Glossary of Assistive Technology Terms

Accommodation:  changes to the educational program in which the result of the task remains the same, but the means by which the student accomplishes the task is different.

Adaptation:  a change to the typical presentation or demonstration of a skill or concept without changing what is being presented in the instruction or knowledge demonstrated.

Alternate input method to access the computer:  this represents physical and possibly verbal means of getting information into a computer. Students who have a difficult time with typical typing on a standard keyboard and/or using a standard mouse on a desktop or laptop computer may use one of these methods. Some examples of alternative input methods are by having a keyboard arrangement on the monitor (onscreen keyboard) that is pointed to or clicked on, an external enlarged keyboard with bigger keys, using a single switch to activate a scanning array which sends key input information to the computer, or using their voice to talk to the computer.

alternative keyboard: may include enlarged, reduced, varied key placement, one-handed, braille, chordic, or any other device for entering text on a computer.

assistive technology: any sort of aid, including computers, switches, calculators, spelling devices, communication devices and voice synthesizers, which is used to help an individual perform some task of daily living.

Assistive technology assessment:  is a process conducted by a team to identify tools and strategies that address a student's specific needs.

Assistive technology device:  means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

augmentative communication: any device (electronic or otherwise) to enhance communication for a person with limited speech.

Augmentative communication devices:  low, mid, or high-tech solutions for a student who has a difficult time producing intelligible speech. Typically consists of pictures and/or words that are arranged so that a student can indicate by pointing or using eye gaze to select the messages that they are communicating. There is a wide variety of features augmentative communication devices may include, speech output being one of the most important. Other features include offering different ways for a student to physically interact to accomplish the desired activations. The speech output may be synthesized or allow for recording of human speech, some offer both. Some products require a static paper display and some have a computerized monitor display of pictures, symbols, text, or a combination of these.

braille embosser: a printer for producing braille output either manually or when connected to a computer. When printing standard text from a computer, it must first be translated into braille.

branching: describes the process of choosing among a sequence of choices or actions to produce another sequence of choices. This process is used in the "scanning" method of access.

CD-ROM: "Compact Disk Read-Only Memory" refers to the 4-inch silver disks that typically hold 700 megabytes of digital information and the players that access the information on these disks.

Communication device:  low, mid, or high-tech solutions for a student who has a difficult time producing intelligible speech. Communication messages are presented to the student through a visual or auditory display of pictures or words.

cursor: either the flashing vertical or horizontal line on a computer screen that indicates the insertion point for text; or the arrow or I-beam that indicates the position of the mouse pointer on the computer screen.

desk accessary: a small utility program that runs on a computer and may be accessed from any program at any time (such as a calculator).

drill and practice: presents questions repetetively, but is not a tutorial. Software that is only drill and practise doesn't necessarily teach the concepts needed to answer the questions presented.

environmental control: any type of device that an individual may use to control their environment (lights, appliances, TV, telephone, etc). This may include anything from simple reachers or sticks to computers and voice-activated electronic systems.

Environmental Modification:  when a problem is resolved by a change in the environment.

Electronic pointing devices—used to control the cursor on the screen without use of hands. Devices used include ultrasound, infrared beams, eye movements, nerve signals, or brain waves.

FM system: a local wireless broadcast system that consists of a microphone and transmitter for the speaker and "walkman-like" receivers with headphones for listeners with hearing impairements or attention disorders.

high tech: use of electronics or computers as a solution.

icon: a small computer graphic that appears on the computer screen and may represent different types of objects (files or applications) or actions, depending on the context. Use the mouse pointer to click on icons that open files or perform other actions.

Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP): the written document which defines the early intervention services provided to the child and family. The program is designed to meet the needs of the child and the family, and is based on family-identified priorities.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): a written plan, specifying instructional goals and any special education and related services a student may need, which must be written and reviewed annually. Included are (1) the present educational levels of the student; (2) a statement of annual goals, including short-term objectives; (3) a statement of specific services, if needed; (4) the programs; (5) the date when special services are to begin and the expected duration of these services; and (6) the tests and other requirements or information used to guage the student's progress to determine if the instructional objectives are being met.

input: the information that is transmitted to a computer from a keyboard, mouse or other input device.

Instructional adaptation:  a change to the typical presentation of a skill or concept without changing what is being presented in the instruction.

Joysticks—manipulated by hand, feet, chin, etc. and used to control the cursor on screen.

keyboard: a device for inputing text and commands to a computer.

Keyboard filters are typing aids such as word prediction utilities and add-on spelling checkers that reduce the required number of keystrokes. Keyboard filters enable users to quickly access the letters they need and to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don't want.

keyguard: a plexiglass or other cover for a keyboard with holes for the individual keys. It allows more precise selection of keys for an individual with fine motor difficulties.

keypad: a small keyboard with a 10-key setup for numeric input, or it may also be used as a control for a screen-reader program.

laptop: a portable battery-powered computer that is typically the size of a 3-ring binder, weighs 5-10 pounds, and consists of a screen, keyboard and disk-drives.

laser discs: large (12-inch) CD-ROMs that normally contain movies.

low tech: indicates use of low cost non-electronic solutions.

macro: a simple short program that performs an action on a computer. They are usually created by recording the keyboard and/or mouse input and storing them as an icon or key combination.

megabyte: 1,000 X 210 bytes of information, which basically means over one million keystrokes of computer storage (about 10 novels).

Morse Code: a direct method for computer input using one to three switches and coded input to replace the keyboard and mouse.

mouse: the name given to the pointing device used to control graphical user interfaces (GUI) of modern personal computers.

onscreen keyboard: a software program that places the keyboard on the screen of the computer and may be accessed using a mouse or other pointing device. This is ideal for individuals who cannot use a regular keyboard, but can use some type of pointing device.

optical character recognition (OCR): a process that utilizes special computer software to convert the scanned image of text into actual text that may be edited by a word processor.

output: computer-generated information for the user. This may be printed output from a printer, visual information from the screen, or sounds from speakers.

Pencil grip:  a physical modification done to a writing tool such as a pencil or pen. It may be a cushion or built-up surface to the portion of the tool where the student puts their fingers and knuckles. It may also have indentations to guide proper placement of the fingers and knuckles.

Picture communication symbols:  Pictures, photographs, and/ or line drawings that are used to represent vocabulary and messages for students who have a difficult time producing intelligible speech or who are unable to speak at all. These symbols are often arranged on language boards, used individually as communication cards, or used on communication devices. Some examples of symbol sets are the PCS from Mayer Johnson, the DynaSyms from DynaVox, and the Minspeak symbols from Prentke Romich Company.

Prerequisite skills:  abilities that should exist prior to attempting to learn a new skill.

scanner: an electronic copier connected to a computer. Scanners are used to input drawings, pictures or printed text into the computer.

scanning: has nothing to do with the electronic copier above. It is another method for accessing a computer or communication device using one or more switches. Scanning involves presenting a group of choices, cycling among them and making choices by activating a switch.

screen reader: software that reads text on a computer screen using a speech synthesizer. This allows individuals with visual impairments or other print disabilities to access text on the computer screen.

simulation: software that simulates real-world situations on a computer. This may range from a joystick trainer for driving an electric wheelchair to running cities.

Sip-and-puff systems—activated by inhaling or exhaling.

speech synthesizer: hardware or software for producing electronic human speech on a computer.

spell checker: utility for checking the spelling in a document.

sticky keys: software or mechanical utility for allowing typing of multiple keystrokes with one finger (using the shift or other modifier keys).

Strategy:  an approach to teaching a skill or concept or how it is taught.

Support services:  educational support services that are available for students with disabilities who qualify, such as Speech/Language Services, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Behavior Therapy.

switch: a device that is like a single button of a keyboard or mouse. Switches may be used by an individual with servere motor difficulties by any controllable muscle in their body (head, hand, toe, eye, breath, etc.) to operate any type of computer, communication or environmental control device.

switch interface: black box that connects to a computer or other device that has plugs for switches.

Task-focused:  able to be used by the student to do what the student is expected to do

TDD: a text telephone used for communicating in typed text over a phone line. A TDD has a keyboard and text display or small printer. Both parties who are communicating over a phone line must have TDDs.

Text-to-speech software:  software that speaks text as it is displayed on the screen.

Touch screens—allow direct selection or activation of the computer by touching the screen, making it easier to select an option directly rather than through a mouse movement or keyboard. Touch screens are either built into the computer monitor or can be added onto a computer monitor.

touch window: a computer input device that uses a touch-sensitive transparent window placed on the computer screen. It performs mouse functions with a finger or stylus directly on the screen.

trackball: another replacement for the mouse pointing device that uses a rolling ball to perform mouse movements.

tutorial: teaches concepts, presents information as opposed to simple drill and practice.

Voice output device with dynamic display:  a type of high-tech communication device that may be a solution for a student who has a difficult time producing intelligible speech. The dynamic display feature allows for the computer technology of the device to change the picture display presented to the student on the device’s monitor. These systems can be activated by touch, by a mouse-type pointer, or by a switch. Typically they talk out loud through a speech synthesizer, however, some products have both the human recorded speech (digitized) and the text-to-speech (synthesized). Products that fit this description may give students access to hundreds of messages.

voice recognition: computer software and microphone that allows input and control with voice commands.

Wands and sticks—worn on the head, held in the mouth or strapped to the chin and used to press keys on the keyboard

word prediction: productivity software that increases typing speed for one-finger typists and others by predicting and choosing complete words.

word processor: software for inputing and formatting text.

user: person using a computer.

utility: software for adding function or performing housekeeping tasks on a computer.



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