Assistive technology is a broad term that encompasses any device or service that helps people with disabilities to live more independently and productively. It can include anything from wheelchairs and hearing aids to software and apps that help with communication, learning, and mobility. Assistive technology can be used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. The Technology-Related Assistance to Persons with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Technology Act) first defined an assistive technology device as any item, equipment, or product system, whether commercially purchased, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities.
Examples of assistive technology devices include wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthetics, communication devices, and software programs. Assistive technology services are any direct assistance to a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of the assistive technology device. This could include physical therapy to use a wheelchair or special education services needed to receive the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) provides resources and experience in assistive technology to help people make decisions and obtain the technology and related services needed for work, education and independent living.
ATIA members offer a variety of assistive technology products and services; their websites are listed in the ATIA member directory.If a student, parent, teacher, or other member of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team notices that assistive technology is not being considered and believes that it should be, they should raise their concern at the annual IEP meeting or request a meeting to discuss assistive technology. If the IEP team determines that assistive technology is not necessary for the student's needs, the student's parents or teachers can request a reevaluation of the student.Most of the time, the choice of an assistive technology device is a decision made with a team of professionals and consultants trained to adapt certain assistive technologies to specific needs. It is important to consider what type of device is appropriate for the individual's needs and abilities. The ATIA website provides tips on what to consider when buying assistive technology to ensure that the assistive technology is appropriate.Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking and many other things.
It reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 people in need has access to assistive technology due to high costs and lack of knowledge, availability, trained staff, policies and funding.