Assistive technology is technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.
Digital Assistive technology includes hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities to access information. For example, people who are blind may use software (screen readers) that reads text on the screen in a computer-generated voice, people with low vision may use software that enlarges screen content or people who cannot use a mouse or pointer due to low mobility may use voice recognition to control their devices and dictate their work.
A variety of assistive technology is available, providing the opportunity for people to access information technology (IT). Access to assistive technology is no guarantee of access. IT accessibility is dependent on accessible design so ensuring that digital systems meet the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is key to ensuring that content will support the use of a wide range of assistive technologies and the people who use them.
An additional benefit of an accessible by design approach to the delivery of information systems is that information will be more accessible to everyone and can be served up in a variety of ways to allow people to tailor it to suit their preferences regardless of accessibility requirements.
Assistive technology can therefore be seen as a tool of productivity to help everyone to get more from their digital experiences by managing work, study, and improving the accessibility of digital content by supporting users to tailor materials to their own requirements.
The functionality that supports screen reading technology can similarly be accessed to convert documents into mobile audio formats to support different means of access, for example listening to meeting minutes whilst on a train journey or proofreading and many users report benefits from accessing captions for multimedia regardless of hearing loss.
Microsoft Office now includes a range of technologies that may originally have been considered as assistive technologies as standard tools for interacting with Office file formats such as Immersive Reader, Dictation and captions in PowerPoint presentations alongside tools to check the accessibility of the content you are creating.
Operating Systems Accessibility
Most operating systems now have inbuilt accessibility functions:
My Computer My Way
My Computer My Way is a website that provides guidance on configuring your device to meet your own requirements. It provides signposting and step-by-step guides to settings built into your computer for adaptations and adjustments. This includes accessibility features to help you see websites more clearly, text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality, ways to make your keyboard and mouse easier to use, and adjustments that make reading, writing, and using the internet easier. My Computer My Way also provides access to a free booking system for those who need some IT support at home. Their friendly volunteers can help with the majority of technical devices including laptops and phones in the comfort of your own home.
- Get started by going to the My Computer My Way website
- Click on the different icons on the website to access recommendations for vision, sound, motor, reading and spelling
Accessible formats provision
RoboBraille is a self-service, alternate media solution. You can use this software to automatically convert documents into a range of alternate media including audio books (MP3 and DAISY), e-books (EPUB, EPUB3 and Mobi) and digital Braille. The service can also be used to convert inaccessible documents such as image-only PDF files, JPG pictures and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into more accessible formats.
- Go to the RoboBraille website
- Upload a file or provide a URL and choose what you want to convert it to
You can make an accessible copy of something if you own the copyright (e.g. it's your own work), if you have permission from the copyright holder, if the copyright has expired, or if it's for someone with a print disability. If so, you need to agree that:
- the copy won't be shared with others
- you can't find a commercially available version in an appropriate format
- you abide by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, Section 31A (Disabled persons: copies of works for personal use)
- you abide by the Data Protection Act when storing or sharing converted files that contain personal data.