unlike using a zoom feature, these applications allow the user to have the ability to see the enlarged text in relation to the rest of the screen. This is done by emulating a handheld magnifier over the screen.
Software used by people with various forms of learning disabilities that affect their ability to read text. This software will read text with a synthesized voice and may have a highlighter to emphasize the word being spoken. These applications do not read things such as menus or types of elements - they only read the text.
Speech input software:
Provides people with difficulty in typing an alternate way to type text and also control the computer. Users can give the system some limited commands to perform mouse actions. Users can tell the system to click a link or a button or use a menu item. Examples would be Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows or Mac. Please note both Windows and Mac have some speech recognition utilities, but they cannot be used to browse the web.
Alternative input devices:
Some users may not be able to use a mouse or keyboard to work on a computer. These people can use various forms of devices, such as:
- Head pointers: A stick or object mounted directly on the user’s head that can be used to push keys on the keyboard. This device is used by individuals who have no use of their hands.
- Motion tracking or eye tracking: This can include devices that watch a target or even the eyes of the user to interpret where the user wants to place the mouse pointer and moves it for the user.
- Single switch entry devices: These kinds of devices can be used with other alternative input devices or by themselves. These are typically used with on-screen keyboards. The on-screen keyboard has a cursor move across the keys, and when the key the user wants is in focus, the user will click the switch. This can also work on a webpage: the cursor can move through the webpage, and if the user wants a to click on a link or button when that link or button is in focus, the user can activate the switch.