Assistive technology is a general term used to describe technology tools that are used to help people with disabilities accomplish tasks. The most common used forms of assistive technology are speech input software, screen readers, and screen magnifiers. History and Social Science teachers working with primary documents should be aware of a variety of tools that allow all students to access the content and engage in learning.
On this page you will find assistive tech tools and strategies that will enable students with disabilities to access the curriculum. Many of the tools featured are provided through the Library of Congress (loc.gov) and can be used when students are accessing primary documents directly from the site.
Screen Magnification – Basic screen magnification allows all students to zoom in on the details of a visual. Students are often times looking for clues to solve a historical puzzle. This tool allows students to see all parts of a primary document with incredible detail. Students with vision problems will benefit from this tool as well.
In this example, students can take an up close tour of Blackwell, Ward, and Randall Islands using the magnification tool.
ZoomText Screen Magnification– The Library of Congress has digitized many different types of text documents. Students often times have difficulty reading the text of headlines and articles. ZoomText allows students to zoom in closely on particular passages and also display plain text by clicking “show text.” These options allow students to access the material.
In this example, students are able to zoom in on picture captions and particular selections from the article.
Model Lesson: See this tool used with a variety of documents with our sample lesson, Reformers and Gangsters in American History from Antebellum to Prohibition.
Voice Output: Using ReadSpeaker, the Library of Congress provides online text to speech overviews of primary source sets.
In this example, the Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938 features a text to speech overview for those with disabilities.
Model Lesson: See this tool used with our primary source set, Slavery and Anti-Slavery: Social, Political, and Religious Change (1800-1860)
Primary Access Tool – Making Documentaries using Primary Sources