Accessible IT Frequently Asked Questions
Simply put, "accessible education-based information technology" is simply information technology that has inherent functions, properties, and the potential to be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Examples of "accessible information technology" can include computer towers with front-mounted headphone jacks and ports, electronic devices which allow the user to increase the screen resolution, operating systems which support screen enlargement and text-to speech capabilities, voice mail and messaging systems, and copier/fax machines which allow for users to interface and function with the device without the use of touch or sight.
On the other hand, "assistive technology" is technology (software, hardware) which helps people with specific disabilties maximize their abilties to access information or services. Examples of "assistive technology" include text-to-speech software, screen enlarging software, alternative-output hardware, large-print keyboards, as well as alternative tracking devices.
For example, JAWS, a popular screen-reading package, can be considered Assistive Technology (AT), but not necessarily Accessible Information Technology (AIT), because by itself, JAWS does not contain the functions necessary to be a stand-alone information system. Only accessible information technology, such as accessilbe web browsers (like Internet Explorer)can work with JAWS. Assistive technology, like JAWS, cannot function for the user if software titles and systems are not programmed with accessibility in mind.
School districts are required (by law) to consider and provide appropriate AT to students with disabilities, when itís needed for them to learn, participate, and interact in school. AT is anything that makes it easier for a student to read, write, see, use a computer, turn something on, get dressed, eat, communicate, travel, or play. Although the word 'technology' is used, AT is not limited to something electronic or computerized. Some examples of AT include pencil grips, special paper, calculators, books-on-tape, special keyboards, communication devices, and computer software.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) defines Assistive Technology (AT) as both a device and a service. An AT device is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customize, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. An AT service is any service that directly assists a person with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.