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Assistive Technology and Secondary Transition Annotated Bibliography

(Prepared for NSTTAC by Kelly R. Kelley)

The term 'assistive technology device' is defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities" (20 U.S.C. § 1400 [602]).

A history of reauthorizations exist related to assistive technology such as the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 which provided financial assistance to states for developing and implementing consumer-responsive statewide programs of technology-related assistance for people of all ages with disabilities. Then 10 years later the Assistive Technology Act replaced the former act with the focus of also addressing the assistive-technology needs of individuals with disabilities. Most recently, the Assistive Technology Act of 2004 was reauthorized with the Assistive Technology program administered by the Department of Education. Despite this history, there is limited research and sustainability related to assistive technology procedures in secondary transition for adolescents with disabilities transitioning into postsecondary education, work environments, and independent living situations (Houchins, 2001).

The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to provide relevant research and internet resources providing technical assistance for families, special education professionals, and researchers on what is currently known related to assistive technology and secondary transition procedures. To date, information was located on the topics related to postsecondary education, employment, independent living, and the current status and roles assistive technology can have for school personnel, families, and students with disabilities as they transition into adulthood.


Assistive Technology Act of 1998, Pub. L. No.105-394.

Assistive Technology Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-364.

Houchins, D. E. (2001). Assistive technology barriers and facilitators during secondary and postsecondary transitions. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 24, 73-88.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. (2004)

Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-407.

Annotated Bibliography

Postsecondary Education

Houchins, D. E. (2001). Assistive technology barriers and facilitators during secondary and postsecondary transitions. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 24, 73-88. [Descriptive]

  • Defined assistive technology according to the Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988, Public Law 100-407
  • Identified technology barriers and facilitation of students with disabilities transitioning from postsecondary settings to adulthood based on survey input from 27 technology specialists across the United States
  • Common themes were: (a) increasing assistive technology instruction, (b) improving student self-determination, (c) using best transition practices, and (d) establishing an assistive technology infrastructure
  • Future research needed with assistive technology during secondary and postsecondary transitions

Lamb, P. (2003). The role of the vocational rehabilitation counselor in procuring technology to facilitate success in postsecondary education for youth with disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(4), 53-62. [Qualitative]

  • Examined specific roles and responsibilities of four rehabilitation counselors through interviews for acquiring technology for students with disabilities
  • Results indicated four major responsibilities: (a) collaborating with special educators to transition youth, (b) serving as a vocational counseling resource for teachers and students, (c) fostering students self-determination and self-advocacy skills, and (d) using school resources to assist students in overcoming barriers to postsecondary education/training, and employment (e.g., assistive technology)
  • Common themes noted from interviews related to dilemmas with assistive technology: (a) determining which assistive technology is most appropriate and necessary for students' success in education and training programs, (b) limited knowledge about assistive technology and the devices and software program availability, and (c) limited funding and access to monetary resources related to assistive technology for supporting students with disabilities
  • Provided implications for policy and practice (e.g., guidelines for purchasing assistive technology and joint training opportunities between high schools and universities)

Martinez-Marrero, I., & Estrada-Hernandez, N. (2008). Assistive technology: An instructional tool to assist college students with written language disabilities. TechTrends, 52, 56-62. [Descriptive]

  • Provided an overview of assistive technology and legal mandates such as the Assistive Technology Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and Telecommunications Act
  • Described examples of specific input, output, and process devices (e.g., standard or large print keyboards, touch-screen devices, screen magnification, large print, keyboarding or reading programs)
  • Defined learning disabilities and the need of college students using assistive technology as an instructional tool (e.g., graphic organizers, speech recognition software)
  • Recommended instructional design strategies such as: (a) being AT savvy, (b) making it worth the effort, (c) focusing on strengths, (d) ensuring AT availability and built-in capabilities of existing hardware, (e) determining if there is a need for training or technical support, (f) exploring flexibility and evaluating AT devices, and (g) consulting AT experts as needed

Mull, C. A., & Sitlington, P. L. (2003). The role of technology in the transition to postsecondary education of students with learning disabilities: A review of the literature. The Journal of Special Education, 37, 26-32. [Literature review]

  • This review identified the specific technology recommendations found in the literature, identified issues related to using these recommendations in the transition to postsecondary education, and provided recommendations for transition planning to postsecondary education
  • A search of the literature included articles from 1966 to 2000 using descriptors such as: assistive technology, auxiliary aids, adaptive technology, technological accommodations, and transition or postsecondary education
  • Common recommendations and issues with AT and transition to postsecondary education were found such as: (a) AT can provide more individualized fits for learners and measure student progress at the same time, (b) AT devices can be costly for institutions and funding sources are often limited, (c) AT devices must be used for what they are intended to be used for and maintenance must be performed by trained technicians, (d) to maximize the use of AT devices, students and personnel must be trained on how to properly use the devices, and (e) there is controversy with eligibility for assistive technology for students with learning disabilities
  • Future recommendations included: (a) earlier identifications of funding sources for AT in postsecondary education, (b) AT devices should be based on current assessments of the student needs and demands in their postsecondary education environment, (c) training for students must occur for maximized use of equipment, and (d) careful consideration must be examined before removing a student from eligibility of special education services which includes assistive technology services and devices at the postsecondary level

Specht, J., Howell, G., & Young, G. (2007). Students with special education needs in Canada and their use of assistive technology during the transition to secondary school. Childhood Education, 83, 385-389. [Qualitative]

  • Interviewed four students, their parents, and relevant school personnel on the transition planning and current practices that help or hinder students using AT devices as they transition from elementary (K-8) to secondary schools (9-12)
  • Four themes emerged from interview transcripts: (a) environment, (b) training, (c) assessment, and (d) advocacy
  • Results from the interviews indicated smoother transitions with technology come from listening to the students, their families, and teachers about what is needed with AT supports for successful participation in school

Webb, K. W., Patterson, K. B., Syverud, S. M., & Seabrooks-Blackmore, J. J. (2008). Evidenced based practices that promote transition to postsecondary education: Listening to a decade of expert voices. Exceptionality, 16, 192-206. [Descriptive]

  • A search of the literature included articles from 1995 to 2006 using descriptors such as: transition, postsecondary education, college students with disabilities, surveys, voices, needs, opinions, literature review, and synthesis of literature in combination with descriptors such as instruction, remediation, assistive technology, adaptive technology, social skills, interpersonal skills, self-determination, college decision, study skills, learning strategies, and college demands
  • Common themes emerged: (a) self-determination strategies, (b) social and interpersonal strategies, (c) academic preparation, (d) accommodations, and (e) assistive technology
  • Access and knowledge about the usage of assistive technology was a major need expressed by college students with disabilities throughout the literature
  • Recommendations regarding self-determination and assistive technology included an urgency for teachers to expand their knowledge of using various technologies in their classrooms and giving students opportunities to practice using the technology to determine which assistive technology device best fits the student's individual needs


Greenan, J. P., Wu, M., & Black, E. L. (2002). Perspectives on employing individuals with special needs. Journal of Technology Studies, 28, 29-37. [Descriptive]

  • Conducted a cross-sectional survey with a random sample of 250 employers within industries and businesses in Indiana to examine employer perspectives and attitudes on hiring individuals with special needs using a 5-point Likert rating scale
  • Findings reported from 76% of the employers regarding assistive technology suggested the financial investment in remodeling facilities and purchasing assistive devices for employers with disabilities were major difficulties in hiring individuals with disabilities
  • Implications suggested a need for more professional coordination and collaboration to satisfy the assistive equipment needed for hiring individuals with disabilities as they transition into the workforce

Heller, K. W., Allgood, M. H., Ware, S., Arnold, S. E., & Castelle, M. D. (1996). Initiating
requests during community-based vocational training by students with mental retardation and sensory impairments. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 17, 173-184. [Experimental]

  • Included four high school students ages 17-21 with mild to severe intellectual disabilities who participated in community-based instruction
  • Examined the effectiveness of teaching students to request assistance (e.g., "I need...") using dual communication boards
  • Results indicated all four participants mastered the set criteria for initiating requests using gestures and dual communication boards
  • Future research is needed to see if requests can be initiated using communication boards at job training sites to acquire new skills and increase job performance, productivity, and independence

Riffel, L. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Turnbull, A. P., Lattimore, J., Davies, D., Stock, S., et al. (2005). Promoting independentperformance of transition-related tasks using a palmtop PC-based self-directed visual and auditory prompting system. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(2), 5-14. [Experimental]

  • Included four high school students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities
  • Investigated the effects of the Visual Assistant computer program for increasing productivity and task completion with vocational and independent living tasks
  • Results indicated three out of four students increased independence with tasks using the Visual Assistant computer program and reduced the total number of support statements and prompting needed to complete tasks and increase productivity
  • Future research is needed to examine the impacts of using technology to promote positive transition outcomes and greater independence levels for students with disabilities

Independent Living

Johnson, K. L., Dudgeon, B., Kuehn, C., & Walker, W. (2007). Assistive technology use among adolescents and young adults with spina bifida. Research and Practice, 97, 330-336. [Descriptive]

  • Examined the historical longitudinal data from children's hospitals and medical centers for adolescents and young adults with spina bifida and their use of assistive technology in relation to their community participation
  • Participant record reviews were selected for individuals between the ages of 13-27 years old with a diagnosis of myelomeningocele and their use of assistive technology
  • Results indicated individuals with spina bifida have a greater need for assistive devices such as wheelchairs, braces, walking aids, digital organizational devices, and personal care adaptations in order to increase their independence in the areas of education, employment, and independent living

Mechling, L. C. (2007). Assistive technology as a self-management tool for prompting students with intellectual disabilities to initiate and complete daily tasks: A literature review. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 42, 252-269. [Literature review]

  • This review identified empirical literature from 1990-2005 on the use of assistive technology as a self-management tool for individuals with intellectual disabilities
  • The inclusion criteria used for this review was: (a) use of experimental design, (b) publication in peer-reviewed journal, (c) evaluation of assistive technology for self-management, and (d) participants had intellectual disabilities
  • Forty studies were identified in the literature that met the inclusion criteria and were arranged into (a) picture prompts, (b) palmtop personal computers, (c) tactile prompting, and (d) auditory prompting
  • Findings from these studies reported positive results when using assistive technology as an antecedent prompt for eliciting a target response and reducing the need for instructor prompts
  • Future research is still needed on how to best use assistive technology and how it can continue to be improved (e.g., barriers with funding, underutilization of use, lack of assessment for appropriate device, individualization with AT devices)

Current Status and Roles of Assistive Technology in Secondary Transition

Alper, S., & Raharinirina, S. (2006). Assistive technology for individuals with disabilities: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Special Education Technology, 21(2), 47-64. [Literature review]

  • Discussed the barriers to assistive technology and the need for increased awareness for using assistive technology to help individuals with disabilities access the general curriculum and acquire transition skills
  • The inclusion criteria used for this review: (a) participants were individuals with disabilities, (b) age 3 and older, (c) articles were published in referred journals between 1988-2003, (d) included AT devices as independent variables, and (e) provided an assessment of skill acquisition
  • Independent variables included using: (a) video such as computer-based, videotapes and videodiscs; (b) writing software and software games; (c) computer-based study tools; (d) multi-media; (e) speech recognition and synthesis software; (f) prompting devices; (g) palmtop computers; and (h) facilitated or augmentative communication devices
  • Out of the 68 studies reviewed, 43 did not include individualized assessments of participants prior to selection of AT and only 25 mentioned individualized participant assessments or ongoing assessments to modify or customize AT devices

Nochajski, S. M., Oddo, C., & Beaver, K. (1999). Technology and transition: Tools for success. Technology and Disability, 11, 93-101. [Descriptive]

  • Described the concepts of using the Technology and Transition model as best practices for transition including: (a) use of collaborative teaming, (b) use of an ecologic curriculum, and (c) the establishment and use of interagency linkages
  • Provided the provisions necessary for assistive computer technology and how it can be incorporated into an IEP or transition plan
  • Included assistive computer technology tools for success such as lending libraries, evaluation and training, coordination and collaboration, and transition websites
  • Discussed the role of occupational therapists as experts in assessment and training with assistive technology

Parette, H. P., & Peterson-Karlan, G. R. (2007). Facilitating student achievement with assistive technology. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 42, 387-397. [Descriptive]

  • Distinguished differences between assistive technology, instructional technology, and universal designs for learning
  • Discussed three distinct aspects of the educational process for students with developmental disabilities including: (a) IEP development, including placement alternatives; (b) instructional interventions; and (c) student progress monitoring
  • Provided overview of assistive technology outcomes reflected in a range of professional publications in recent years and how the role of assistive technology in relation to student achievement requires professionals to understand both how and why assistive technology works for students with disabilities

Stodden, R. A., Conway, M. A., & Chang, K. B. T (2003). Findings from the study of transition, technology and postsecondary supports for youth with disabilities: Implications for secondary school educators. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18, 29-43. [Descriptive]

  • Described the current status of transition related to postsecondary education, graduation rates, and employment opportunities
  • Discussed the disability-related supports in secondary and postsecondary education in relation to differences for utilization of technology and other supports (e.g., instructional supports, assistive technology supports)
  • Addressed instructional environments and legal mandates in relation to the current barriers that exist to transition from secondary to postsecondary settings (i.e., differences in regulations, lack of alignment supports, differences in personal responsibility being professional and parent driven versus student driven, focus on legality and cost rather than on individual needs and outcomes)
  • Provided recommendations for improving transition and other supports between secondary and postsecondary schools such as: (a) increasing the use of postsecondary-type supports in secondary schools, (b) increasing carry-over of technology between secondary and postsecondary schools, (c) teaching students self-advocacy skills and educating them about their responsibilities in postsecondary education, and (d) recognizing that supports are an investment in positive outcomes and productivity

Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Smith, S. J., Parent, W., Davies, D. K., et al. (2006). Technology use by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to support employment activities: A single-subject design meta analysis. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 24, 81-86. [Literature review]

  • This meta-analysis identified single-subject studies from 1977-2003 on the use of technology by individuals with intellectual disabilities
  • Out of the 411 articles that fit the search criteria, 13 single subject design studies were selected for inclusion in the meta-analysis since they included students with intellectual disabilities ranging in age from 12-37 who encompassed vocational and rehabilitation-related activities for transition aged students through adulthood
  • The mean Percentage Non-Overlapping Data (PND) scores for all 95 cases was 93% indicating that employment and rehabilitation outcomes resulted in "fair" effects for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • Findings suggested that technology use can contribute to more positive vocational and employment related outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities

Other Relevant Sources

Burgstahler, S. (2002). Bridging the digital divide in postsecondary education: Technology access for youth with disabilities. (Information Brief). Retrieved from

  • This information brief was designed for secondary and postsecondary educators and administrators, employers, individuals with disabilities, and parents
  • Discussed the challenges youth with disabilities face for gaining and maintaining access to technology such as the lack of knowledge and training with appropriate assistive technology and lack of funding
  • Provided recommendations for achieving greater technology access (e.g., establishment of policies and procedures at all academic levels to ensure universal accessibility, interagency collaboration with planning, funding, selecting, and supporting assistive technology)

Center for Implementing Technology in Education. (n.d). CITEd research center. Retrieved May 19, 2021 from

  • This website sponsored by the Center for Implementing Technology in Education offers evidence-based, promising, and emerging practices to classroom teachers, administrators, and districts based on the latest research in assistive technology
  • Several research topics include implementing and scaling up technology, calculator technology, screen-based and multimedia technologies, professional development on technology integration, and technology support for writing and differentiated instruction

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (n.d.). Family center's AT resource reviews. Retrieved May 19, 2021 from

  • This website sponsored by the Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) provides useful materials and brief reviews of literature and resources related to the field of assistive technology
  • Reviews of assistive technology are described from books, newsletters, training manuals, software, and other websites which are searchable based on specific categories such as assistive technology, material types, and specific disabilities

National Center for Technology Innovation. (n.d). Trends and topics: Assistive technology. Retrieved May 20, 2020 from

  • This website sponsored by the National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) offers information and resources on equipment and product systems used for increasing, maintaining, and/or improving independence for individuals with disabilities
  • Free webinars on various AT topics are available, new learning and assistive technologies are described, trends and uses of portable technology
  • Research articles on family centered decision making with assistive technology, technology reviews, and assessments can also be found at this website
  • Other links are also provided by NCTI such as Don Johnston Inc., WebABLE, TechConnect, Quality Indicators of Assistive Technology Consortium, and Ability Hub 
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