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Assistive Technology Assessment

Overview of Assistive Technology Assessment for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

assistive technology collage

The TVI Experience

Typically, you will find that TVIs report a few different scenarios in their school district. A TVI either has: 
  • One or more technology specific district team members to help with an AT assessment or evaluation and that individual participates in planning and IEP meetings regarding AT devices
  • A state-wide AT person travels or consults with a TVI to help plan, evaluate, and advise for the IEP meeting and student educational AT considerations. This person may or may not participate in an IEP meeting. 
  • No resources for help with evaluation or assessment of AT for each student on his/her caseload. TVI is solely responsible for implementation and advocacy of any AT related to his/her student with visual impairments. 
Often, there is not a person to assist in evaluation and assessment and it is up to the TVI to implement, advocate, plan, and monitor AT for his or her students with visual impairments. 

Conducting an AT Assessment

AT assessment or evaluation is a collaborative process, not a one-time event.  The TVI provides valuable information and resources to the team as the person who can address the specific vision issues/needs of the student.  
The good news is that there are numerous tools that are available for conducting an AT evaluation.  (follow this link to view the most well-known tools)  
A typical AT assessment/evaluation will go through these steps: 
  1. Identify and define the problem for AT considerations 

    1. Is the student a tactual learner?
    2. How does the student access curriculum and instruction? 
    3. Are curriculum materials accessible for the student?
  2. Data gathering via interviews with the student, parent and professionals
    1. What are the student’s present level of performance
    2. What are the tasks the student is performing
    3. What are the environments the student is performing in?
  3. Brainstorm potential AT solutions using:
    1. AT evaluations
    2. inventories
    3. checklists
    4. assessments 
  4. Conduct AT trials using data gathering templates
  5. Integrate AT solutions into entire school day and home

    1. Present the AT solution
    2. Facilitate the integration of the solution into the student’s program
    3. Develop IEP goals and collaborative plans with educational team 

Using the Learning Media Assessment as Part of the AT Evaluation

The TVI toolkit also includes the Learning Media Assessment (LMA) which defines the students learning style.  This is important information that must be considered when conducting an AT assessment.

What type of learner is the student?

  • Tactual Learner: Student will need screen readers, visual descriptions, braille devices, tactile graphics, tactual symbols, or object symbols.

    • Instructional implications: student will need instruction related to braille, systemic search patterns, tactile discrimination, listening comprehension (if applicable), assistive technology procedures for accessing and using auditory and tactile learning media, etc. 
  • Auditory Learner: Student will need screen readers, visual descriptions, auditory output, low and high tech with audio output.

    • Instructional implications:  student will need instruction related to listening comprehension, assistive technology procedures for accessing and using auditory learning media
  • Visual Learner: Student will need large print, screen enlargers, magnification, portable assistive technology devices for large print, enlargement and magnification, contrast, glare, and lighting considerations, positioning and seating considerations.

    • Instructional implications:  student will need instruction related to listening comprehension (if applicable), assistive technology procedures for accessing and using visual learning media
In addition to thinking about specific AT devices or solutions that could be indicated on a student’s Learning Media Assessment there are several categories of AT that may help when thinking about your student’s unique needs. The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) list of AT categories are:     

academic and learning aids

  • Seating, positioning, and mobility 
  • Communication
  • Computer access
  • Motor aspects of writing
  • Composition of written material
  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Organization
  • Recreation and leisure
  • Vision
  • Hearing 

These categories can be helpful in thinking of the potential combination of AT solutions that may be needed to fit your student’s unique needs. For instance, the first category of seating, positioning and mobility may help determine need associated with a student’s orthopedic impairment and a teacher may need to consider those areas in conjunction with vision. What could this look like, you may ask? A student may need to have a communication device, with high contrast icons, and it may need to be mounted securely to his/her wheelchair. All these considerations are factors in the AT process and resources such as the WATI could help teachers determine each area of consideration. There are some example devices included here to help you think about what may be available to students.  In the area of Academic and Learning Aids, there are high contrast keyboards, specialized calculators, specialized learning tools with particular overlays that can be changed depending on the activity. 

assistive listening devices

A student may be using assistive listening devices to help amplify sound or take out background noise in the classroom environment due to a hearing impairment or auditory processing disorder.
The field is constantly growing in its’ product offerings for augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). There are communication devices that provide simple three, six, and nine choice boards that can be programmed to automatically conduct auditory scans of choices until a student has made a selection. 

augmentative communication

There are several switch options available that can both plug into a USB port and be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth technology. The devices go up in complexity from simple choice arrays to entire keyboards and AAC systems for the most advanced users. There are also several options for AAC apps for use with iOS devices. 
Some other categories to consider when examining options and completing AT assessments or LMAs are computer access, environmental control, and devices specific to the field of visual impairment. As previously discussed, when thinking about AT remember to focus on what the device can do and the student learning need instead of a particular device. It is important to be focusing on student need and ability when considering devices. 



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