5 Assistive Technology tools for EVERY educator

During Texthelp’s Festival of Inclusive Education, I spoke about my journey as an educator. I started my teaching career as a secondary school ICT teacher. After a few years in mainstream education, I took the opportunity to become head of a STEM faculty at a residential SEBD school.

It was in this role that my passion for assistive technology was born.

I was looking for solutions that could help me to personalise learning, based on my students’ needs. Since 2013, I’ve been on a mission to spread awareness of the benefits of technology with as many educators as possible.

Here are just 5 examples of how technology has transformed teaching and learning in the schools I work with.

1. Voice Typing

Voice typing or dictation, can provide so many different opportunities for educators and students. I remember the impact it had in one particular school when I was working with a team of one to one support staff. This was a mainstream secondary school with a wide range of learning needs.

There was a jaw drop moment when the voice typing demonstration was shown. The suggestion that pupils use their voice to complete work was a game changer. It allowed all pupils to engage with the same tasks and access the curriculum in an inclusive classroom.

Don’t forget about maths. The Speech Input tool in Equatio turns spoken equations and formulas into written expressions. This gives students choice in how they show their understanding of maths.

2. Screen Masking

Assistive technology tools can change the appearance of a screen across nearly all hardware devices. Simply changing the magnification of fonts or adjusting the layered colour tint so it's best suited to the user's sight can have a huge impact.

Not only are these small changes going to improve the learning experience for students, but again they're going to be able to access the curriculum in a personalised manner. For educators, often the response I get when I show this is, “I can't believe I don't have to print on coloured paper anymore”.

The built-in Screen Mask feature in Read&Write places a colour overlay on the screen, while also leaving an area clear for reading. This helps provide focus and removes distractions in any document or web page.

3. Oral Feedback

The next tool that I'd like to signpost you to is the opportunity to provide oral feedback. There are many ways of providing invaluable communication to all learners using this method. You could use voice recording tools that are available on Apple, Microsoft and Google technologies. Using these tools will be a simple tweak to your current practice but will give individuals that extra support to engage in their tasks.

A great example of this being used in schools, is embedding these voice recordings into Google Slides. This is an opportunity for learners to have that additional support or explanation of the task.

The Text and Voice Comments in OrbitNote make PDF worksheets accessible and collaborative. Students can show understanding and get feedback from their teachers. This closes the feedback loop faster.

4. AAC Boards

Over the last few years, I’ve really started to see the huge benefits of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Boards. They've become daily practice in many schools and SEN or ALN units that I work with.

They offer great positive impact, particularly on learners with communication difficulties or even a student with English as an Additional Language. They can use the sound boards to overcome communication barriers.

There's great examples on IncludEdu on how to make bespoke AAC boards and there’s also links to apps and websites that offer you prebuilt ones as well.

5. Video Captions

The final tip from me is the use of captions and transcripts. Nearly all video conference platforms have this built in as standard. This is a great way of adding that additional inclusiveness to your calls.

For any videos and tutorials that you're recording, captions and transcripts can be so helpful for your pupils. It provides you with a far more inclusive resource and offers more ways to support learners.

The example that I always go back to is a key stage three pupil who was one of several children in a household. It was a case of they didn't have enough headphones and there was too much noise coming off several devices. So it was as simple as the subtitles giving that one individual the opportunity to access the video resource without having the sound on.


That last example in particular highlights my final point. Assistive technology can really be summarised with this great phrase, "Essential for some, useful for all." Assistive technology for me is not just for those learners identified with educational needs.

The more these tools are seen day to day, in and outside the classroom, it’s going to become even more of the norm and better for everyone.