Techsplaining 101: Assistive Technology

by Dylan Connors, IT Services

Technology is such a crucial element in our everyday lives. It allows us to be productive, socialize, and work across a wide variety of spaces. However, we don’t often consider how technology is more than just our computers and phones. 

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. Here at Miami, there are many different tools available to assist students in learning and managing their workloads, and to aid in providing equal opportunities. That is where the AccessMU Center comes in. 

AccessMU Center

An angled photo of the AccessMU Center with a close up of the wall that reads "AccessMU Center" against a red background. To the left you can see a glimpse of an office space with desks and computers. The AccessMU Center is a department within IT Services that is dedicated to building a more accessible learning environment for students with and without disabilities. Located in room 316 of the Shriver Center, the AccessMU Center plays a crucial role in fostering an inclusive environment by addressing the barriers faced by students with disabilities.

ElizaMarie Quinn-Alger, AccessMU’s Accessible Technology Coordinator thinks of it "like looking past a fence." She explains, "In this analogy, the fence represents the challenges and obstacles that hinder the full participation of all students in the educational experience. While students without disabilities can naturally see over the metaphorical fence, AccessMU acts as a metaphorical stepping stool."

By providing specialized support for AT accommodations, AccessMU ensures that students with disabilities have the AT tools and resources necessary to overcome these barriers. AccessMU's role is not just about supporting AT accommodations; it is also about providing an environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive, contribute, and be an integral part of the academic community at Miami.

Most Popular Tools

AccessMU has a plethora of amazing AT available to students to help them tackle the challenges they might face. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular tools available in the AccessMU Center.

Livescribe SmartPen

The Livescribe smart pen assists students with many different types of disabilities when it comes to taking notes. Close up of pen on notebok page. Bottom of notebook has "buttons" reading: intersecting lines each with an arrow at the end. record. pause. stop. the pen is hovering over the record button Using a special notebook, students can take notes and record them simultaneously, then listen back to the recording by tapping a word or sentence. This also allows students to stay organized with their notes, letting them review key concepts without getting lost.

C-Pen Reader

Close up of a book with the C-Pen hovering over the textThe C-Pen Reader supports students who have difficulty with reading comprehension or are English Language Learners (ELL). It can highlight words and sentences and read them out loud to you. Students can highlight their print textbooks or have their tests read to them. The C-Pen has numerous settings, allowing you to set the language, speed, and even accent you want to have read to you. 


Read&Write for Google Chrome Extension

Read&Write's logo: a purple puzzle piece with "rw" inside. then it reads "read&write for Google Chrome"

This learning tool is available to all Miami students, faculty, and staff. You can download this extension through Google Chrome to enhance online reading options. This tool provides many interactive features, such as a highlighter designed to aid students in improving their reading and language comprehension. You can also highlight phrases and words, which can be collected into a Google doc with a link back to the source.

The Importance of Assistive Technology

AT may seem like just simple tools or services, but its impact is critical to creating equal opportunities for all individuals. 

With the constant evolution of technology, AccessMU is extremely important, working hard to constantly improve and keep up with the newest programs and technologies. Supporting equal access means that students with all sorts of varying abilities can prosper, live independently, and have the same educational opportunities. 

"AT tools ensure that all students have an equal opportunity and level playing field in the learning process," said Quinn-Alger.

Access for All

The services of the AccessMU Center enable access for ALL, not just those with disabilities. Tools such as Ally help faculty learn how to make their learning materials accessible. Read&Write can help everyone when it comes to taking notes and understanding content, allowing for easier comprehension. AccessMU’s staff also works closely with faculty, helping to ensure course content is captioned appropriately. Assistive technology encourages everyone to work together to create a space where all students can prosper. 

How AccessMU is available to you

Students who require tools such as the Livescribe SmartPen must first become affiliated with the Miller Center for Student Disability Services. The Miller Center will work with the student and determine the appropriate assistive technology. The Access MU Center will then supply the student with the AT. If AccessMU does not support an AT tool that the student has used in the past, they are more than happy to discuss alternative options and solutions. 

And their support goes beyond AT. Quinn-Alger provides group and one-on-one training, going in depth on how to use the tools and different strategies for learning.

The AccessMU Center is always working hard to support every individual’s needs as best as they can to succeed. You can learn more about their services by visiting their website at