Assistive Technology

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About

Assistive Technology is any item, piece of equipment, product or system, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

The four main categories of disabilities are visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive. A variety of assistive technology tools are available to assist individuals with disabilities.

How the end users access your websites, documents and media may include these technologies:

  • Audio Description-narration service (provided at no additional charge to the patron) that attempts to describe what the sighted person takes for granted -- accessibility of the visual images of theater, television, movies and other art forms for people who are blind
  • Input devices (keyboards, adaptive keyboards, on-screen keyboards, trackball, mouth stick)- any periphial piece of computer hardware equipment used to provide data and control signals to an information processing system such as a computer or other information appliance
  • Screen Readers-software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer
  • Screen Magnifier-software that interfaces with a computer's graphical output to present enlarged screen content
  • Voice Recognition- software where the system translates spoken words into text
  • Word Prediction/Completion-a feature often provided by many web browsers, word processors, etc., which involves the prediction of a word or phrase the user wants to type in without the user actually typing it in completely

(See also Web Accessibility, Universal Design, Digital Content Accessibility)

Principles

Websites and web content designed with accessibility in mind are more functional and usable for all users.

  1. Screen readers rely on the markup structure of a document to enable navigation
  2. All audio content (video, recordings, etc.) is captioned
  3. All functionality of the content is operable through a keyboard interface
  4. Keyboard shortcuts to important links and form controls are provided

Techniques

Use headings to provide content structure
Use appropriate structure for lists and tables
Use CSS to style your document

Design for Screen Reader Compatibility

Use a Screen Reader to evaluate your website

Most common screen readers:

JAWS
Window-Eyes

NVDA

VoiceOver

Resources

WebAIM  Creating Semantic Structure

IBM Understanding Accessibility

Motor Disabilities Assistive Technologies

Better Web Browsing: Tips for Customizing Your Computer

Recommendations

Recommendations and suggestions from the AccessIT Community