In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Portable Technology Use in Special Education Programs and Services in the United States

  • Introduction
  • Implementing Regulations and Policies
  • Organizations and Centers

Education Portable Technology Use in Special Education Programs and Services in the United States
Lesley Farmer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0143


In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lists fourteen disabilities for which a student is eligible for special education services: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, and multiple disabilities. Services include individualized education programs consisting of assessments, interventions, and other related services. Technologies help level the learning playing field, as they can facilitate the person’s functional academic and social capabilities across settings. Particularly as technological options have increased, there is a greater possibility of matching the technology with the learning need. Thus, the intersection of assistive technology, portable devices, disabilities, K–16 communities, and special education results in the needed topic of portable technologies for formal special education. In addition, the geographic scope is largely the United States, with some Canadian overlap. The term “portable technology” generally denotes a stand-alone device that may be carried easily in one hand, such as a cell phone, small audio or video player, signal device, or laptop computer. Sometimes the terms “mobile” or “handheld” are used instead of “portable.” In educational circles, the term “mobile learning” (or “m-learning”) refers to learning activities in which the learner actively incorporates these portable or mobile devices. Therefore, for the purposes of this bibliography, computer peripherals, wheelchairs, and other appliances (such as cochlear implants) are excluded. The bibliography emphasizes fundamental texts, systematic literature reviews, and scholarly research mainly since 2016. For very similar studies, the most rigorous one was selected for inclusion; furthermore, pilot students’ single-subject cases were avoided. It should be noted that various usage studies constitute the majority of citations. Rigorous assessment concerning the impact of portable technologies on student success is uneven, and, in particular, postsecondary assessment of special education services using portable technologies is limited. Legislative history, often best archived on websites, provides legal context. Although many valuable organizations discuss portable technologies for special education, generally only research-centric ones are included in this bibliography; other resources in the bibliography, such as Grey House Publishing’s Complete Resource Guide for People with Disabilities (cited under Overviews) do list relevant organizations.


No definitive research-based publication addresses portable technologies for special education exhaustively. Furthermore, because assistive technologies and their uses change quickly, even overviews of the field should be published frequently. Nevertheless, some publications do offer useful information and guidance on a general scale. For instance, Cook, et al. 2020 provides a good introduction to assistive technology, including services and contexts. The Complete Resource Guide for People with Disabilities annually provides the most extensive and current directories in this field, listing products and services by disability category. Clark, et al. 2016 focus on seminal laws, research, and e-resources dealing with assistive technology (AT), targeting students in transition to adulthood. A good synthesis of relevant research conducted just prior to this Oxford Bibliography is found in Erdem 2017. For practical advice, Green 2018 matches technology use to specific literacy skills.

  • Clark, K. A., K. L. Haughney, and National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT). 2016. Assistive technology: Annotated bibliography. Charlotte, NC: National Technical Assistance Center on Transition.

    This extensive annotated bibliography summarizes relevant research and Internet resources related to assistive technology (AT) and secondary transition procedures. Topics cover AT and transition, AT and postsecondary education, AT and employment, AT and independent living, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and transition. Some resources also apply to K–16 populations.

  • Cook, A., J. Polgar, and P. Encarnacao. 2020. Assistive technologies: Principles and practices. 5th ed. New York: Mosby.

    This book covers a broad range of devices, services, and practice, largely in terms of each type of disability need.

  • Erdem, R. 2017. Students with special educational needs and assistive technologies: A literature review. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology-TOJET 16.1: 128–146.

    This literature review provides a framework of assistive technologies usage, models, and assessment tools in special education, based on studies published between 2010 and 2015. It groups usage by academic discipline and type of skill.

  • Green, J. 2018. The ultimate guide to assistive technology in special education: Resources for education, intervention, and rehabilitation. 3d ed. Waco, TX: Prufrock.

    Using a reader-friendly approach, expert Joan Green offers a practical guide for teachers and parents. Most of the volume suggests the use of technology to improve specific literacy skills.

  • Grey House Publishing, ed. 2022. Complete resource guide for people with disabilities. 31st ed. Amenia, NY: Grey House.

    At over a thousand pages long, this annual directory lists current products and services, including agencies and organizations, for people of all ages with different disabilities. Other Grey House reference tools address specific topics such as learning disabilities, special education policy, and curriculum development.

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