Assistive technology

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Assistive Technology is any piece of equipment or software that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. There is a wide range of Assistive Technology which can be used in higher education to increase accessibility.

We also often use the terminology alternative and adaptive technology.

Alternative technology is not explicitly designed for disabled users in mind, but through its design it better accommodates individual needs. An example would be a compact keyboard, or mind mapping software.

Adaptive technology is equipment or software specifically intended to meet the needs of an individual with a disability. An example would be a keyguard for a keyboard or a joystick mouse.

The line between alternative and adaptive technologies is blurred when adaptive equipment is found to meet all people's needs more effectively in an inclusive way. Many products which were initially designed to aid the lives of disabled people, such as voice recognition, have gone on to be used generally.

Disabled students obtain funding for Assistive Technology items for their individual use via a Study Needs Assessment as part of their Disabled Students’ Allowance application. Funding is also provided to cover training in how to use the equipment or software. However, students also need to access Assistive Technology within shared study spaces and libraries, and managers in these locations will need to ensure that there is an appropriate range of equipment available for use and that staff are trained to support students to use it.

Our guide below sets out which equipment and software should be made available in study areas, to help ensure that users, including disabled users, can directly access services, as efficiently as possible.

Within this guide we set out which equipment and software should be made available in public access study areas, such as a library, to help ensure good levels of access for disabled people. Types of assistive technology covered includes: operating systems, ergonomic furniture, ergonomic workstation accessories, amplification equipment, magnification tools, lighting options, and much more. Information given on each type of equipment includes:

  • key definitions and introductions to the main categories of Assistive Technology
  • images and descriptions of equipment and software
  • information about what is required to meet basic accessibility requirements for shared spaces, and what could be described as representing a gold standard for each category of equipment
  • approximate costs and links to suppliers
  • other issues to consider relating to individual items to maximize its effectiveness


A list of free apps, software and resources available online for staff to introduce to students is also included. Many of these may resolve an issue or problem which a student is encountering within a shared study space.



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Disability Advisory Service

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