What are assistive technologies for digital access?

Some of the most common Assistive Technologies used to access digital content (Websites and documents) are Screen Readers, Screen Magnifiers, Speech Recognition and Refreshable Braille Displays.

Keep in mind that most Assistive Technologies simply will read the text on your webpage, or document from top to bottom, left to right. Only if the content creator builds accessibility into their documents and websites can these technologies do all the things they were created to accomplish. Digital Accessibility comes from content creators, not from Assistive Technologies.

Examples of Assistive Technology

Screen Reader:

A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen (or, more accurately, sent to standard output, whether a video monitor is present or not). This interpretation is then re-presented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a Braille output device. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled, often in combination with other AT, such as screen magnifiers.

Screen Magnifier:

A screen magnifier is software that interfaces with a computer's graphical output to present enlarged screen content. It is a type of assistive technology suitable for visually impaired people with some functional vision; visually impaired people with little or no functional vision usually use a screen reader.

The simplest form of magnification presents an enlarged portion of the original screen content, the focus, so that it covers some or all of the full screen. This enlarged portion should include the content of interest to the user and the pointer or cursor, also suitably enlarged. As the user moves the pointer or cursor the screen magnifier should track with it and show the new enlarged portion. If this tracking is jerky or flickers it is likely to disturb the user. Also, the pointer or cursor may not be the content of interest: for example, if the user presses a keyboard shortcut that opens a menu, the magnified portion should jump to that menu. Pop-up windows and changes in system status can also trigger this rapid shifting.

Screen magnifier can be especially helpful for people with low vision, for example, many elderly users.

Speech Recognition:

In computer science and electrical engineering, speech recognition (SR) is the translation of spoken words into text. It is also known as "automatic speech recognition" (ASR), "computer speech recognition", or just "speech to text" (STT).

Text Telephone (TTY):

TTY conversion modems are connected between computers and telephones to allow an individual to type a message on a computer and send it to a TTY telephone or other Baudot equipped device. It can be used to send text over the phone. Someone who cannot hear can then use the phone by typing what they want to say and reading what the other party says.

A person using a TTY can converse directly over the phone line with anyone else using a TTY (and in some cases with someone who has a computer). A person using a TTY can even converse with someone not using a TTY via relay.

For More Information about Assistive Technologies:

For more information about Assistive Technologies, Assistive Technology Services, DOR's Assistive Technology Loan Guarantee program, the California Assistive Technology Program, and other resources, visit our Assistive Technology Program Overview.

Another source for information about assistive technologies is the California Assistive Technology Network (AT Network).

DOR also provides some links to organizations that provide more information about Assistive Technologies.