Bett UK

22-24 January 2025

Bett Brasil

28 April - 1 May 2025

Bett Asia

4-5 October 2023

Bett Articles

29 May 2024

Using accessible technology to unlock education for students

Bett in partnership with Fil McIntyre, Manager and Assistive Technology Lead, TechAbility.
Using accessible technology to unlock education for students
Assistive technology expert Fil McIntyre explains the vital importance of accessibility awareness, and signposts the road to more inclusive classrooms.

For many of us, technology makes things easier, faster, or more enjoyable. But for countless students in classrooms worldwide, technology makes things possible , and it can be the key to helping them fully realise their potential. 
Today, the range of digital assistive technology is varied and advanced enough to help unlock learning for disabled students and those with learning differences. As a few examples, for students who have visual impairments, cameras, zooming and screen-reading software can make classroom resources much more accessible. For hearing-impaired students, personal amplification systems and auto-captioning can enable clearer communication and understanding. Picture-supported text, visual schedules or augmented communication tools can help students with intellectual disabilities make sense of the world around them. In addition, students may have more than one disability and therefore benefit from multiple tools.
Building more inclusive classrooms
Today’s array of technology gives greater opportunities for  every student to participate in education – but first, they need to access that technology.  

Assistive Technology still hasn’t found its way into the hands of many of the students who need it most. In 2023, the UK government estimated that 1.5 million pupils had specialised educational needs in England alone. That number has increased year on year. In this landscape, it’s crucial we invest in tools and practices that can give these students the education they need and deserve. 

So how do we get there from where we are today? 

Through my work and research, I’ve observed three keys to enabling access to assistive technology tools in education: general staff knowledge, specialist support, and leadership. 

Awareness is the first and most important step. Before we even think about designing or implementing solutions, educators need to know that there is potential to adapt the way technologies are accessed. Teachers are already stretched thin, and they may not even realise that it’s possible to tailor hardware and software to improve accessibility - this includes the technology they already have in their hands. 

After that hurdle, we need to start thinking about students who may need further adaptations. This is where assistive technology specialists can come in. When existing resources aren't enough, students will need more in-depth assessment or a tailored approach. Specialists have expertise in various assistive technologies, both software and hardware, and can recommend the right tools to bridge learning gaps. Specialists can also act as facilitators, collaborating with teachers, therapists, and other professionals to ensure  students’ access is  considered at all stages and in all settings. This could be a huge help to teachers who are already managing expanding class sizes and working long hours, providing them with the support and knowledge to help their students succeed. 

The last part, leadership, brings in an organisational approach and intention. We’ve seen a shift in education settings  where technology is embedded in education and pedagogy; there would be immense value in seeing that extended to accessible technology. This kind of leadership goes beyond individual schools or colleges and moves into how we design education delivery and set standards. A relevant  example is when the University of Aberdeen integrated inclusive pedagogy across their teacher training, rather than in one-off modules or specialised training. Applying this approach to ensuring inclusive technology is integrated into teacher training and CPD could make a world of difference to our students. Leaders in education should promote a wider view that accessible technology isn’t an additional nice-to-have – it's vital for every student to have a fair chance at learning. 

Rethinking accessibility 

The good news is that – while there is still work to do -- awareness about the importance of accessibility has increased across the board. 

Most major technology offerings – Google, Microsoft and Apple – have powerful accessibility features, just waiting in settings. These companies are keen to show how their products can support students and how built-in settings can replace what would previously have required add-on software.

Within government, the Department for Education is very open to consulting on accessibility when they are producing new resources or guidance. They refer to an Assistive Technology consultation group, for example, with educators and experts from the University of Dundee, the University of Southampton, TechAbility and the British Assistive Technology association. We’re seeing a more concerted push for these tools to be available, and to be understood.
But keeping this momentum going won’t happen without collaborative effort from everyone. To realise the potential of assistive technology, we need increased awareness and engagement at the community level – from educators, parents and policymakers.  

We can start that process today, by familiarising ourselves with the tools that are already built into the platforms we have, and through opening discussions about solutions and adjustments that have worked. With a focus on staff awareness, specialist support, and leadership, schools and educators can help unlock the potential of every student.  


Fil McIntyre supports organisations and individuals to deliver technology solutions which enhance life, learning and communication. He has provided training in assistive technology hardware and software to a wide range of professionals from schools, colleges, universities, charities and healthcare. Fil moved to managing TechAbility full time in February 2021 after three years in a split role between TechAbility and Beaumont College in Lancaster. At Beaumont College, Fil was the Lead Assistive Technologist where he managed a team which assessed and supported students to gain maximum advantage from technology. Prior to Beaumont College, as part of The BRITE Initiative, Fil delivered Assistive Technology training and support to every college in Scotland. He has also been part of the training team at Inclusive Technology and developed the first assistive technology post at Seashell Trust specialist school and college.

To find out more about Fil's drive to make education #BetterTogether, press play below. 




  • accessibility
  • accessible
  • assistive
  • awareness
  • college
  • education
  • educators
  • help
  • inclusive
  • Leadership
  • learning
  • make
  • more
  • need
  • potential
  • software
  • students
  • support
  • technology
  • tools
  • training
  • unlock
  • using
Take me back to the hub

Our Partners