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Assistive technology has evolved from something that was very specialized to something that is much broadly used. Fifteen years ago, we had special technology for people who had visual impairments and students who had hearing impairments and people who had motor impairments and then, to help students with learning challenges, we drew on that technology. So someone who was unable to read due to a reading disability, well, we could pull on the technology that the vision impaired person was using, text to speech software, the ability to read text out loud to someone. And for a long time, we were developing or integrating more and more technology to help with very specific learning challenges.

But when we fast forward to today, anyone who uses their smartphone with a GPS on it to navigate through a city has a GPS talking to them, that’s using that same text-to- speech software. I see a lot of my friends having their emails read out load to them. They’re using the same text-to-speech software. So tools that were originally developed for a disabled population have suddenly become mainstream. We’re all talking to our phone, asking it silly questions. And that voice recognition is now being used by the general population.

So now the only reason to call something “assistive technology” is the fact that it’s being used purposefully to overcome an area of challenge for an individual.

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Assistive Technology