Tips and guides

Adaptive Equipment to Promote Literacy

List of software, hardware, and resources that help students with multiple disabilities participate in reading and writing

By Deirdre Walsh, Speech and Language Pathologist, Perkins School for the Blind

Adaptive equipment allows students with multiple disabilities to participate in literacy activities, both reading and writing. These companies provide a variety of adaptive aids, including hardware, software, communication devices, and resources for educators and parents. More importantly, they have knowledgeable staff who can give you some ideas or suggestions on how to best utilize their products. This is a short list to get you started.

Caveat: Buy products that are appropriate for your child’s abilities, both physical and cognitive. Assistive and adaptive technology can enhance your child’s learning, but don’t start at a level where your child cannot be successful. If your student is using a switch, look for products that are accessible by a switch. Not all the products available are appropriate for students with visual impairments, if you are unsure, ask for a demo.

AbleNet:  This company provides multiple communication aids which can be easily incorporated into literacy activities. You can record a repetitive line of the story, you can record “Time to turn the page”, or you can record sound effects that go along with the story. Anything works. This is where you can find the BIGmack switch.

Don Johnston:  This company provides adaptive electronic equipment to access the computer, and other electronic devices to aid communication and independence. 

Duxbury Systems: This company provides software that translates written text into braille.

Edmark Reading Program: Teaches beginning reading and language development to nonreaders and those who have been unsuccessful using other programs. Remember to look for voice output if you are searching for appropriate software for your child with visual impairments. You can purchase software to make some of their early education products accessible using the Intellikeys alternate keyboard! (Edmark access pac)

Hatch : This is an amalgamation of educational resources and products available for students with a variety of special needs. Companies highlighted in the catalog include; Edmark, Broderbund, Intellitools, Laureate, Don Johnston, The Learning Company, Soft Touch and many more. They also offer products to enhance early childhood learning.

Laureate : This software company provides exceptional software for children with developmental disabilities, language learning difficulties, and reading difficulties.

*The above picture contains a Power PC Macintosh G3, with an Intellikeys keyboard, a Don Johnston switch interface and an AbleNet Jelly bean switch. The software is teacher generated using the program Intellipics, by Intellitools.

The materials in this section appeared on the e-advisor site, which was originally hosted by Boston Children’s Hospital.  This material has now been moved to the website of Perkins School for the Blind.