Supporting Complex Needs:
Assistive Technology Suites
Many assistive technologies (ATs) are developed as single tool products, that is, an app for text-to-speech (TTS) will only perform TTS. However, some developers have created AT suites, or programs that include many different AT tools within one program. AT suites are popular in school settings because the student can access many different tools in one program, rather than asking a student to use three different tools from three different programs at the same time. These suites,
however, can be overwhelming to some students for the same reason. For a student who only needs to use a TTS tool, all of the other tools offered in the suite can be a distraction. Furthermore, some educators think they need to introduce a student to all aspects of a program before they begin using it, meaning that a student is now learning about multiple other tools they don’t require just to access the one that will assist them. Furthermore, because of the multi-functionality, these products can be very expensive and may not be worth the cost unless a student is using more than one of the included tools.
For students with complex needs, these suites can be very helpful. Having all of the tools that they need to support their learning will help a student reach the curriculum goals more efficiently and quickly than they could without these tools. Some popular and widely available suites include the following programs.
Read and Write Gold
This suite is essentially a literacy toolbar. The goal of this toolbar is to make documents, files, and web pages more accessible. This suite includes: text dictionaries, picture dictionaries, TTS software, word prediction software, research tools, study tools, screen masking, and a variety of other tools. They also offer a ‘tool matcher’ program that helps you select tools from within the suite that are appropriate to each individual student.
This suite is designed to make printed or electronic text accessible to people with blindness and visual impairments. This program includes: TTS, image processing, scanning, note taking tools, summarizing tools, and a variety of other productivity tools.
Premier Literacy: Literacy Productivity Pack
This product is a suite of learning tools designed to help students with reading, writing, studying, and research. This suite includes: talking dictionary, work prediction, mp3 conversion, annotation software, scanning software, TTS, and a variety of other word processing tools.
Before purchasing one of these suites, consider how many of the included tools your student will need and the relevant training they will require to effectively use these tools. While these tools can be a great asset to a learning environment, one must ensure the included tools are appropriate for the student and must take steps to ensure the program does not become overwhelming or distracting.
By Harrison McNaughtan, written for Reading Rockets