Laptop Computers for the Disabled Child

Adapted from: Unleashing the Power of Innovation for Assistive Technology, National Center for Technology Innovation 

IDEA requires schools to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Portable AT devices are helping boost student independence and redefine a schools requirement. The ability to move more freely among classes, electives, and extracurricular activities with technology means greater access to the general curriculum.

Portable AT is appearing more frequently on new laptop computers. Many laptops come standard with a host of accessibility features, including text-to-speech, highly customizable interfaces, and voice recognition. Most are capable of running almost any AT or mainstream software required. They also enable students to engage in digital games and provide an educational opportunity for students who have learning difficulties. Laptop computers are becoming more affordable and have a longer battery life than older models. Additionally, students using personal laptops with specialized software have the potential to:

  • Reduce the cost significantly of providing AT software to students
  • Reduce incompatibility issues
  • Eliminate the problem of too few AT software-equipped computers in schools, colleges, libraries, community centers, places of employment, etc.


With price tags starting at about $200.00, netbooks are a more-economical option than laptops for many users. Although these tiny versions of laptops are limited by their storage space and lack of a disk drive, other features make them a viable option. They generally weigh around 2.5lbs, compared to the 6lbs or more of a standard laptop. This small size makes it easy for a student to carry with them. It does not hurt their popularity that they look “cool”, which reduces the social stigma commonly associated with any device designated for students with disabilities. 

Innovation in portable devices is evolving to the point that they can allow students with disabilities the ability to experience schooling and community independence in powerful new ways. The potential for transitioning and working-age youth and adults with disabilities is only beginning to be explored.

Find Support

Do you have questions about making modifications to your home or vehicle?

Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences with changing homes and cars to better suit disabled children.


Looking for more information on Assistive Technology and Individualized Service Plans?

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
(877) 687-2842 (877) 687-2842

Alliance for Technology Access
(707) 778-3011 (707) 778-3011

National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP)
(703) 524-6686 (703) 524-6686