Inclusive Education with Assistive Technology

Faith Zwarych

Ontario Tech University


Assistive technology allows individuals with unique needs to succeed in tasks they may not be able to do regularly. There is a rise in implementing assistive technology into the classroom, as it helps educators create an inclusive environment for their students. The following review examines the literature surrounding the benefits of including assistive technology in education. There needs to be more data surrounding the perspectives of individuals who use assistive technology to succeed in education. Recommendations include further research on these perspectives, getting educators training on assistive technologies available, and the need to continue improving existing assistive technology. Looking ahead, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and promoting awareness about the benefits of assistive technology in education is crucial. Reviews such as these will help advocate the efforts to help create an environment where assistive technology is embraced, reducing stigma and encouraging widespread adoption.


assistive technology, education, inclusive environment, stigma,


In today’s diverse and inclusive educational landscape, assistive technology has emerged as a powerful tool in fostering an inclusive classroom environment. By breaking down barriers and providing tailored support, assistive technology ensures that students with varying abilities can actively participate and thrive alongside their peers. This chapter investigates the benefits of incorporating assistive technology into educational settings, focusing on its impact on individuals with unique needs. A review of some existing literature on the advantages of using assistive technology in education will be conducted to accomplish this aim. The focus will be on analyzing studies that highlight the positive outcomes associated with its implementation. Overall, this chapter will contribute to the existing body of knowledge by shedding light on the benefits of integrating assistive technology in education while emphasizing the importance of considering the perspectives of those who rely on such technology. By promoting understanding and awareness, this chapter aims to support the development of inclusive educational practices that leverage assistive technology to empower individuals with unique needs.

Background Information

Forgrave (2022) examines the diverse range of assistive technology tools and devices used in education to support students with learning disabilities, emphasizing their positive impacts, such as improved academic performance, increased independence, enhanced self-confidence, and a more inclusive learning environment. While the article contributes valuable insights to the existing literature, it needs to fully address external factors that can hinder the implementation of assistive technology, such as availability and societal stigma, potentially leaving educators unprepared to navigate these challenges. Nevertheless, the article underscores the significance of integrating assistive technology into educational practices to foster inclusivity and empower all students, irrespective of their abilities.

Parette and Scherer (2004) delves into the complex challenges faced by individuals who use or require assistive technology, highlighting the significant barriers, particularly the social stigma surrounding its use. The authors emphasize that while assistive technology can enhance the abilities of individuals with disabilities, its visibility can lead to societal judgments, misconceptions, and prejudices, potentially causing embarrassment, self-consciousness, and being perceived as different or less capable by others. To mitigate this stigma, careful consideration of factors such as device aesthetics, gender and age appropriateness, social acceptability, sublimation, and professional deference, as well as teachers’ acceptance of disability (Parette & Scherer, 2004) becomes crucial when selecting appropriate assistive technology for educational purposes. This scholarly contribution enriches the existing literature on assistive technology by recognizing the negative impacts associated with its use, even when aligned with learning goals. Acknowledging the enduring social stigma and offering guidance to educators, this article provides insights for creating an inclusive classroom environment, such as teacher training on both the preservice and in-service levels regarding the choices of available assistive technology (Parette & Scherer, 2004). However, a notable limitation of the article lies in the absence of qualitative research to substantiate the claims made by Parette and Scherer. While they effectively highlight the negative consequences of assistive technology use and propose strategies to mitigate stigma, their recommendations would be strengthened with empirical evidence. The authors conclude by underscoring the need for further research to explore the current and ongoing effects of stigma associated with assistive technology.

Hasselbring and Williams-Glaser (2000) delve into the substantial benefits of computer technology in revolutionizing the educational experiences of students with special needs, countering the adverse effects of societal stigma and the limitations of traditional educational approaches. The authors accentuate the advantages of personalized learning, as computer technology empowers students with special needs to receive individualized instruction tailored to their distinct learning styles, paces, and abilities (Hasselbring & Williams-Glaser, 2000). This personalized approach fosters a more inclusive and supportive learning environment. Furthermore, computer technology significantly enhances accessibility by offering a range of assistive devices, including specialized keyboards, touch screens, and eye-tracking technology, enabling students with physical disabilities to access educational content and actively engage with it (Hasselbring & Williams-Glaser, 2000). While the article could benefit from a deeper exploration of the barriers to implementing assistive technology, it underscores the importance of supporting students with special needs in their learning pursuits to establish a truly inclusive classroom environment.

While examining the use of assistive technology to create meaningful art experiences, Coleman and Cramer (2015) shed light on the barriers that students with disabilities often encounter in art education, highlighting the inherent limitations of hands-on artistic activities and the need for inclusivity. The authors present a range of assistive technologies that empower these students to engage in artistic expression, promoting creativity, communication, and overall well-being. For instance, Switches are discussed as an example for students with physical disabilities, allowing them to control artistic tools such as paintbrushes or sculpting materials, enabling alternative methods of art creation (Coleman & Cramer, 2015). This article contributes to the existing literature on assistive technology in education by providing specific examples that educators can incorporate into their curriculum planning to support students with unique abilities. However, a notable critique is the need for empirical data to substantiate the recommendations. Qualitative research exploring students’ experiences with and without assistive technology in art classes would have strengthened the article’s claims regarding the effectiveness of assistive technology. Nevertheless, the article underscores the importance of finding suitable assistive technology solutions to ensure the inclusion of all students within the art curriculum, thus fostering an inclusive classroom environment.

Ayon and Dillon (2021) explore the multifaceted nature of assistive technology within the educational context. They conceptualize assistive technology as a socio-technical design challenge, emphasizing the dynamic interplay between technology and social factors during its development and implementation. The authors advocate for viewing assistive technology as a socio-technical system encompassing the interaction between technology, users, and the educational environment (Ayon & Dillon, 2021). They underscore the need to consider assistive technology’s social and cultural aspects, including the roles of teachers, students, and stakeholders, alongside broader educational policies and practices (Ayon & Dillon, 2021). The article highlights the importance of inclusivity in assistive technology design, advocating for a user-centered approach that actively involves individuals with disabilities, educators, and stakeholders in the design process. The authors stress the significance of user participation to ensure that assistive technology effectively addresses specific needs and enhances educational experiences (Ayon & Dillon, 2021). The article contributes to the existing literature by discussing the positive effects of implementing assistive technology and emphasizing the ongoing evaluation and assessment necessary in educational settings. The impact and effectiveness of assistive technology should be evaluated holistically, considering academic outcomes and social, emotional, and psychological factors. The authors acknowledge the need for long-term studies and user feedback to refine and improve assistive technology solutions. While the article presents a comprehensive perspective on assistive technology in education, a critique lies in the need for more data illustrating the improvements resulting from the presented classroom design. Comparative analysis and evidence-based support would enhance the authors’ claims regarding the effectiveness of their proposed inclusive classroom approach.

Zascavage and Winterman (2009) aims to equip middle school educators with essential knowledge about assistive technology (AT) and universal learning design (UDL) to support diverse student needs in inclusive classrooms. The article introduces AT as tools, devices, and strategies that enhance the functional capabilities of students with disabilities, emphasizing that AT encompasses specialized devices and low-tech solutions, software, and digital resources. UDL is a framework that guides instructional design by offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression to optimize student learning opportunities (Zascavage & Winterman, 2009). The article contributes to the existing literature by emphasizing the benefits of integrating AT and UDL in middle school classrooms. It highlights their role in promoting independence, communication, and active engagement for students with disabilities and catering to diverse learning needs. However, a critique of the article is the need for novel recommendations on specific assistive technologies to implement in the classroom. While text-to-speech and speech recognition programs are mentioned as examples, there may be more suitable options for individual student needs. Overall, the article provides valuable insights for educators in creating universally inclusive classrooms with assistive technology.


Based on the above literature, there are many implications related to assistive technology in education. For instance, there is a significance when implementing assistive technology in the classroom. Some of the instructional design advantages include accessibility, personalized learning, increased communication and expression, skill development, integration and collaboration, empowerment, and independence. These findings support existing literature on assistive technology in education. They also contribute new ideas and examples of assistive technology for educators. For example, on top of popular assistive technology choices such as speech-to-text or text-to-speech devices, they also offer switches used in art and word prediction software for writing activities. These new perspectives and examples help to understand the advantages of assistive technology that help educators create an inclusive classroom for all students and their abilities.


Based on the literature discussed, the following recommendations can be made regarding the implementation of assistive technology in education:

Conduct Needs Assessment

Conduct a thorough needs assessment to identify the specific requirements of students with disabilities. Understand their unique challenges, learning styles, and preferences to determine the most suitable assistive technologies for their needs.

Provide Educator Training

Ensure that educators receive comprehensive training on available assistive technologies and their effective integration in the classroom. Educators should have the knowledge and skills to support students in utilizing assistive technologies and optimizing their educational experiences.

Foster an Inclusive Classroom Environment

Promote a culture of inclusivity within the classroom by raising awareness about the benefits of assistive technology and debunking misconceptions or stigmas associated with its use. Encourage open dialogue and understanding among students to create an accepting and supportive environment.

Involve Students in Decision-Making

Actively involve students with disabilities in selecting and implementing assistive technologies. Their input and feedback are invaluable in ensuring that the chosen technologies align with their specific needs and preferences.

Continuously Evaluate and Improve

Regularly assess the effectiveness of assistive technologies in meeting students’ needs and desired outcomes. Seek feedback from students, educators, and other stakeholders to identify areas for improvement and refine the assistive technology solutions accordingly.

Explore a Range of Assistive Technologies

Recognize that assistive technologies encompass many tools, devices, software, and digital resources. Consider both high-tech and low-tech options to accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences. Continuously explore emerging technologies and stay updated on the latest advancements in the field. Some examples of assistive technologies discussed in the above literature include:

  • Text-to-Speech Software: These tools convert written text into spoken words, helping students with reading or visual impairments access and comprehend written content more effectively.
  • Speech Recognition Software: Speech recognition software allows students to dictate their thoughts and ideas, converting spoken words into written text. This technology supports students with difficulties in writing or typing.
  • Graphic Organizers and Mind Mapping Software: These tools help students organize their thoughts and visually represent information. They can be especially beneficial for learners with executive function challenges or those who benefit from visual representations of concepts.
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices: AAC devices assist individuals with communication impairments by enabling them to express themselves through symbols, pictures, or speech-generating devices. AAC tools are handy for students with speech and language disorders.
  • Electronic Braille Displays: Electronic Braille displays provide tactile feedback by transforming digital text into Braille characters. They are designed for students with visual impairments, allowing them to access digital content and participate in computer-based activities.
  • Assistive Listening Devices: These devices enhance sound quality and reduce background noise, benefiting students with hearing impairments. Assistive listening devices include personal FM, loop, and amplified classroom sound systems.
  • Adaptive Keyboards and Mouse Devices: These assistive technologies modify standard keyboards and mice, accommodating students with motor or physical disabilities. Examples include large-key keyboards, one-handed keyboards, or joystick-controlled mice.

Collaboration and Partnerships

Foster collaboration and partnerships between educators, specialists, parents, and other relevant stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive approach to assistive technology implementation. Leverage collective expertise to identify innovative solutions and provide holistic support to students.

Consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Incorporate Universal Design for Learning principles into instructional design to accommodate learner variability. Provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression to optimize learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities.

By following these recommendations, educators can effectively integrate assistive technology into education, creating inclusive environments that support all students’ diverse needs and abilities.


The potential for assistive technology to further enhance inclusive education is vast. It is essential to continue exploring new possibilities and implementing future recommendations to capitalize on its benefits. First and foremost, there is a need for ongoing research and development to improve existing assistive technologies and create new solutions. Professional development and training programs should also be offered to educators to enhance their knowledge and skills in utilizing assistive technology effectively in the classroom. By investing in research, accessibility, training, and advocacy, we can harness the power of assistive technology to break down barriers, promote equal opportunities, and ensure that every student has the tools they need to succeed in their educational journey. Through its seamless integration into educational settings, assistive technology is revolutionizing how educators approach inclusive education, promoting equal opportunities and enhancing the overall educational journey for all students.


Ayon, V., & Dillon, A. (2021). Assistive Technology in Education: Conceptions of a Socio-technical Design Challenge. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 5(3), 174–184.

Coleman, M. B., & Cramer, E. S.(2015). Creating Meaningful Art Experiences With Assistive Technology for Students With Physical, Visual, Severe, and Multiple Disabilities. Art Education, 68(2), 6–13.

Hasselbring, T. S., & Candyce H. Williams Glaser. (2000). Use of Computer Technology to Help Students with Special Needs. The Future of Children, 10(2), 102–122.

Parette, P., & Scherer, M. (2004). Assistive Technology Use and Stigma. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 39(3), 217–226.

Forgrave, K. E. (2002). Assistive Technology: Empowering Students with Learning Disabilities. The Clearing House, 75(3), 122–126.

Zascavage, V., & Winterman, K. G. (2009). What Middle School Educators Should Know about Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning. Middle School Journal, 40(4), 46–52.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2023 Copyright © by Faith Zwarych is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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