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5 Types of Assistive Technology Tools

Posted January 22, 2019


Posted January 22, 2019

Web browser with an accessibility icon and different assistive technologies like screen readers and braille displays.
Web browser with an accessibility icon and different assistive technologies like screen readers and braille displays.

Assistive technologies include any device, software or equipment used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. With technology advancing by leaps and bounds in the past few years, you may not be aware of the different types of assistive technologies available.

5 Assistive Technology Tools

The following list of assistive technology can help your business better reach its target audience and also improve the end-user experience. Let’s look at some key technologies that have made a significant impact on individuals with disabilities.

Screen Readers 

There’s a wide range of assistive technology types available to help individuals who struggle with reading. One of those tools is an assistive technology screen reader, which is a software application that outputs the text displayed on screen to a user who is blind or visually impaired. According to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), “Electronic text is sent to a speech synthesizer (text-to-speech) or a refreshable braille display. The user is then able to hear the text spoken or read it tactilely with the refreshable braille display.”

screen reader program has hundreds of commands a user can use to carry out different tasks. Tasks include reading parts of, or whole documents, navigating web pages and/or purchasing goods online. Unfortunately, this assumes the web page or application is built to adhere to best practices for universal accessibility.

An ideal web page for a screen reader should be keyboard accessible and include headings, lists, labels, “skip to” links and images with an alternative text description. If a web page does not have this accessibility, a user may suddenly find themselves lost on the site, unable to access the information the website or application may have provided. Learn more about the basics of digital accessibility and how to meet ADA compliance.

Voice Recognition

One of the growing advances in assistive technology is dictation or voice recognition, benefiting many people with physical disabilities who cannot use the keyboard or mouse and people with cognitive or learning disabilities such as dyslexia, who might struggle with spelling and sentence structure.

Whether it’s browsing the web, writing emails, or controlling a navigation application, people can use voice-to-text assistive technology to write by speaking aloud, with spoken words converting into digital texts. Voice recognition may also be useful for anyone who finds typing with a keyboard difficult, painful, or even impossible.

While there are many voice recognition software solutions available, equal web experience is not guaranteed for all users. Content must be designed and coded to take advantage of voice control, as supplied from various 3rd party voice-driven solutions.

Switch Devices

A switch device is a type of assistive technology that replaces the need to use a keyboard or mouse and is used by people with motor impairments to access and control computers, smartphones, electric wheelchairs, communication devices and more. There are many factors involved when choosing the best switch device, including preference, mobility, and a user’s settings.

A classic example is a large, round button a user can press with their hand, foot or whatever is most comfortable. On the screen, a focus indicator will automatically cycle through different objects on the site, and the user clicks by activating the switch.

World famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking used a “clicker” switch in his earlier years. However, as he lost control of his hand muscles due to his Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Stephen converted to using a “cheek-switch.”

A “Sip and Puff” system is another example of a switch device. This type of assistive technology allows a user to activate the switch by sipping (inhaling) or puffing (exhaling). Sip and Puff devices usually come with a joystick to control the mouse cursor with their mouth, cheek, chin or tongue. Performing cursor movements with a sip and puff joystick are fast and precise when compared to other on-screen keyboards or alternatives, which is excellent for drawing, playing games or any application requiring accurate cursor control.

Examples of barriers for people with physical disabilities using switch devices include:

  • Website or digital interface does not provide full keyboard support;
  • Hover-only states, click and drag movements or other advanced gestures; and
  • Insufficient time limits to respond or to complete tasks such as forms.

There are–of course–more factors to consider to ensure website accessibility. Reach out to AudioEye to learn about our complete hybrid solution that provides accessibility to all your users.

Graphic Organizers

Reading Assistants

A reading assistant is a type of assistive technology that can help people with visual disabilities, including those with cognitive, learning and neurological disabilities, such as dyslexia. There are many reading assistants available that allow people to change the presentation of web content into forms that are more usable for their particular needs by:

  • Customizing fonts, colors, and spacing;
  • Enlarging or reducing text size and images;
  • Listening text-to-speech synthesizers like a screen reader;
  • Reading text using refreshable Braille;
  • Simplified reading modes that hide less relevant parts of the content, such as sidebars and header areas; and
  • Different ways of navigating websites, such as hierarchical menu and search.

Assistive Technology Tools and Digital Accessibility

From voice-to-text assistive technology to an assistive technology screen reader, assistive technology tools pave the way for digital accessibility for businesses and their customers. When implementing the various types of assistive technology, AudioEye can help you ensure your website and digital platforms are compliant to provide the most optimal digital accessibility.

When business and agency owners implement assistive technology, they need to maintain digital accessibility compliance. With so many different types of assistive technology, it can seem daunting for businesses and organizations seeking to fulfill their obligations under ADA and other ADA-related laws and guidelines that require barrier-free access to the goods, services, and information they provide online. That’s where AudioEye comes in to help.

Choosing the Right Assistive Technology

With so many different types of assistive technology available, it can seem daunting for businesses and organization seeking to fulfill their obligations under ADA and other ADA-related laws and guidelines that require barrier-free access to the goods, services, and information they provide online. AudioEye offers businesses and organizations hybrid digital accessibility solutions that accelerate the path to compliance while ensuring an optimal user experience for individuals with disabilities.

AudioEye is an all-encompassing solution that includes unique, enterprise-grade dynamic remediation technology that eliminates issues of accessibility and improves conformance with the informative guidance made available via the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA Success Criteria.

Today, on a daily basis, AudioEye removes billions of access barriers that may limit or impede access to website functionality and digital content, including users relying on the types of assistive technologies outlined in this article. In addition, for those adopting AudioEye makes available free assistive web personalization tools via the AudioEye Toolbar. The AudioEye Toolbar is integrated into a website and provides a suite of customizable assistive features for users looking to tailor the user experience to meet their individual needs. 

If you are interested in learning more about AudioEye's cost-effective and trusted web accessibility solutions, please contact an AudioEye representative today.  

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