Assistive Technologies

Assistive Technologies

Before looking at Assistive Technologies, let’s look at some basic things that we can do to help learners with special challenges.

The Basics


Use of colour is attractive and can be helpful in categorizing information. However, it should not be the only method used as it puts those who are colour blind at a disadvantage. If colour is used as one method to categorize information, avoid using greens, oranges and reds.

ALT and Title Tags

The use of ALT tags on images and graphics is helpful for those who use screen readers. The ALT tag should be clear, concise and provide enough information that a blind reader will obtain the information being portrayed by the image or graphic. This page provides a good explanation of what makes Good vs Bad ALT text examples.

Close-up photo of a record player's needle touching a vinyl record.
Back before the era of iPods, when people used record players to hear music, putting the needle on the record was the equivalent of pressing the play button.

Here is an example of an image with ALT tag information.

When providing information to include in ALT tags, do not repeat the same information that is already provided in the content, or in the caption. The goal of ALT text is to help someone who is unable to see the image, so that they understand the context of the image, and why it was chosen to be included!

The image of the record player has ALT tag information which is only visible in the html markup or via an assistive device that reads out ALT tags. You can always add extra information in the TITLE tag since it will also be read by a screen reader. One possible use for the TITLE tag on an image could be “A larger version of this image will open in another window if you select this thumbnail.”


Clear headings help to organize material and help the vision impaired learner organize their mind map of the information.

Clean Code

Clean HTML code will help the screen reader technology provide clear and concise information to the student.

Below:  Example of messy code (left) vs cleaner code (right).

Closed Captioning

Closed captioning for the hard of hearing learner is important, especially if audio or video is the only way material is presented. If creating an audio or video clip, using a script from which the closed captioning can be created is very helpful.

Computer Assistive Technologies

Computer assistive technologies includes hardware and software that will help or enable persons with disabilities to use their computer, search the web, input information, etc.

Screen Readers

Screen Readers are software that are usually installed on a computer and will read the computer screen, often in a mechanical voice. Along with Zoom Text, the following may be useful:


For persons with limited mobility or dexterity

There are a variety of navigation and input devices including:

Specific software for input and navigation include:

For persons with cognition challenges


Major organizations such as the United Nations and Apple have made resources available for anyone curious about how to make applications or websites more accessible. Some examples are:


Resource created by Daph C.

Principles of Accessibility

Principles of Accessibility


Universal Instructional Design (UID) is a way of thinking about course design and teaching in such a way that materials are accessible to all students regardless of their abilities.

Four ways in which people with disabilities are challenged when seeking information include learning, seeing, hearing, and interacting.

  • For persons with cognition challenges: Icon of side on head showing the brain.
  • For persons with limited vision, there is an icon of an eye with diagonal lines over 1/2 of the eye to indicate vision impairment.
  • For persons with limited hearing: Icon of a front an ear with sound waves coming from the ear.
  • For persons with limited mobility: Icon with two fingers on a touch pad.

Memorial has the duty to provide course materials in formats that all students can easily use. For computer or online based materials we need to consider hearing, mobility, visual, and cognitive challenges. Providing accessible course content is not hard, it just requires a little planning.


For a deaf or hard of hearing student auditory information needs to be presented visually. This includes closed captioning for audio and video course components.


For a student with limited hand mobility, or limited fine motor control, consideration needs to be given for the amount of direct input required. Students with mobility challenges may need extra time to complete tasks. Often the students will use voice commands to operate the computer.


A visually challenged student may have low or no vision, or may be colour-blind. A low or no vision student will often have a screen reader which will read text from the screen. However, to help the screen reader and the student, we need to:

  • use clear headings,
  • provide detailed alt tags on graphics,
  • avoid using tables except for displaying data,
  • etc.

A low vision student may be able to use a screen magnifier. The magnifier limits the amount of content displayed at any time, thus it often takes more time for these learners to complete tasks.

A colour-blind student is challenged when content is differentiated by colour alone. Either avoid using colour to display content meaning or use colour with another feature, such as italics, font, clear headings, etc. (Using two or more features to display content may cause confusion for some learners.) Avoid using green, orange, and red as these colours are particularly challenging for colour-blind people.


This may be a learner with dyslexia, short-term memory loss, etc. Being consistent with layout throughout a website will help these learners. Also having content presented in a variety of formats will be a benefit.

Loading the player…
Resource created by Daph C.