12 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Assistive technologies help people with disabilities by improving their access to education.

Written by Mae Rice
12 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
Matthew Urwin | Jun 25, 2024

Students with disabilities, from deafness and blindness to ADHD, have the legal right to a free and appropriate K-12 education in the United States, as well as reasonable accommodations in their post-secondary education. Schools often meet these requirements with assistive technology, which, according to Cynthia Curry, director of the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials and the Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems, refers to technology “intended to support the function of the individual.”

Assistive Technology Definition

Assistive technology refers to any device, software or item that improves the experience of learning, working or daily life. AT is frequently used by people with disabilities but it can be used by all people in a variety of settings.

Popular assistive technologies for blind students, for instance, include refreshable Braille displays and screen readers, which “read aloud all the content on the screen, as well as buttons, links, menus [and] images, if the images have alternative text on them,” Curry said.


What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is the use of any device and software to improve the experience of learning or going about daily life. AT can range from Braille displays and books to text-to-speech software or wheelchairs. To qualify as assistive, a technology has to meet the individual user’s needs. In other words, it’s inherently personal. 


Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Here are 12 tools changing the way assistive technology in the classroom is being used.


Speechify is a text-to-speech software that captures text and translates it into audio format. This is particularly useful for textbooks, PDF reading assignments and more. The software is compatible with the Chrome browser as well as iPhones, Macs and Androids. Speechify is commonly used by learners and students with ADHD and dyslexia.  

Kurzweil 3000

Kurzweil Education’s Kurzweil 3000 is a literacy support system for Macs and various browsers, which comes equipped with a variety of assistive technologies. The speech-to-text and text-to-speech functions, which work in 13 languages, help students with vision impairments and ADHD, among other conditions. Meanwhile, a font designed for dyslexic readers, called OpenDyslexic, alleviates letter confusion with its bottom-heavy characters. 

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has become popular with the surge of online learning and it also offers a host of tools for executive function and speech-to-text capabilities that improve accessibility and learning. The platform is compatible with Kurzweil 3000 as well as Hāpara Student Dashboard, which helps students organize their tools in one streamlined place. Google Classroom also integrates with apps like Kahoot!, Figma and Adobe Express to engage students with various learning styles.  


The TactPlus is a Braille and 3D imaging printer. Often used by educational institutions, the portable printer precision-heats a specialty foamed paper to create a page of Braille (or other 3D images) in one to two minutes. The printer is also outfitted with audio instructions to aid visually impaired users.  

Seeing AI

The Seeing AI app from Microsoft is designed for the low-vision community and offers audio guidance in a vast array of situations. It reads text aloud as soon as it appears in a smartphone’s camera viewfinder. It also identifies products by barcode when shopping and describes surrounding scenery and its colors. Over time, it learns to recognize the user’s friends and describe their facial expressions.


Clicker from Crick Software is a writing and reading platform that’s outfitted with a whole suite of assistive features. Its mapping feature, for instance, lets elementary-age students create webs of words and emoji-like pictograms, or diagram entire projects. That helps visual learners tackle reading and writing projects. 


Co:Writer, a tool created by Don Johnston Learning Tools, can transcribe speech and predict intended words and phrases — a boon to students with a wide variety of special needs. Produced in partnership with Google for Education, Co:Writer’s built-in prediction engine grasps the fundamentals of grammar and free association, unearthing writers’ meaning even when they misspell words and conjugate verbs incorrectly.  


Dragon is a smart speech recognition software. Though it’s marketed as a business productivity tool, it’s also a widely used accessibility technology for students with disabilities that make mouse use and typing difficult. Equipped with deep learning capabilities, the software can transcribe natural speech at speeds of up to 160 words per minute.  


MathTalk is a speech recognition software designed for students with ADHD and physical disabilities that preclude keyboard use. An add-on to Dragon, this software comprehends technical vocabulary and transcribes in mathematical notation appropriate for trigonometry, algebra, calculus and even PhD-level courses. 

Tobii Technology

Tobii offers eye-tracking devices that turn the human gaze into a hands-free mouse. To use the technology, students with limited motor skills and verbal difficulties simply need to look at their screen, and a mix of infrared projectors, cameras and machine learning algorithms will detect their point of focus.

KNFB Reader

The National Federation of the Blind and Sensotec worked together to design KNFB Reader, which caters to the needs of users who are blind, low-vision, print-disabled or dyslexic. Not only does this mobile app convert written text into audio recordings, but it also converts it into Braille. All users have to do is snap a photo of the text in question. Students with visual impairments can use this tool to read books, documents and text displayed on a digital screen. 

GoTalk 9+

The GoTalk 9+ is a perfect example of how effective low-tech assistive technology can be. Developed by Attainment Company, this device uses a set of buttons and recordings to help those with speech impairments communicate. Each button can be programmed to share up to five different recordings, so users can quickly share basic messages with parents at home, peers in math class and friends at recess, among other contexts. 

More on EdtechBig Data in Education: 10 Companies Delivering Insights to the Classroom


All Technology Is Assistive 

Some critics argue that it’s silly to categorize some technology as “assistive” and other technology as simply “technology.” All technology assists its users, whether we classify them as “disabled” or not.

According to the foundational principle of Universal Design, improving accessibility for one group improves accessibility for all, in ways we can’t always predict. One famous example is curb cuts, the ramp-like dips in sidewalks. Originally designed for people in wheelchairs, they turned out to benefit parents with strollers, rollerbladers and a host of other users. 

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, shifts Universal Design’s ideas into the classroom. “It’s based on research on how humans learn,” Curry said. According to a framework first laid out in the 1990s, UDL lessons should represent information in multiple ways. That can be simple enough — think closed caption videos, which make dialogue comprehension easier for the hard of hearing, English language learners and anyone who’s absorbing unfamiliar vocabulary. Evaluation should also let students demonstrate what they know in various ways — in an audio recording, for example, or in writing.

Related ReadingInclusive Design Takes Many, Many Forms


The Future of Assistive Edtech

Going forward, assistive technology in the classroom has room to grow. Curry sees potential in two particular areas: artificial intelligence and mapping apps.

AI and Assistive Technology in the Classroom 

AI, Curry said, already has transformed life for people with disabilities. However, “it’s not quite accurate yet under all conditions,” and she worries that accessibility programs over-rely on it, especially when working with those who are hard of hearing.

Once it can work reliably on its own, though, it will make a lasting impact on people with a wide array of disabilities. Higher-quality AI could not only hear words correctly, but also generate useful tools for people with Autism who have difficulty understanding facial expressions. Facial recognition technology, a branch of AI, could help them match a peer’s facial expressions with a feeling and guide them in knowing “how to interact with the individual,” Curry said. 

Mapping and Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Another opportunity for improvement lies in digital mapping. Maps apps already offer users spoken navigation instructions and a highly granular sense of their surroundings in many places, and the maps of the future could support blind people in new ways.

Many blind people memorize the layouts of their neighborhoods and schools and can navigate them without assistance, Curry says. When it comes to unfamiliar environments, mapping technology has a track record of being unable to specify which streets have uneven sidewalks and which have no sidewalks and guide users through unfamiliar buildings. But Google Maps is changing this with the expansion of its screen reader features to support those who are low-vision or blind.  

In addition, virtual and augmented reality tools could make getting around easier for people with blindness or other visual impairments, as seen in products like the Apple Vision Pro. Two people with visual disabilities may experience very different results, but VR and AR offer to open up another possible frontier for assistive technology.     

“Augmented and virtual reality could help [blind students] orient themselves in new environments,” Curry said. “And that can be true in smaller spaces, like a learning environment.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Assistive technology refers to any device or software that gives users the ability to perform learning or everyday functions that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to do. Everything from wheelchairs to speech recognition technology fits into this category. In addition, assistive technology must address in-demand skills among users. If it fulfills a purpose irrelevant to users, then it’s not assistive technology. 

An example of assistive technology in the classroom is text-to-speech software. This technology can translate written text into audio recordings, making reading materials more accessible for students with conditions like dyslexia and ADHD.

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