What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks they are unable to accomplish or have great difficulty accomplishing. 

Assistive technology allows individuals with disabilities to function independently in the community and in educational and employment settings.  

An assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially modified or customized that is used to increase maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)).

AT devices must be accompanied by AT services which assist an individual with a disability in the selection, purchase or use of an assistive technology device. 

Speech-Generating Communication Device

Communication Device

portable electronic magnifer

Portable Electronic Magnifier

amplification system

FM Listening System

Types of AT Devices

Aids to Daily Living (ADL): Products used to aid with eating, bathing, cooking, dressing and home care.  Readily available and include such items as adaptive feeding equipment, shower chairs, and locating and identifying aids
Sensory Aids: Devices used by persons with visual and auditory disabilities including eyeglasses, electronic magnifying devices, hearing aids, telecommunication aids, adapted software and Braille output devices

Mobility Aids:  Equipment that assists individuals to walk, sit, stand or transition from one position to another.  These devices include wheelchairs, stair-lifts,  three-wheeled scooters, canes, crutches, walkers.

Communication Aids: Devices used as a substitution for the natural voice.  These devices are used with persons who are non-verbal or who have limited or distorted speech.  Devices include communication boards or pictures, speech generating devices, eye-gaze systems and mobile applications.  Also known as Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices (AAC).

Computer and Information Technology Access: Alternative methods for accessing computers, software, electronic devices and telecommunications equipment.  Such AT includes alternative keyboards and mice, headsticks, voice recognition and text-to-speech software including software for literacy and education.  

The world of assistive technology also encompasses seating and positioning, ergonomics, prosthetics and orthotics, architectural modifications, environmental control systems and transportation adaptations.

Types of AT Services

AT services consists of a comprehensive process of assessments, strategies, and follow-up provided to the consumer and related to his/her adaptive equipment.

A successful technology intervention depends on the provision of appropriate and continual AT services

Services will vary based on the individual's needs, the AT device or system, desired outcomes and by practitioner standards.

Assessment - Evaluation of a person's AT needs based on physical, cognitive and sensory capabilities. Encompasses goals, desired outcomes and environment.  Results in a recommendation of technology, a device modification or a strategic plan.

Device Demonstration and Trial Use - Individual becomes familiar with and utilizes the recommended AT in his/her most environment

Implementation: Technology is procured, installed and configured to meet individual needs and environments

Training: Delivered to the AT user and to all involved persons, i.e; family members, caregivers, teachers, service providers. Extremely important for a successful assistive technology intervention

Technical Assistance: On-going troubleshooting; re-integration, refresher training; follow-up as needed

Maintenance and Repair: As needed

"Making Independence Possible"