In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Assistive Technology

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Significant Reports on Assistive Technology
  • Journals
  • Definitions and Conceptions of Assistive Technology

Education Assistive Technology
Fouzia Khursheed Ahmad
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 July 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0282


Considering the vicious cycle of exclusion that students with special needs are often trapped in— lacking the means for equal participation in education, society, and mainstream development programs—assistive technology has proven to have great potential in providing to all learners the ability to access the general education curriculum. Approaches in the use of assistive technology basically focus on facilitating individuals in their interaction with their environment. Assistive technology is a generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices that might be used to compensate for lack of certain abilities, in order to participate in the activities of daily life. With assistive technology individuals have the option of approaching and completing their tasks with greater ease and independence, since it helps in removing functional barriers that inhibit their individual performance. With the emergence of the social model of disability, it is increasingly being argued that inaccessible environments have been the greatest barrier to the inclusion of students with special needs. Research on the successful implementation of inclusive education in developing countries identifies the ineffective and inefficient use of assistive technologies, citing this as the major obstacle hindering inclusion. Since it has been widely acknowledged, that the success and applicability of an assistive device is governed by its acceptance and actual usage by its users considering their perception, expectations, satisfaction, and their level of access and success with the technology when interacting with their environment; approaches in the use of technology therefore have to be needs-based; inexpensive to produce, purchase, and maintain; and be easy to use and effective in addressing an identified need. This can be ensured by the direct involvement of potential users at each stage of the planning and implementation process to help overcome barriers that inhibit the efficient use and applicability of assistive technology devices in different contexts. Moreover, although assistive technology is seen to have a major role in remediating and compensating the performance deficits experienced by students with special needs, it should not be viewed merely within a rehabilitative or remediative context, but as a tool for accessing curriculum and exploring and drawing out means to help learners achieve positive outcomes. Researches on the use of assistive technology point toward the distinct need to identify ways to encourage the development of tools and strategies for effective technology integration, and to work together on issues surrounding the use of technology, ensuring that the same high standards of instruction and need-based assistance is available to all despite the difference in their functional abilities.

General Overviews

Every individual is different. And this difference is particularly characterized by, and is a virtue of, the abilities they have and the way they exercise them. Inclusion in education, emphasizing education for all as an all encompassing concept, is therefore stressed in UNESCO 1994 to ensure the right of all to a meaningful education based on their individual needs and abilities as opposed to their disabilities, since any individual may experience a special need during the course of their educational years. Inclusive education as such is seen as what contributes to the increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities and reducing exclusion from education and from within education by addressing and responding to the diversity in needs of all learners. Within this aspect, technology has considerably facilitated providing ease in access and participation in learning to all, complimenting diverse learning needs, while also offering room for creative abilities in completing a task that may otherwise appear difficult to accomplish, as noted in Ahmad 2015a; Edyburn 2003, 2005; Rose, et al. 2005; and Zabala 2005. Recently, the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has also received considerable attention in this regard (see Edyburn 2005); while comparing it to the use of assistive technology in facilitating learning, Rose, et al. 2005 reasons both approaches to be two sides of the same coin. Considering critical decisions to remediate or compensate for lack of certain abilities as highlighted in Cook and Hussey 2002 and King 1999, compensatory approaches are often used in education since there is often simply no other way to complete a task, while Edyburn 2002 and Edyburn 2005 assert that the provision of technology tools and support is seen to considerably aid in the successful completion of such tasks. Assistive technology therein, through suitable enhancements or changed methods of interaction with the technology, has shown to assist individuals by removing or minimizing previously insurmountable barriers that tend to inhibit or limit their abilities, as illustrated in the works of Ahmad 2015a, Ahmad 2015b, Day and Edwards 1996, Edyburn 2002, Edyburn 2005, Edyburn 2007, and Zabala 2005. These works examine and discuss considerably the need and significance of assistive technology, as well as the future direction and the resulting implications concerning technology use or its abandonment.

  • Ahmad, Fouzia Khursheed. 2015a. Use of assistive technology in inclusive education: Making room for diverse learning needs. Transcience 6.2: 62–77.

    This paper highlights the significance of assistive technology in supporting diverse learning needs and enhancing the learning experiences of students with special needs in a common learning setup. Discussing why these technologies are not accessible to every student with special needs, the paper draws attention to the steps required to overcome these barriers for ensuring effective technology use in order to help assist learners in improving their learning outcomes.

  • Ahmad, Fouzia Khursheed. 2015b. Teaching strategies and effective educational interventions for students with learning disabilities. Transcendence 1.1: 45–66.

    Discusses the possible teaching strategies and educational interventions that can help assist students with learning disabilities, particularly through the use of assistive devices and suitable reforms like restructuring the learning environment for a need-based learning experience, as well as the use of varied methods of presentation, practice, and evaluation of educational content.

  • Cook, A. M., and S. M. Hussey. 2002. Assistive technology: Principles and practices. 2d ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

    The book outlines the fundamentals of assistive technology, and discusses the assistive strategies needed to make clinical decisions to help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities within specific contexts. The 3rd and 4th editions of the book are also available and accessible.

  • Day, S. L., and B. J. Edwards. 1996. Assistive technology for postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities 29.5: 486–492.

    DOI: 10.1177/002221949602900503

    The article lists the types of assistive technology suitable for students with learning disabilities at postsecondary level and discusses how assistive technology can enhance learning achievement.

  • Edyburn, D. L. 2002. Remediation vs. compensation: A critical decision point in assistive technology consideration (An essay).

    Discusses the remediation versus compensation issue in the assistive technology consideration process, reasoning how the best course of action may be decided, and the resulting implications therein.

  • Edyburn, D. L. 2003. 2002 in review: A synthesis of the special education technology literature. Journal of Special Education Technology 18.3: 5–28.

    DOI: 10.1177/016264340301800301

    This comprehensive one-year research synthesis on special education technology discusses the implications of the work in this field on future research, development, and practice. Similar reviews for the years 2000, 2001, and 2003 by the same author can be found in the 16th, 17th, and 19th volumes respectively of the same journal.

  • Edyburn, D. L. 2005. Universal design for learning. Special Education Technology Practice 7.5: 16–22.

    This article discusses the significance of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in promoting access through the application of technology for students with disabilities in the general education classrooms to help facilitate learning.

  • Edyburn, D. L. 2007. Technology-enhanced reading performance: Defining a research agenda. Reading Research Quarterly 42.1: 146–152.

    DOI: 10.1598/RRQ.42.1.7

    Outlines the issues fundamental to understanding the efficacy of technology for enhancing reading performance, and also proposes recommendations that illustrate future directions that could help in operationalizing a research agenda concerning the use of technology for enhancing functional reading performance.

  • King, T. W. 1999. Assistive technology: Essential human factors. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    The book offers a comprehensive understanding of the human factors in assistive technology through real clinical experiences and discusses the critical issues on the human factors that need to be considered in clinical practice by professionals, clinicians, and educators in the choice of the assistive devices they recommend, select, purchase, design, or use with their clients and students.

  • Rose, D. H., T. S. Hasselbring, S. Stahl, and J. Zabala. 2005. Assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning: Two sides of the same coin. In Handbook of special education technology research and practice. Edited by D. Edyburn, K. Higgins, and R. Boone, 507–511. Whitefish Bay, WI: Knowledge by Design, Inc.

    The paper compares assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning, reasoning that both approaches, being essential and complimentary, can ultimately help improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. Also available online.

  • UNESCO. 1994. The UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. UNESCO, Paris.

    The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (UNESCO 1994), within a rights-based perspective on education, calls for accommodation of all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic, or other conditions, and to respond flexibly to the circumstances and the needs of all learners in order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups.

  • Zabala, J. S. 2005.Ready, SETT, go! Getting started with the SETT framework. Closing the Gap 23.6: 1–3.

    The article highlights the significance of the SETT framework and states that, using it as a guide, it is possible from the start to address and overcome the many obstacles that students with disabilities encounter in the use of assistive technology which leads to their marginal inclusion, dissatisfaction, and, as a result, device abandonment.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.