Think of it this way: assistive technology isn't about people having disabilities. It's about computers being poorly designed. You don't have to be diagnosed with low vision to be annoyed at small type on a system desktop. The logic of mouse use—such as the exact rules of when to click and when to double-click—can be equally obtuse to people with and without cognitive disabilities. And standard keyboard design cannot only thwart individuals with existing hand problems, it can actually promote development of painful repetitive strain injuries.
Assistive technology, whether it's a built-in setting in a computer system or an elaborate piece of hardware, can make computer use possible, more comfortable, or more efficient. Many common tools began as assistive technology; for example, predictive typing started as a spelling aid for people with learning disabilities and a shortcut for slow typists, but it has become a widely used efficiency strategy for texting. Other assistive technologies are likely to remain specialized, but even these may have unexpected applications. Certain text-to-speech programs that substitute for monitor use can be equally relevant for someone who's blind and someone who needs to use a computer in a darkroom.
The Knox Center at 2064 Shapiro Library is the campus hub of activity for assistive technology use. Here you can try out equipment, get help deciding what accommodations might be right for you, or ask any questions in a confidential environment. For more information or to make an appointment, please contact the Assistive Technology team at 6-3794 or Sites.Knox@umich.edu.