Welcome to Inclusive Education.

Assistive Technology (AT)


Technology provides all your students with options and choices. Technology can increase student independence and create classrooms that support the diverse learning needs of all students. The line between general digital technologies, such as iPads, and “assistive technologies” is becoming blurred. An increasing number of  tools meet the needs of more people. Consider how standard devices can support all students.

Use this guide to identify devices that may support your students and how and when to use them.


Specifically about
Also related to
Removing barriers to learning
Universal Design for Learning

Understanding assistive technology basics

Assistive technologies can include low technology solutions, such as hand-held magnifiers and high technology solutions, such as computer hardware and software or products such as specialised seating.

The definition of Assistive Technology.

Source: PACER Simon Technology Center (US)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Supporting differentiation (NZ) (video)
Digital technologies for independent learning

Jan Heffernan, from Brisbane Boys’ College, outlines their use of technology enabling students to be independent learners and collaborators in the classroom. Find out more about the Livescribe pen and Book Creator for iPad and Prezi.

View transcript

Source: EDtalks (NZ)

Supporting differentiation (NZ)
iPad as remote desktop (video)
The iPad as a remote desktop: Kalim's low vision solution

An example of a student problem-solving his own assistive technology solution to increase his access to learning.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (US)

iPad as remote desktop
Netbooks at Parkvale Primary (NZ) (video)
1:1 Netbooks in the classroom

For Tyler, a student with dyspraxia, writing with a pencil was a significant barrier to participation.

He describes how using a laptop has enabled him to share his ideas. 

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Netbooks at Parkvale Primary (NZ)
The impact of AT (video)
Digital tools to support student access: increased independence

This video explores the benefits of using standard digital technologies, to support the varying needs and preferences of diverse learners.

No captions or transcript available

Source: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials

The impact of AT
Benefits of AT (NZ) (video)
Digital technologies to support learning

Ben Britton, Wellington High School explains the supports provided by digital technologies which are available to all students to select as needed. For example text-to-speech supports students who have difficulty reading or prefer to learn through listening.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Benefits of AT (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Assistive technology's blogs

The Ministry of Education publish a regular tech blog and newsletter with the latest product information in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), featuring a range of resources and information like a discussion page.

AT fact sheet: Assistive technology solutions

This resource provides visual examples of a range of AT products to help parents and educators who are beginning their search for AT. It includes basic questions to be considered when trying to identify AT that will best suit the child and illustrated examples of some of the AT options available. Curated by the Center on Technology and Disability (USA).

Assistive technology in action

A collection of short videos introducing students talking about how they use AT and overviews of tools such as text-to-speech and word prediction, produced by the Pacer Center in Washington.

Assistive technologies

Enabling e-Learning offers school stories, snapshots of learning, and resources to support assistive technologies in the classroom.

What is UDL?

Universal Design is “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”. Ron Mace, 1996

Universal Design for Learning is an approach to creating learning opportunities and environments “that work for everyone – not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.” CAST, 2010

What is UDL?
Differences between AT and UDL

An AT solution: An assistive technology tool is usually selected as an individualised solution to meet a specific need. For example, a student needs additional support in literacy and following a supervised trial, a laptop with a text-to-speech tool is selected as the best fit for the student.

A UDL solution: As many students have access to 1:1 devices, tools such as a text-to-speech can be made available to any students who would like to use it. Text-to-speech in a whole class context becomes a universal option to support learning: it becomes part of the UDL toolkit for students.

Differences between AT and UDL
UDL approach for AT (NZ) (video)
Using AT to support all learners

Felix, a year five student, shares the benefit of using text-to-speech tools. These supports can be made available to everybody to reduce barriers to learning.

View transcript

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

UDL approach for AT (NZ)
Expressing learning (image)
Options to support learner preference

A UDL approach supports Daniel to learn and participate in a way that works best for him.  He prefers to plan on paper and then do his writing digitally.

Source: Enabling e-Learning

Expressing learning

Resources and downloads

Assistive technology's blogs

The Ministry of Education publish a regular tech blog and newsletter with the latest product information in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), featuring a range of resources and information like a discussion page.

Smithsonian experts find e-readers can make reading easier for those with dyslexia

Research on the impact of increasing the readability of texts by adjusting the font size and line length on devices.

Technology and Design Offered Equal Opportunities for Success

A short multi-media chapter from the article 2020's Learning Landscape: a Retrospective on Dyslexia. The chapter describes how a UDL approach to supporting literacy has unlocked learning for many students. Authors: Dr David Rose and Ge Vue from CAST.

Building on a firm foundation: supporting students with 
more intensive support needs 
in UDL environments

In this article, Joy Zabala explores how intensive support needs also require individualised services. She uses the principles and practices of UDL.

Assistive Technology: Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education allocates devices which are over and above standard classroom equipment, to support students with special education needs. Students supported by any of the following special education services are eligible to apply for AT:

They must also be enrolled in a registered school (compulsory education) or formally exempted from school and aged between five and 19 years (or up to the end of the year in which they turn 21 if they have an individual agreement with the Ministry of Education (Section 9 special education agreement).

Application process

The process when applying for assistive technology:

The Ministry of Education have developed 4 key steps to guide the process when making an assessment and applying for assistive technology.

Application process

Resources and downloads

Make an assessment and apply for assistive technology

The four key steps in making an assessment and applying for assistive technology are explained. This page includes the Ministry of Education AT application forms, available as downloads.

Examples of students using assistive technology

Six student examples describing how AT is used to support learning in the classroom. They include students with dyslexia, vision impairment, cerebral palsy, global developmental delay, hearing impairment, physical disabilities, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

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Selecting the right assistive technologies

To identify the the technology best suited to your student, establish an assistive technology trial.

Evaluate the effectiveness of technologies against agreed success criteria developed with the student and wider team.

A student uses an iPad to increase access to whiteboard content. By taking a photograph of the whiteboard, the student can magnify the content to view it easily.

Source: Ministry of Education

Suggestions and resources

Explaining SETT

Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools (SETT)

The SETT Framework is based on the premise that in order to develop an appropriate system of tools (supports, devices, services, strategies, accommodations, modifications, etc.) teams must first develop a shared understanding of:

  1. Student – describe the student’s learning abilities and needs

  2. Environment – describe the student’s learning environment (including their existing support and the technology used at their school)

  3. Tasks – develop learning targets and describe what it is the student needs to do to achieve them

  4. Tools – select the appropriate technology and trial it to make sure it is a good fit.

Source: Joy Zabala

Explaining SETT
Overview of SETT process (image)
Framework outlining assistive technology process
Assistive technology: Assessment framework

The framework promotes a process that is student centred, flexible, allows for shared knowledge and collaboration.

Source: Ministry of Education

Overview of SETT process
MoE expectations

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education requires schools to use the SETT Framework as the evidenced-based approach for selecting assistive technology. Matching your student with assistive technology requires a team approach.

Using the SETT Framework, a team will collect evidence of the student’s progress and achievement, multiple learning environments, and their short- and long-term learning goals and tasks. The team will then trial and evaluate a range of tools to meet the student’s needs against agreed criteria.

Make an assessment and apply for assistive technology.

MoE expectations
SETT team members

People to include in the SETT team

SETT team members will always include:

  • the student
  • the student’s class teacher
  • team members who provide specialist support.

Often the student’s family will be involved, but older students may prefer to advocate for their own needs.

SETT team members

Resources and downloads

Sharing the SETT framework

Explore a range of resources relating to the SETT – student, envrionments, tasks, tools – approach on Joy Zabala's website.

AT Learning Pathways model

The AT Learning Pathways model has 4 steps:

  1. Establishing a collaborative team.

  2. Gathering information and assessment data.

  3. Generating solutions.

  4. Trialling assistive technology and collecting data.

AT Learning Pathways model
Overview of AT process (image)
AT Process
The Assistive Technology Service Pathway

Ministry of Education AT learning pathways document outlines the process for applying for AT.

This pathway provides a summary of the action points for those involved in Assistive Technology Services.

Source: Ministry of Education

Overview of AT process

Resources and downloads

Assistive technology – assessment framework

An outline of the assistive technology evaluation process for schools created by the Ministry of Education.

Technology decision making table

Blank technology decision-making template to use as a framework for a technology trial.

SETTing up staff and supporters to promote student achievement

Recommendations for team building, an article by Joy Zabala and Gayl Bowser.

Collecting data

Use a range of methods to gather and document information guiding your  decisions such as:

  1. interviewing students – ask what they find helpful or makes a difference

  2. gathering samples with and without the use of technology to compare outcomes

  3. observing the student working without technology – consider the potential barriers that may arise, for example letter formation, mobility

  4. observing the student using technology – is it manageable, able to be used independently, or does it require extra support?

  5. taking photos to support evidence

Collecting data
Using video

Use video to: 

  1. collect baseline data to show your student’s current learning (for example, a timed writing sample with your student using pen and paper)

  2. collect trial data in comparative learning tasks to demonstrate the impact of the trialled technologies.

Using video
Using e-Portfolios (NZ) (video)
Collecting and gathering data

John Robinson HoD Learning Support reflects on the impact of using e-portfolios to share learning beyond the classroom.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Using e-Portfolios (NZ)

Resources and downloads


An explanation of what e-portfolios are, why they are used, school stories describing how they are used, resources, research, and readings on the Enabling e-Learning: TKI website.

Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning: Two Sides of the Same Coin

A research paper which explores the intersections of AT and UDL.

Ministry contacts

If considering laptops and tablets as part of an AT solution, use school laptops and tablets for a short-term technology trial.

For more specialised devices, contact the District Technology Coordinator at your local Ministry of Education office.

Ministry contacts
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Planning for the effective use of assistive technology

Ensure that everyone knows how to support students in their use of assistive technologies. Offer opportunities to build a shared understanding of the impact assistive technologies can make to access, participation and independent learning.

Matt, a Year 13 student at Wairarapa College, describes how he makes school effective for him. He reflects on his use of technology, effective partnerships with teachers, and the need for self-advocacy skills and a sense of humour.

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Compatibility with school IT

Encourage the school’s IT team and local technical supports in regional areas to be fully engaged in conversations about how to seamlessly support the learner as they move around their environment.

Teams will need to consider wireless access and access to school software such as Microsoft Office, anti-virus software and curriculum software from the outset.

Compatibility with school IT
Suggestions for setting up

Take time to establish a shared understanding of why a student has AT and its effective implementation.

Things to consider:

  1. how the device will be stored, moved around the school, and maintained

  2. who needs to be trained to use it and who will provide support and maintenance

  3. learning tasks that support your student to use the technology and develop the skills they need to use it

  4. the skills needed to design learning environments that fit with the assistive technology, for example, accessible online environments

  5. ongoing professional development to ensure skills are kept up-to-date and in line with emerging technologies.

Suggestions for setting up
AT familiarisation (video)
Increase understanding of unfamiliar AT solutions

Explore short video demonstrations of unfamiliar assistive technologies to understand their value.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ (NZ)

AT familiarisation
Insurance and repairs

The school is responsible for ensuring the safekeeping and insurance of assistive technology. If the assistive technology is damaged, stolen, or in need of repairs, have a clearly understood process to help get AT fixed quickly.

The MoE’s Insurance and repairs information sheet is a useful starting point.

Insurance and repairs
Utilising online tutorials (video)
Use online tutorials to access professional learning

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard (US)

Utilising online tutorials

Resources and downloads

Assistive technology's blogs

The Ministry of Education publish a regular tech blog and newsletter with the latest product information in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), featuring a range of resources and information like a discussion page.

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Using assistive technology in assessments and exams, including NCEA

Ensure that all students have equitable access and are able to participate in assessments and exams alongside their peers.

A student types instead of using pen and paper to write. Digital technologies offer students multiple ways to record, edit, change, and work with ideas.

Image source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Suggestions and resources

Special Assistance Conditions

Special assessment conditions (SAC) are given to ensure that students with additional learning needs are assessed fairly. Students can get SAC to meet a range of physical, sensory, medical, and learning needs.

For more information visit Special Assessment Conditions – information for parents and caregivers.

Source: Connected Learning Advisory

Special Assistance Conditions
Application details for NCEA and SAC

Detailed information on special assessment conditions is available only on the NZQA website.

Refer to the SAC timeline to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Application details for NCEA and SAC
SAC support for schools

Applications for special assessment conditions (SACs) are made by schools on behalf of the student. Ministry of Education staff can support the process but are not responsible for it.

If you have any queries please contact NZQA.

SAC support for schools

Resources and downloads

Special assessment conditions

Ministry of Education advice on preparing alternative evidence to support special assessment conditions (SAC) applications.

Using digital technologies to support learning in a senior secondary context

A guide developed by the Connected Learning Advisory providing: ideas, resources on digital assessment.

Assessment accessibility

Supporting understanding of assessment

When designing assessment consider the potential barriers for students in accessing, understanding the format and content.

Consider barriers within or created by:

  1. text heavy assessments

  2. multiple choice assessments (paper-based or online)

  3. online assessments

  4. time restrictions

  5. writing tools

  6. unfamiliar layout

  7. length of assessment.

Assessment accessibility
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students what support they need to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.


  1. possible barriers, hidden, in the physical environment, for example: unfamiliar layout of room, lighting, temperature

  2. possible barriers, hidden, in the resources and materials, for example: cluttered presentation, hard-to read diagrams, unclear layout, hard-copy only

  3. approaches to managing time allocations such as: calendar tools and visual timers

  4. approaches to managing anxiety

  5. approaches to maintaining concentration

  6. negotiating breaks

  7. use of digital technologies such as text-to-speech and predictive text

  8. pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills such as how to approach multiple choice questions.

Supporting success in assessments
Digital assessment

Use technology options to support assessment

Text-to-speech options provide specific and critical support for students experiencing barriers to learning.  

When designing and using standardised assessments, consider:

  1. using digital assessments that can be personalised and adjusted by students e.g. font size, layout

  2. assessments that can be used with text-to-speech options such as Read&Write

  3. using built-in options available within online PAT and STAR  assessments, supporting students with dyslexia.

Digital assessment
Assessment with iPads (image)
tudent taking a photo with an ipad
Provide flexible options to capture learning

Consider how technology can be used by students to capture and assess their own learning.

Source: Ministry of Education

Assessment with iPads

Resources and downloads

Using digital technologies to support learning in a senior secondary context

A guide developed by the Connected Learning Advisory providing: ideas, resources on digital assessment.

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