Products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
The Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (P.L. 100-407) defines assistive technology as “products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” IDEA (2004) also recognized that assistive technology is a critical instrument in meeting the educational and overall developmental needs of students with disabilities in school. Some people with disabilities are enabled to study, work, and perform daily activities thanks to assistive technology such as brace, walker, wheelchair, computer hardware and software, communication devices, and so on.
Assistive technology includes low, medium, or high technology devices or products that aid individuals with disabilities to better function. Low technology strategies do not involve any type of electronic or battery-operated device. It includes low-cost and easy-to-use equipment, such as white boards, clipboards, laminated photographs, photo albums, three-ring binders, PECS, etc. Medium technology includes the use of battery-operated devices or basic/simple electronic devices, such as tape recorders, voice output devices, and calculators. They are primarily used as a means to support expressive communication and enhance classroom participation, focus attention on various skill areas, and assist in the development of social skills. High technology involves high-cost equipment, such as computers and adaptive hardware, smart boards, iPad, digital cameras, camcorders, and complex voice output devices. Computers, including desktop, laptop, and handheld devices are used to increase motivation, decrease inappropriate behavior, and increases attention for students with Autism.
Applications (Apps) for electronic devices like Apple iPads and Google Android are available for students with disabilities to increase communication. The new portable hardware and software with easy navigation and clear layout make them great devices for everyday use and more accessible for many students. These devices are small, low cost compared to other expensive devices, easy to obtain and transport, and more importantly not only individuals with disabilities use them, but also individuals without disabilities use them.
To determine what kind of assistive technology will be needed for students with disabilities, this need should be assessed and discussed during the IEP meeting. Learning to use the assistive technology should begin early and in many different settings as possible. If the person is a client of the Department of Rehabilitation, he/she can discuss what assistive device would help them to perform work related activities. Assistive technology needed for medical needs can be provided by private health insurance or MediCare/MediCaid.
More information on assistive technology can be found at the website of the Department of Labor. The Independent Living Centers will provide information on how to negotiate with private health insurance companies about the needed assistive technology. One Stop employment support organization also provides information on assistive technology related employment. Work related assistive technology can be funded by the employer through the tax-exempt program or the Department of Rehabilitation.
The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) provides intensive database for assistive technology programs. Their Pass It One Center accepts donation of the used devices and distributes them to people who need them for a minimal handling fee or free of charge.
Information can be found at the websites below or the resource file.
- Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers
National Technical Assistance Center
Tel: (888) 248-0822
Web site: www.taalliance.org
- ATA—Alliance for Technology Access
- Closing the Gap
Tel: (507) 248-3294
Web site: www.closingthegap.com
- Family Center on Technology and Disability