What Does Your Assistive Technology Truly Cost?

In today’s society, there’s no doubt that educational funding is tight. Budget cuts, outdated materials, and teachers spending their own money on classroom supplies are common in today’s schools.

That means it’s more important than ever to allocate your budget wisely and get the most bang for your buck. With more than 6.5 million students receiving special education services and 1 in 5 students dealing with learning and attention issues, assistive technology is a must-have resource in the classroom.

However, when it comes to spending money on assistive technology software for your school, proceed with caution. Not all assistive technology products are created equal, and those “cost-effective” options may end up costing your school precious time, money, and energy down the road.

Below are a few questions you may want to ask to determine if the money you’re investing in assistive technology software will pay off for your students and the district.

Is the assistive technology you’re using created by a reputable company?

Easy access to information, technology, and other resources means almost anyone can create and market “assistive technology” products nowadays. While having a variety of options is great, it’s important to fully vet the company your school or district plans to buy assistive technology from before making a commitment.

While a distinguished assistive technology company will be in it for the long haul, a less reliable company may quickly move on to the next big thing, impacting the future usability and value of their product. Less reputable companies may also lack the industry knowledge, longevity, and support necessary to create high-quality educational software for schools.

When researching various assistive

technology products and companies your school should partner with, look for things like:

  • A specific focus on products for the education industry
  • Research-based results, or a proven track record, for working with schools and students
  • Recommendations and name recognition from leaders in the disability and education communities
  • A long-standing company history

With those things in mind, you can be sure you’re investing in a product actually designed to meet the needs of your students, and working alongside an educational technology company committed to helping you in the long-term.

How often is the technology updated to protect against security threats?

In the age of the internet, bugs, viruses, hacking, and other online security threats are very real concerns for anyone using web-based software. Security breaches can be costly and time-consuming for your school district, costing more than $200 per compromised record.

Many unreliable AT software companies don’t take the time and energy to update their product against possible security risks. While these updates may seem trivial and oftentimes unnoticeable to users, you may be more susceptible to potential security threats without them.

That’s why it’s so important to partner with an educational technology company that actively makes updates and security improvements to fix vulnerabilities in their software.

There’s no “sure thing” when it comes to online security, but frequent software updates are an important step in protecting users against threats and keeping private information as safe as possible.

Can the technology provide a secure environment for testing?

Speaking of security, you’ll also want to be sure whatever technology you invest in can provide a secure environment for test-taking. When providing accommodations for standardized tests or high-stakes exams like the ACT, SAT, or GRE, security and privacy become even more of an issue.

The National Department of Education outlines best practices and recommendations to prevent testing irregularities, noting “high-profile and systemic incidents of cheating” in recent years. The policy highlights the importance of limiting web browsers 

and computer applications for more secure testing.

If the assistive technology utilized during testing is using web-based tech to read aloud, it may not be secure. You and your students are better off utilizing a text-to-speech software that has an “offline mode” that works without an internet connection. It’s more secure, students only have access to the accommodations they need, and it reduces any possible issues with internet speed or bad connections.

Learn more about testing accommodations.

Is the technology buggy or glitchy?

Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of using a buggy software or app that freezes, runs slowly, or constantly crashes. If that happens too often, chances are you’ll become disengaged or stop using the product completely.

In fact, almost 1 in 4 users abandon an app after one use and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. The last thing you want is to waste money on free or low cost assistive technology software that your students and teachers won’t use in the classroom due to glitches.

Take the time to do your research before making any type of long term or financial commitment to a product. Read what others in the educational sphere are saying about various text-to-speech products or, better yet, let your students and teachers try things out and share feedback.

People are generally outspoken when things don't work out the way they should, so you should get a pretty good idea about the pros and cons of various software. In the end, that research and feedback will help you invest in assistive technology that will be the best fit for your school.

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Does the company provide good customer service and tech support?

In the event there is a security issue or glitch with your text-to-speech software, you shouldn’t have to handle it alone.

Successful technology integration involves ongoing support and learning opportunities, which means good customer service and technical support are critical.

An educational technology company should strive to develop an ongoing partnership with you, help meet educational goals, and go out of the way to ensure the software is working properly and used to its full capacity in your school.

Unfortunately, not all educational technology companies provide top-notch customer service. Those with a strong customer service team will offer existing and prospective customers things like:

  • Quick responses to issues and questions before and after you buy
  • A full onboarding and software integration plan
  • Setup and installation troubleshooting
  • Private online or in-person workshops
  • An online FAQ section, how-to guides, and tutorials

Proper integration, ongoing support, and an in-depth understanding of the software’s capabilities will help teachers and students get the most out of the product, which means you get the most value out of your investment.

Experience Kurzweil Education

At Kurzweil Education, our text-to-speech products offer learners new multisensory approaches to read, comprehend, synthesize, apply, and demonstrate their knowledge. We’d love to talk to you about what we do and why our education technology products are a great long-term investment for your school.

Watch smart tips for selecting tech for your school: