What is assistive technology?

Section 508 covers people with blindness, low vision, color blindness, hearing disabilities, mobility disabilities and photosensitive epilepsy. The law requires that electronic and information technology obtained after June 21, 2001, be compatible with assistive technologies designed to aid people with those types of disabilities.

For those with varying degrees of hearing impairment, technologies include:

* Assistive listening devices: A transmitter and receiver to amplify sounds. They come in FM, infrared and wired systems.

* Hearing Aid Telephone Interconnect System: Assists those with hearing aides in using the telephone.

* Teletypewriter machines: Hardware devices with a keyboard and display used to communicate over the telephone system by typing text.

For those with visual impairment or blindness:

* Braille Display: Output device with Braille cells that refresh as the user scrolls an electronic document like a Web page.

* Braille Translation: Software used to convert text documents into Braille.

* Optical Character Recognition Reading System: An integrated computer system consisting of a scanner, screen reader and a voice synthesizer with software that can convert scanned text to be read aloud by a synthesized voice.

* Screen reader: Provides visual information in audio format for computer users.

For those with mobility impairment:

* Alternative input devices: These instruments take the place of a mouse. They include devices that use head movements to allow a user to move the cursor, eye movement tracking systems, joysticks and touch sensitive monitor screens.

* Speech recognition systems: Software that allows a person to use speech to input information in a computer.

* Word prediction program: Reduces keystrokes by creating a list of possible words from which to choose. This helps speed typing for people with impaired hand control.

Source: General Services Administration's Center for Information Technology Accommodation

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