The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools

Educators strive to ensure that all students, regardless of ability, can access technology to achieve their educational goals. However, educators are often perplexed about how to provide effective technology solutions on limited budgets. What many educators don’t realize is that there are many tools already available in the educational environment—if we just know where to look.

An assistive technology team at Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) in Virginia works tirelessly to address the challenge of ensuring all students have access to technology and accessibility solutions. This Loudoun County team demonstrates a best practice on how to address personalized learning styles of all types of learners and one of the many things they have learned is the importance of building an assistive technology team to address the individual needs of students, including students with disabilities. The Assistive Technology Team for LCPS uses Microsoft Office to help educators incorporate accessibility best practices into the curriculum to help students with diverse learning needs, including students with disabilities.

In the book The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools, authors Christopher Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr of the Assistive Technology Team at LCPS, outline lessons learned on how schools can create an assistive technology team. This easy-to-read book offers sensible (and often comedic) approaches to the serious topic of accessibility and assistive technology. The goal of the book is to help other educators learn from their experiences.

The book provides specific strategies on how to construct a team to help effectively implement technology to meet the needs of all students—even on a limited budget. The book also specifically addresses assistive technology solutions for students with disabilities within special education programs and shows ways to make use of products a school already has, such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

Following principles of the Universal Design for Learning framework, the book throws in a few pirates, monsters, and monkeys to keep readers engaged without sacrificing the tips, strategies, and insights that will help jumpstart or improve your district’s technology team.

This book outlines best practice solutions, such as:

  • Defining and understanding assistive technology
  • Building an assistive technology team including definition responsibilities
  • Assistive technology services including consultations, evaluations, recommendations, training, and follow-up

Using the guidelines outlined in this book, educators can begin to shape their own technology teams while avoiding resource-consuming pitfalls. To encourage other educators to share best practices, there is also a Facebook community evolving around the book. Best practices highlighted in this book include how to:

  • Implement effective service delivery techniques
  • Promote team growth
  • Interact with other departments
  • Develop practical policies and procedures while providing integration strategies that work to meet the needs of every administrator, teacher, parent, and student

The book illustrates how to evolve from providing services on a reactive basis to developing a proactive process capitalizing on the knowledge and expertise of every educator, including those working in instructional technology, which results in a better teaching and learning environment for all.