Matching Individuals’ Strengths and Needs to Assistive Technology

students using different assistive technology devices

Accessibility is often the key to independence. In schools, this means ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the right technology supports and materials they need to succeed—including the use of assistive technology (AT).

Assistive technology is anything that helps a person with a disability do what they want to do. AT can help in the home, at school, at work, and in the community. Examples of assistive technologies include communication devices, adapted writing utensils, specialized calculators, switches, sensory processing supports, braille writers, magnifiers, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and more.

With students’ varying strengths and needs, it can be difficult to determine the AT devices and features that will work best for each student. SIFTS (Student Inventory for Technology Supports) is a free, web-based survey tool developed primarily to support Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams who need assistance in matching student strengths and needs to AT features. 

How SIFTS Works
Using SIFTS, IEP team members can select statements that best represent their students’ strengths and needs, targeted tasks the AT will support, and environments where the tasks will occur within a selected domain of AT. A profile of the student is created based on responses to the survey. Then, SIFTS matches AT features to the statements selected by the team, and a final list of AT feature considerations are sorted into categories. For each feature, pictures, text descriptions, and some videos are available to assist teams in building their knowledge of assistive technologies, as well as their capacity to implement AT assessments.

The AT features generated based on survey responses can be submitted into the links of other search engines and databases such as Google, the TechMatrix, and AbleData to find assistive technologies that contain the identified features. Ultimately, the matched products can be considered by the team and trialed with the student.

SIFTS is housed on a secure website and offers a way to anonymously store student data and track data over time. Teams can complete one domain or several. At this time, the following domains are available: Behavior, Communication (AAC), Organization and Planning, Writing, Physical Access to Computers, Physical Access to Mobile Devices, and the newest domain, Physical Access to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  

Physical access to AAC devices will help educators and people with disabilities determine access features of AAC devices that might be needed when touch input isn’t successful. This new domain will help teams determine the most appropriate means of access to a communication device, including modifications to touch input, head pointing, mouse pointing, joystick access, or switch access. 

Typically, this domain would be completed in conjunction with the communication domain, which will guide teams in the feature identification process for AAC devices. 

Not Just for Educators
While SIFTS is often used by school teams, parents, students, consumers, and others can also use it. It is not intended to take the place of a full AT assessment, but to provide support for the portion of the assessment that requires teams to match student needs to AT features before making final device selections.

To learn more about this free tool, visit: