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5 Assistive Tech Tips, Free Software for IEP Students

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You could never have enough assistive tech tips to make the Individualized Education Program (IEP) easier for students with learning disabilities. There is currently a tremendous unfulfilled need for assistive technology in the educational field.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) provides a personalized venue for children with disabilities. IEP’s in children can be in the form of impairments such as hearing, vision, speech, etc., or it can be learning disabilities such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, etc. IEP’s can also be developmental disorders such as Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

We had previously written about how some assistive technology tools such as the EBot are a pure marketing ploy. Many of the assistive technology available for students today are either very expensive and do not work very well most of the time.

Here are a few assistive tech tips that will make an actual difference in teaching students with learning disabilities.

Select a perfect Laptop or Chromebook for students with learning disabilities.

Please don’t skimp on quality for a reduced price. Spending extra on a quality device will be worth it in the long run.

Best Laptops for IEP Students

Always do your research when it comes to selecting a laptop for students with learning disabilities. You don’t need the fanciest laptop in the market with all of the bells and whistles, but you want the most useful one. Here are some positives to look for when selecting a new laptop for students with learning disabilities.

  • Always select a laptop with touch capability. A touch screen makes it so much easier for students to navigate the graphical user interface.
  • If possible, go with a foldable laptop, which makes it easier to turn it into a tablet if needed. You can find styluses for these laptops which can inturn them into a notepad.
  • Select laptops that can hold their charge for extended periods so that it provides increased mobility for students.

Below are some of our recommendations for the best laptops for IEP students.

Best Assistive Technology Laptops

Foldable Laptops for IEP Use
SHOP

Best Chromebooks for IEP Students

Chromebooks are an excellent option for students with specific disabilities but not for others. Google has built-in many Accessibility features to Chrome OS so that the user doesn’t have to go out and look for them.

Below are some of our recommendations for the best Chromebooks for IEP students.

Best Assistive Technology Chromebooks

Foldable Chromebooks for IEP Use
SHOP

Getting the best devices, alone will not set up an IEP student for success, they will also need the right tools and guidance to be successful.

Here are some of the best assistive tech tips to follow regarding daily application and usage.

1.  Invert Chrome Colors

Inverting the Chrome background color can be a lifesaver for an IEP student that has a visual impairment. It allows the Chrome web browser background to be black with white text, making it easier on the eye.

Unfortunately, Chrome currently doesn’t have a built-in option to make changes to the background colors. However, we can change the Google Chrome background colors with Chrome extensions such as High contrast.

If your organization blocks Chrome extensions from being installed, you can manually invert Google Chrome colors under the chrome flags menu as follows.

Copy and paste the following link into your Google Chrome web browser address bar and press enter.

chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark

Turn on “Force Dark Mode Web Contents” option as shown below.

2.  Resolution & Zoom

You want to keep the computer’s screen resolution to optimal levels for students with learning disabilities. Most laptops today come with 1920×1080 resolution or higher. Even though you are getting more screen real estate, a higher screen resolution can make the windows and icons smaller on the screen.

You can customize the screen resolution and zoom levels on Windows 10 as follows.

Customizing Screen Resolution & Zoom in Windows 10

Customizing screen resolution and zoom settings in Windows 10 is accessible. Right-click on an empty area on your desktop in Windows 10 and go to “Display settings.”

You may have to scroll down until you see Display and the screen adjustments setting as shown below.

Adjust the screen resolution and zoom settings as suitable for your IEP student.

Customizing Screen Resolution & Zoom on Chromebooks

Please see Google’s guidelines for screen magnification on Chromebooks. If you are looking to adjust a Chromebook’s screen resolution, please continue reading.

You can adjust the Chromebook’s screen resolution by going to the settings option as shown below.

Right-click on your mascot or account image at the very bottom right corner of the screen, then click on “settings.”

Go to Device  > Display Settings

Adjust resolution under the internal display settings as shown below. You may need to experiment with different screen resolutions to pick one optimal for your Individualized Education Program (IEP) needs.

Paid Software Options for IEP Students

There are a few outstanding paid software options in the market today for IEP students. One of the most critical pieces of software available to IEP students is ZoomText. ZoomText by Freedom Scientific is free to try for 30 days. Here are the licensing options for ZoomText if you would like to continue using it.

1.  ZoomText

ZoomText makes it easy for students to zoom into what is displayed on their screens while also providing narration capabilities. ZoomText

ZoomText Fusion takes it one step ahead and adds in the JAWS Screen reader, which allows additional features you can read about here.

Free Software for IEP Students

Furthermore, here are some of the fantastic free IEP software available for students with learning disabilities.

1.  NVDA

NVDA is a fantastic screen reader software that is free to download for Microsoft Windows computers. NVDA was the result of a project started by Michael Curran, and NV Access currently updates it. The NVDA screen reader is now available in 48 languages. If you enjoy using this software, please do support them through donations.

Pretty much anything a user can pull up on the computer screen can be read aloud by the NVDA software. The NVDA software can pick up on text, Windows menu options, Icon labels, etc.

2. Perky Duck

Perky Duck is free software from Duxbury Systems that turns your computer keyboard into an emulated braille writer. Perky Duck can run on any Windows computer running Windows 7 or above. Perky Duck also supports Mac OS X Yosemite or above.

Below is a screenshot of what the Perky Duck software looks like once installed.

Accessibility Options Built into Chromebooks

There are many great accessibility options already built-into Chromebooks. Google has a guide on how to access accessibility settings on your Chromebooks here. However, we have included a few screenshots below showing the same.

Usually, there is an Accessibility button shown just before the notifications button. If you are missing that button like we are in the screenshot above, here is a tip on enabling it.

Type in “Accessibility” and then turn on “Always show Accessibility options in the system menu.” Enabling the accessibility button lets you turn on accessibility features much more effortless.

On a Chromebook, you can turn on useful accessibility features such as:

Text-to-Speech – This category is further divided into ChromeVox (spoken feedback), Select-to-Speak (select text you want to be read out loud).

On Chromebooks, ChromeVox can be easily turned on by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z  and again to turn it off. We found both Text-to-Speech and ChromeVox to be incredibly useful in Individualized Education Programs.

Display – This category includes High Contrast Mode, Fullscreen Magnifier, Docked Magnifier, and other appearance-related settings.

Keyboard – In this category, you can enable the on-screen keyboard, Enable Dictation (speech to type), and more.

Mouse & Touchpad – In this category, you can enable settings such as automatically clicking when the mouse cursor stops, Mouse Cursor Color, Mouse Cursor Size, etc. We found the Mouse Cursor Color and Mouse Cursor Size options to be most beneficial for IEP students.

Audio – In this category, you can enable Captions for your audio, Play sound on startup, Play the same audio through all speakers (mono audio), etc.

Accessibility Options Built into Windows Computers

Microsoft windows computers have many accessibility features built-into the operating system as well. Here is a great article discussing some of the Windows 10 Accessibility features.

Assistive Tech Tips Continued

You could never have enough assistive tech tips, so here are a few more that we could think of. Automatic login to computers is an overlooked feature, but it is probably one of the valuable features to set up for your IEP students.

Automatic Logins for Domain Joined Computers – You can have Windows computers set up for your IEP students’ automatic login. We find this very helpful for students with IEP needs as they no longer have to type in a username and password to log in to their computers.

Your organization’s System Administrator must set up the Autologon functionality for domain-joined computers.

Automatic Logins for Standalone Computers – If your IEP student has a standalone computer or personal device that is not joined to the organization’s domain, you can set up the Windows autologon feature yourself.

Here is a complete guide on how to setup Auto-Login in Microsoft Windows.

I hope this article sheds some light on some of the assistive tech tips that can be used to make the Individualized Education Program easier for students and staff.

If you’ve found this information helpful, please be sure to share it on social media. You can follow us on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest

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