Low-tech Tools


Sometimes the best AT solutions may be no-tech or low-tech options--without batteries, cords, bells or whistles. This module will introduce you to several of these and provide resources for others. Creative ideas and suggestions have come from a variety of sources, including classroom teachers, conference presentations and Internet sites. We have used the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) as a key source for information on how to get the most out of adapted classroom materials.

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project


Positioning Aids

It's important to think about furniture when we consider access to school activities. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't work as students vary greatly in size--and are growing all the time.

  • A good "fit" and firmly supported feet help to stabilize the student, cutting down on fatigue.
  • Better support makes the student more comfortable. Uncomfortable furniture can distract a student's focus from work.
  • Good positioning can foster more participation by requiring less physical effort.

There are adjustable-height desks/tables for elementary classrooms that can provide appropriate positioning for all students.



Idea Cart (Anthro)
This adjustable table changes height with the turn of a crank. It's ideal for classroom or lab use.
Cost: $169- $239

Idea Cart

Tripp Trapp Chair (Therapro)
This chair's seat and footrest can be re-positioned. Both the seat and footrest adjust vertically and horizontally to comfortably accommodate children to adults. Hip belt, pads, pommel and tray also available/
Cost: $199.95

Trip-Trap Chair

Footrests (Ergo Solutions, Ali-Med)
Footrests provide a secure base for a child--with feet flat and ankle and knee at 90 degrees. You can also use a stabilized box to achieve this position!
Cost: $45 - $55


Seat Cushions (Pocket Full of Therapy)
These products provide a variety of seating alternatives, all of which can be used safely and unobtrusively in a classroom or home setting.

Pallone Ball Chair
Sit 'N' Fit Disc
Move 'N' Sit Wedge Seat Cushion
Bumpy Junior Disc Seat Cushion
Classroom Chair Seat Cushion


Move 'N' Sit Wedge Seat Cushion

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Craft Aids

Scissors & Cutters Markers & Stamps Mounting Options

In this section we look at commercial products or materials to ensure all students participate in routine classroom activities. These are some of the advantages:

  • Standard tasks become easier to do, so students with special needs can keep better pace with their peers.
  • By practicing skills independently, students reinforce what they already know how to do.
  • Materials that combine basic tasks (e.g., glitter glue) provide more efficient ways to work.
  • Students' creativity is enhanced when they have easier access to a wide variety of materials.

Here are just a few suggestions for products. Visiting a teaching or office supply store may help you identify many more.


Scissors & Cutters

"Mary Benbow" Scissors (OT Ideas)
These scissors feature small finger loops coated in vinyl to help scissors stay on the child's fingers for a better grip.


Mary Benbow Scissors

Softgrip® Pointed-Tip Scissors (Fiskars)
This model opens effortlessly and cuts cleanly to its pointed tip. It can cut felt, fabric, ribbon, yarn, string and construction paper. The finger loops are roomy. Recommended for second through fourth grade.


Softgrip Pointed-Tip Scissors

Loop Spring Scissors (Sammons Preston)
These self-opening scissors require half the effort of regular scissors. For students with limited hand movement, these scissors offers a wide loop for an easy grip. Right and Left handed: $8.95

Loop Spring Scissors

Squeezzers (Pocket Full of Therapy)
These are ideal scissors for students with limited finger mobility and coordination. You close the short metal blades by squeezing the coated loop handles. When you ease the grasp, the blades open automatically. This product helps to reinforce a basic open and close pattern.

Paper Punch

Paper Punch (Fiskars)
This paper punch features a large, non-stick button for "whole hand" use. It punches paper, construction paper, self-adhesive labels and many other paper materials. It offers 13 different "punch" shapes. Use it upside down for greater accuracy.

Personal Paper Trimmer
A small, good quality paper cutter can take the frustration out of cut-and-paste projects for children with weak fine-motor skills. It's great for cutting different sized cards and papers. Cost: Approximately $15 - $25 at school/office supply stores.


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Markers & Stamps

Glitter/Glue Pen (Crayola)
This is a simple way to combine two activities; add glitter to glue!

Glitter/Glue Pen

Permanent Tempera Paint MarkerWashable and Permanent Tempera Paint Markers (Fiskars)
A variety of sizes, shapes and containers makes it easier-and more fun--to paint or draw.


Rubber Stamps
Rubber stamps are amazing tools. They can be used instead of pen and pencil for creative projects and for reading and writing activities. Many of their handles can be built up, making them even easier to grip.


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Mounting Options

Sticky Tack
Sticky Tack can take the frustration out of mounting cut-and-paste projects. Children can move items around on poster board projects until the items are placed "just right." Sticky Tack is a reusable pliable putty-like substance, manufactured under many different brand names. You can find it at stationery and teacher stores.

Contact Paper
Use contact paper instead of glue to create collages, etc. A child can simply select materials and release them over the surface of the paper to make her design.

Contact Magnet Paper
This is contact paper with an "extra" - turn any surface into a magnetic board. With the wide variety of magnets available, you can design many pre-literacy and pre-math activities.

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Reading Aids

Bookholders Page Turner Aids Highlighters e-Books

Several aids are helpful supports for literacy activities:

  • Adjusting the position of books and reading materials to suit an individual student can make the content much more visible or accessible.
  • Being able to turn pages, without having to call for help, frees a student to read at his or her own pace.
  • Highlighting not only makes important information stand out, but helps students find information easier and faster.
  • Portable alternatives to heavy dictionaries and other reference materials allow students to more easily find answers to questions and pursue their interests.



These devices offer adjustable hands-free convenience while reading.

Roberts Bookholder

RobertsT Book Holder (Roberts Bookmark Co. )
Accommodates nearly any size or thickness of book or magazine at a comfortable reading angle, from the first page to the last. It's an ideal computer aid or text book holder. Molded of strong plastic, it consists of a flat base, a backrest, and two adjustable pegs, which prevent pages from flipping, yet allow for easy page turning. The book holder has a built-in handle and folds flat for storage.

Book Butler® (Independent Living Products)
The Book Butler® features two spring-loaded page-holding posts that make it easy to turn from page to page.


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Page Turner Aids

Touch Turner

Touch Turner (Touch Turner)
Although students can use pencil erasers and rubber-tipped head and hand pointers to turn pages of a book, there are electronic Page Turners, which can be used with a single switch. Pressing a switch turns the page and holds it in place. Some models also turn pages in reverse. 2 Models:
forward turning, and forward/reverse

Post-it Tape Flags (3M)
Students can use these to mark pages of a book. The flags come in many colors and provide instant indexing for table of contents, glossary, index, etc. The dispenser is heavy-weighted for easy, one-handed access. Buy them from any office or business supply store.


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Hi-Liter Pens

Hi-Liter Pens (BIC)
These pens are great for highlighting text passages. They also help with figure/ground problems when reading longer passages. Try different colors. Of course, they can't be used on library books or books that you don't want to permanently alter; instead try photocopying pages or use Highlighter Tape (see below).

Highlighter Tape

Highlighter Tape, Tabs, Wide Tape (Lee Products)
Students can use Highlighter Tape to accentuate text in books or places that can't be permanently altered. You can even write on the wide highlighter tape and use it like a post-it. Use Highlighter Tabs to index or mark books; they're like Post-it Tape Flags only better.


Indexing Taped Material
If your students use a tape recorder to tape stories or other information, here's a tip that might reduce wading through long tapes to find specific information. Use a tape recorder with a counter (the little odometer-like numbers that show where you are on the tape). Then, while the story is playing, keep the tape recorder near you and write down key words along with the counter numbers as the speaker says them. Later, you can fast-forward the tape to specific numbers to find key ideas.


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Electronic Books (e-Books)

This new medium for book reading provides a computer version of many popular and classic stories, magazines and newspapers.
E-books, the small hand-held reading devices, can be carried and read anywhere, and add powerful electronic features for note taking, fast navigation, and key word searches to look for a character's name or find a specific part to read again. Books and articles are selected from websites and then downloaded to an e-book via your computer or as e-mail attachments. Information below is for hand-held devices. See the Reading module for information on e-Readers for desktop computers.


Portable e-Book Devices

Franklin combines the features of a Personal Information Organizer with e-book Reader capabilities in their eBookman. You can download books to read and listen to audio books or music (with audible.com). It offers organizer capabilities as well as voice recording and handwriting recognition.


eBook is currently available in two models from Gemstar: the GEB 1150 (previously Rocket eBook) and the larger, full-color GEB 2150. Features include the ability to take notes in the margins, use the touch screen to bookmark pages and to increase the size of the font. Download commercial eBooks from the Gemstar site. The Gemstar website is also a great information source for electronic books and other materials.



TumbleBooks™ are animated picture books, complete with text, music, sound and narration, for children five to eight years old. Purchase and download stories from the web. TumbleReader allows you to read the books on your computer or Pocket PC.


PDA e-Readers

Microsoft Reader (2.0) is a free e-book reader comes installed on most Pocket PC 2002 devices. This allows you to read any e-book on your Pocket PC. You can install Encarta® Pocket Dictionary today and start using the Lookup feature in Microsoft Reader to find instant definitions. Free translation dictionaries are also available. Free e-books are available for the MS Reader from Audible.com, Slate.com and the UVA eText Center.

Similarly, Palm OS hand-held devices offer a free Palm Reader in order to read the e-books in several different languages. You can find several free books at Palm Digital Media and the UVA eText Center. Several e-book Cliff Notes are also available!




Barnes & Noble Helps Books Go Digital
Gopika Vaidya, IDG News Service
Friday, January 05, 2001

Curl Up With an Electronic Book
Linda L. Grubbs, PC World
Friday, April 07, 2000

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project


Writing Aids

Pens & Grips Notes Portable Desks/Stands Electronic Tools

Like reading, writing skills also can be enhanced with no or low-tech aids and devices. Office and business supply stores have a wealth of materials that can support writing activities. Start looking at "standard" tools with new and creative uses in mind.

  • Simple adaptations, like smooth-writing pens that are comfortable to hold, can make the difference between needing physical assistance and working independently.
  • Having materials well positioned may be all that's needed to make them accessible.


Pens & Grips

Marker Pens & Uniball Vision Roller Pens (Sanford)
These pens have thick barrels to hold onto and a broad enough point to make a wide line that can hide unsteady writing. Sharpie fine points and Expresso medium point pens are favorites.

Built-up Grips

Built-up grips (Sammons Preston)
Some students can more easily grasp and hold pens, pencils or markers if they're built up and made larger. There are several non-slip "pencil grips" on the market that can help. (Students have slid a foam roller over a pencil grip to make it even bigger.)

Model Magic (Crayola)
For a real customized fit; wrap a small amount of Model Magic clay around the writing tool. Place the student's hand around it and gently press and remove. The customized hand mold will dry and be ready to use after one hour!

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Post-it Notes (3M)
Tack notes on computer screens, books, papers, and use for notices anywhere. Dispensers are heavy-weighted for easy, one-handed dispensing.

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Portable Desks/Stands

Portable desk

Portable desks can provide a stable writing surface for students in different positions. This "editor's desk" by Levenger's consists of a slanted writing surface with an upper shelf to hold books and papers in a comfortable reading position. The bottom has a ledge to prevent pencils from rolling off. The stand creates the ideal writing angle.

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Electronic Tools

Micro-cassette Recorders
If a student can't write, he or she can still record information with a cassette recorder while in the cafeteria, on the playground, on the bus or walking down the street. Use it to record class activities, homework assignments or your own brainstorms. Any inexpensive model ($30 or less) will do. Buy them from electronic stores or mail order companies.

Speaking Language Master

Speaking Language Master (Franklin)
The Franklin Speaking Language Master uses state-of-the-art speech technology to pronounce words aloud. It also provides an expanded dictionary, an extensive thesaurus and spelling correction. A built-in guide and word games complete this ultimate language resource.

Speaking Spelling and Handwriting Ace

Speaking Spelling and Handwriting Ace (Franklin)
The Ace pronounces and correctly spells 80,000 words for auditory reinforcement. A keyboard echo lets the student hear each letter pronounced as the key is pressed.


Speaking Homework

Speaking Homework WizT (Franklin)
The Wiz answers the question "How can I look it up if I don't know how to spell it?" It includes spell check and dictionary features. Moreover, it pronounces all words and provides definitions!

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project


Math Aids

Stamps & Rulers Calculators

Math aids are probably the most "mainstream" low-tech devices. Everyone uses calculators! The advantages of such aids are obvious:

  • Math devices speed up calculation time and generally improve accuracy.
  • Use of a calculator can be a "first step" into the use of keyboards and electronic technology.
  • Providing alternate ways to "write" numbers offers students the option to work more independently.


Stamps & Rulers

Number Stamps
Stamps can be used for math activities instead of pens and pencils. Find them at office supply or teacher stores.

Raised Number Ruler

Raised Number Rulers (Fiskars)
These rulers have easy-to-read raised numbers and are made of shatter-resistant plastic. Available in a variety of sizes, they feature both inch and metric scales.



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MathLine (Howbrite Solutions, Inc) (Don Johnston, Inc.)
This is an actual math line that can be held and manipulated by a wide range of students. Move the rings down the line to see how numbers represent size and quantity. Manuals and videos on using this self-contained math tool are also available.


The Coin-U-Lator

The Coin-U-Lator (PCI Educational Publishing)
This hand-held, coin-counting calculator makes counting money fun and easy. This battery-operated device allows students of different abilities to add and subtract coin denominations while teaching the different values of each coin. It can add or subtract any combination of coins and bills up to $99.99, It also has two different coin games.

Basic Student Calc-U-Vue® (Learning Resources)
This primary calculator 3.25" x 4.6" has four basic functions, 3-key memory, +/-, percent, square root keys, and an 8-digit LCD display.


Texas Instruments Elementary Calculator TI-108 (Northwest Educational Sales, Inc.)
This is a basic four-function calculator for elementary classrooms.


Fraction MAte FX-55

Fraction Mate FX-55 (Casio)
The Fraction Mate is a great calculator for children in 4th - 8th grades. It allows children to see fractions on the screen. Fractions can be shown as mixed numbers, improper fractions and decimal equivalents. The Fraction Mate even shows integer division with remainders. It has a large easy-to-read display and slide-on hard case. (Radio Shack also sells a version of this calculator.)


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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project


Miscellaneous Aids

Specialty Devices VCR/TV Controllers

Routine tasks and leisure activities are part of everyone's day. Here are a few specially designed aids that can help make them more accessible to a greater number of students.

Specialty Devices

Flash (Franklin)
Electronic devices can help students be better organized. "Flash", by Franklin, includes a Phone Book, a Schedule Keeper, Birthday Reminders and more! Homework assignments can be entered and checked.




TimePAD (Attainment Co.)
This hand held device includes five recorded messages that can be activated by a timer. Set the alarm to play your recorded messages at just the right time. For example, "math class is next-- bring the calculator". Students can record homework assignments. Teachers can use it to break down tasks. It can also function as an expressive communication aid. Just press the message buttons to talk.




Talking Keychain Clock (Attainment Co.)
This is a portable, digital clock with speech output. Press the "play" button to hear the time. Speech is clear and easy to understand for students with low vision and those who understand the time better with an auditory cue. It is also useful for learning time-telling skills.


Talking Keychain Clock

All-Turn-It T Spinner (Ablenet, Inc.)
Using this spinner for curriculum adaptations, everyone can play and anyone can win! Even students with severe disabilities can be active participants in many commercially available games. There are also accessory packages available for Golf, Bowling and Bingo and for creating your own spinner games. It requires the use of any single switch.

All-Turn-It Spinner

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VCR/TV Controllers

TV and VCR Remote

TV & VCR Remote (Ablenet, Inc.)
This single switch device is designed to work like a Universal Remote and is simple to program! To control a TV, the first activation is "on". Each subsequent touch "advances" one channel. To control a VCR, the first activation sets the TV to the correct station and starts the "play" function.

TV/VCR/Cable Remote

TV/VCR/Cable Remote (Enabling Devices)
This cordless remote unit allows the user to control the basic functions of a TV, VCR, or cable box by simply operating one or more switches! It accommodates 5 switches--one for each function.

Single Switch TV, VCR and Cable Control Unit

Single Switch TV, VCR and Cable Control Unit (Enabling Devices)
This cordless TV, VCR and Cable Control remote controls the basic functions of all three units simply by operating a scan with a single switch.

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WATI Initiative (1997). Designing environments for successful kids: A resource manual. WATI: Amherst, WI. http://www.wati.org/

High & Low Tech Tools for People with Learning Disabilities. Richard Wandeman's Tips: http://www.ldonline.org/bulletin_boards/techtalk/rwanderman.html



copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project