Access Technology Skills

A student uses a braille notetaker, QWERTY keyboard, and iPad.

Image shows a logo with an outline of an iPhone.Technology is everywhere in home, school, and community living. Access technologies provide access to information for learning, social interaction, or leisure. We have come to rely on technology for many forms of our daily communication and productivity tasks.

Access technology skills include knowing how to operate and maintain devices, navigate operating systems, and decide which device to use for different tasks.

On this page:

Check out the Access Technology Skills section in #Outreaching - the blog of the PRCVI Outreach Team.

Connections to the BC Curriculum – Core Competencies

The BC Curriculum emphasizes Communication and Critical Thinking as a core competency with the goal that all students understand and engage in digital media and that students reflect on their own thinking and that of others.

The Communication Curriculum identifies four facets of communication competency:

  • Connect and engage with others (to share and develop ideas)
  • Acquire, interpret, and present information (includes inquiries)
  • Collaborate to plan, carry out, and review constructions and activities
  • Explain/recount and reflect on experiences and accomplishments

The Critical Thinking Curriculum identifies three facets of student development:

  • Analyze and critique
  • Question and investigate
  • Develop and design

Access Technology Skills - Students with Visual Impairments

The use of technology for communication and productivity in our daily lives is widespread. For students with visual impairments to participate fully and independently, they require access to current and accessible technology. Access technology has improved greatly in the field of vision that consumer technology like smartphones, laptops and tablets come with built-in accessible features. Dedicated access devices like braille notetakers go even further in supporting the specific needs for access or learning material formats.

When it comes to technology, students with visual impairments need to have the same access, knowledge and skills as their sighted peers. This can also mean that students will have multiple devices and that they are able to select the appropriate access technology (e.g. software or hardware) for the task (Kamei-Hannan, Brostek Lee, & Presley, 2017). Students need to learn how to use technology so that they are independent and efficient.

Note on nomenclature: At PRCVI we have elected to refer to this area of the ECC as "Access Technology" as opposed to the more common "Assistive Technology." We believe that the term "Access Technology" better represents the principles of inclusive design as applied to access to learning for visually impaired students. Per Siu & Presley (2020): "[T]he environmental barriers to print and digital information for blind and visually impaired people can be broken down not so much by “assisting” the individual but by ensuring accessible environments and appropriate tools and training are available to ensure a person’s equitable access to information."

Examples of Access Technology Skills

  • General device knowledge/maintenance: Knows the function of buttons and ports, ensure battery is charged, save transportation and/or storage, starting up and shutting down the device
  • Accessing online information: Using a search engine, filling out forms, downloading a document, navigating web pages
  • Email: Download email, read email, send an attachment

Resources to Support Instruction

PRCVI Library Catalogue & Website 

Siu, Y.-T. & Presley, I. (2020). Access technology for blind and low vision accessibility (2nd Ed.). American Printing House for the Blind. [Professional Text].
This text from renowned AT experts introduces access technology through an inquiry-based approach focused on empowering visually impaired students. 
PRCVI. Select posts from our #Outreaching blog related to access technology. 
  • Setting Up Windows for Low Vision - covers Windows built-in accessibility features including display settings, high-contrast settings, and magnification, and links to resources and training materials from Microsoft.
  • NVDA Features for Teachers - covers the Focus Highlight and Braille Viewer features of NVDA and suggestions for how TSVIs may use these features with their students.
  • Resources to Introduce VoiceOver for iOS - includes resources and suggestions for introducing students to VoiceOver on the iPhone or iPad.
PRCVI (2019). Digital literacy & multimedia #a11y with Dr. Ting Sui. Retrieved from
Resource page from a two-day workshop with Dr. Siu. Links and documents are linked on the page, along with an overview video from Dr. Siu on the role of the TVI as Accessibility Facilitator. 
PRCVI (2020). Remote learning and non-visual #a11y. Retrieved from
Set of resource guides devoted to improving access to online learning and remote teaching for students using non-visual access technologies. 

Web-Based Resources

Blind Beginnings (2022). All About Braille Displays. Retrieved from:
AppleVis (n.d.).
Comprehensive web resource and community forum for users of Apple products. 
Kelso, E. (n.d.). Overview of assistive technology. Retrieved from
Introductory page surveying the various domains of access technology for students with visual impairments. 
MuseScore BVBA (2020). Musescore music editor. Retrieved from 
Do you have a student who needs a way to compose music? MuseScore is an open-source music editor featuring screen reader accessibility (with NVDA) as one of its flagship features! This software can be used to compose music that can then be printed for sighted music teachers or peers.
Perkins School for the Blind (2019). Paths to technology. Retrieved from
Comprehensive web resource from the Perkins School for the Blind with access technology-focused content for practitioners, students, and parents
Ruel, A. (2020, November 3). Basic Windows from the Keyboard Tutorials on the CCB Podcast. Retrieved from
This series of ten podcast tutorial starts from the beginning with instructions on how to use the Start menu and Desktop and progresses through to using Microsoft’s suite of productivity software (Word, Outlook).
SET-BC. Mountbatten Pro Braille Writer Resources

Developed by Graham Cook, this series of ten Mountbatten Pro lesson plan modules contains strategies and ideas that will serve as a resource and teaching guide for vision professionals. The second document, MB Pro - A Visual Guide, was developed to help teams become familiar with the hardware.

Image shows a table with the distribution of disability types across survey participants. WebAIM (2021). WebAIM screen reader user survey #9 results. Retrieved from
The results of the most recent survey of screen reader users conducted by WebAIM. TSVIs will find lots of useful information on trends and perspectives on how screen reading software is being used by consumers.
WebAIM. (2020). Keyboard Shortcuts for JAWS.
While students have been learning from home these last few months, our outreach team has received several requests for a handy list of JAWS shortcuts to share with students and families. Here is a great one from WebAIM!
Whitaker, E. (2021, May 14). Improve your View of Windows 10 and JAWS. Retrieved from
Many TVIs look for opportunities to better support their students learning to use screen reading software. This webinar from APH looks at strategies to help teachers support students in navigating and searching the Windows 10 operating system.


Kamei-Hannan, C., Brostek Lee, D., & Presley, I. (2017). Assistive technology. In Foundations of Education (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 611–653). New York, NY: AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind.

Presley, I., & D’Andrea, F. M. (2008). Assistive technology for students who are blind or visually impaired: a guide to assessment. New York, NY: AFB Press.

Siu, Y.-T., & Presley, I. (2020). Access technology for blind and low vision access accessibility (2nd Ed.). American Printing House for the Blind.

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