Assistive Technology for Struggling Students & Students with a Disability.
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Assistive Technology for Struggling Students & Students with a Disability.

by Terry Martin

Terry Martin. President & Owner of Voila Technology, Inc. Terry is an authorized assistive technology and rehabilitation technology specialist on New York State contract for ACCES-VR of the New York State Education Dept.


The 2021/2022 school year is fast approaching.  Due to the current health crisis, there are many unanswered questions of how to move forward for all students.  Earlier plans to begin the school year are now being reevaluated again.  This is due to the rapid increase of the COVID 19 Delta variant.  The health crisis has affected all students in many ways.  It affected some positively and some negatively.  It has especially had a large impact on struggling students and students with a disability.  For example, for students requiring one-on-one assistance.  That service has not been available throughout the crisis.  This article will attempt to explain how assistive technology can help individuals succeed in a rapidly changing educational system.

What Is Assistive Technology?

To begin, it’s important to understand what assistive technology is and how it can help individuals. According to, “The Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act),” “the Act described any assistive technology device as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” Typically, a smart phone is not considered assistive technology.  For example. in my situation, my smart phone is considered an assistive technology device.  It uses technology to read all or any part of the screen to me.  I can read emails, webpages, and many other documents that I would not be able to read, due to my legal blindness/visual impairment. 

I use other technology on my smart phone to create documents also.  My computers all use similar assistive technologies to allow me access to my computers, devices, and information.  I can even use technology on all my devices to communicate with someone who is hard of hearing or deaf.  Assistive technology has been a blessing to me.  It has greatly increased my independence, assisted me to achieve a Master’s Of Science in Education, and it has allowed me the ability to share my knowledge with all who need assistance.

Who Can Assistive Technology Help?

It is also important to understand who assistive technology can help.  The one group of people is obvious, and that is people who have a disability.  Frankly, it is essential for most people with a disability to use assistive technology.  It can help them manage their personal and professional lives.  I would not have been able to earn two college degrees without assistive technology and related “assistive technology services.”  I will explain related assistive technology services in the following paragraphs. 

The one group that typically does not use assistive technology is “struggling students.”  They don’t have a disability and they do not qualify for, “special education services.”  Assistive technology can have a significant impact on their lives also!  Many of these students have trouble reading and writing.  There are FREE and commercially available software applications to help them with these tasks.  This is all information that I can provide as a service to help this group of individuals succeed.

Related Assistive Technology Services.

I previously mentioned related “assistive technology services and resources.”  These services are just as important as the assistive technology.  The list of related assistive technology services and resources is extensive.  For this article, you will find several services and resources that are available to consider.  Many of the services are free and others require some form of payment or subscription.

The main service that you will receive from me is an assistive technology evaluation.  It is during this process when we determine what you require for assistive technology.  After the completion of your evaluation, you have the option to receive an extensive report.  The report is a detailed document containing the plans to a system designed for you.  When you receive an assistive technology plan from me, it will provide you with a list of available services and resources that relate to your situation.  Another service I provide is assistive technology training.  To ensure a successful implementation of an assistive technology system, it is important to receive training.  This is one service that I provide to help individuals achieve their educational and occupational goals.  Ongoing support is another service that I provide.  The purpose for this service is to ensure long-term success.

ACCES-VR of the New York State Education Department is a service provider.  It Is a part of the New York State Education Department.  They provide many services and levels of support depending on your situation.  Their goal is to get someone educated and employed. 

For the individuals who require assistance with reading, there are accessible textbook services.  Such services are subscription-based.  Periodically the two main services provide scholarships or free memberships to subscribers.  One service provides accessible textbooks that are read by volunteers.  The other service requires an app for computers and mobile devices that will read the accessible texts out loud.

How to Get Assistance for Your Child.

With this basic knowledge, you are probably wondering how to get assistance for your child prior to the start of the school year.  For those who are beginning this journey, it can seem overwhelming and difficult.  Even for those who are currently in this process, it can be a challenge.  In the following paragraphs, you will find some “first steps” to consider taking to get assistance for your child prior to the start of school in September.

If your child is in K-12, a good first step is to look up the “Director of Special Education” for your school district.  The Director of Special Education will provide you with the necessary information of how to get started.  Please!  Do not think your child is too young for assistive technology.  Get them started as soon as possible and don’t let anybody tell you, “No.”  If you notice that your child is having troubles with reading and writing whether they have a disability or not, get help immediately!  I can’t stress this enough.  I am speaking from experience.

I went to public school during the 60s and 70s.  This was when most people with legal blindness were sent off to live and study at the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia N.Y.  My parents included me in the decision when it came time to attend kindergarten.  I chose to stay home with my friends and attend public school.  I also wanted to start working on my career in baseball playing for the New York Yankees.  That plan didn’t work out so well.  Fortunately, I had some people who really cared for me at home and at school.  When I was in the first grade, my elementary school principal found me an old, large print typewriter in a closet, and so began my quest for wisdom.  I never stopped writing.  In third grade, the Lions Club bought me two large print typewriters: one for home and one for school.  The one I had at home, I used through my undergraduate days in college.  People read to me, both teachers and even classmates!  So, I strongly encourage you don’t let anybody say your child is too young.  Get the assistive technology they need into their hands.  It will make a world of difference.

For college students, it is different.  There is no Director of Special Education.  However, there is a Director of Disability Services.  The purpose of the office for Disability Services is to act as an advocate for your child on campus.  The office typically has assistive technology in their offices to be used by registered students.  Many colleges and universities offer as a free download, software applications to help with reading and writing.  To gain access, one must be registered with the office of Disability Services.  It is important to note that colleges have different names for this office.  When you are searching for a college, go to Google and type in the college name followed by “Disability Services.”  You should see the link to the office for the college at the top of your list.

In Closing.

I hope this article is helpful.  As I stated earlier, going through this process can be confusing and overwhelming.  Understand that there are many services and resources out there that can make the world of difference.  There are some very special educators and vocational rehabilitation counselors out there from ACCES-VR who really want to help your child.  I too am one of those people who really cares about you and your child.  I stand ready to assist you in any way that I can.  I can help guide you through the process.  My services and resources are very detailed.  If I don’t have an answer for you, I will try to find one.  Please feel free to visit my website at  I am looking forward to talking with you soon.  Let’s work together to make a difference in your child’s life.