What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology (AT) is a common term used for assistive and adaptive devices for people with disabilities. An assistive technology devise is any item used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a person with a disability.
The devices can provide more freedom and control in your life. For some people, assistive technology is the difference between independence and total dependence on others. Assistive Technology can range from very simple 'low-tech' devices to sophisticated, expensive systems. Whether low or high-tech, the technology must meet your needs. If AT is purchased, but not used, then it is wasted.
What can Assistive Technology do?
Assistive technology (AT) helps you access the same things that people without disabilities access. AT may help you to travel, work, meet people, learn, etc.
Examples of ways AT allows people with disabilities to live and work include:
- A wheelchair or scooter may provide freedom of travel.
- Hand-held GPS tools help people with vision problems travel busy city streets and use public transportation.
- Ramps, automatic door openers, grab bars, and wider doorways mean access to buildings and spaces.
- Electronic devices such as a calculator, spell checker, and dictionary can help a person in school and on the job.
- Learning and work aids such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips let students and employees work.
- Accessible movie theaters have captioning and audio description for people with hearing or visual problems.
- Devices to assist a person with daily living tasks are available, such as a one-handed cutting board, cabinet mounted can opener, and medicine dispenser with an alarm.
Choosing the Right Assistive Technology Device(s)
To choose the assistive technology (AT) products that meet your unique needs, an AT assessment should be done. The assessment can be done through a local school district, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Utah Center for Assistive Technology, an independent living center, or a private provider.
Begin your search for the right AT devices by considering your goals or the specific tasks that you would like to accomplish. For example, a person with limited hand control may want to improve their writing skills. Someone with limited vision may want to find an easier way to read books or other print material.
Once you know what it is you want to do, contact one of the assistive technology resource services listed below. Explain your needs and goals, and ask if they have AT devices you can try. It is always a good idea to try the AT products in the environment where you will use them. If you can borrow a device and try it at home, at school, at work, or in the community, for a week or a month, you will have a much better idea if the device is going to meet your needs.
AT and the Schools
Students in public schools setting who have an IEP (Individual Education Program) or 504 Plan may also have access to assistive technology. It is the student's team's decision when considering special education services, related serves or supplementary aids and services, or accommodation needs. As the student's team determines the student's needs, it may determine the need for assistive technology. The school district's UAACT Team (Utah Augmentative Alternative Assistive Communication and Technology Teams) may conduct an assessment and make recommendations. This information is then included in the student's plan.
The team will then plan and provide training to staff or parents to ensure the assistive technology is used correctly. It is also the team's decision if the technology will be used both at school and at home. Students with disabilities in local schools should contact their teachers and school team to decide what is appropriate.
To help you with AT you can go to:
- Hey, I Can Try That! Assistive Technology Student Workbook (PDF)
- Connecticut State Office of Education Site - Guidelines for Assistive Technology (PDF)
Utah Resources for AT
- Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) acts as the center point of assistive technology services statewide. They help people with disabilities and families choose, try out, buy and learn to use AT devices that can help them with their disabilities.
- Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) provides AT devices and services, and train university students, parents, children with disabilities and professional service providers about AT. We coordinate our services with community organizations and others who provide independence-related support to individuals with disabilities.
- Utah Augmentative Alternative Assistive Communication and Technology Teams (UAAACT) is a resource for assessment and development of communication and technology systems. For students in K-12 education, who are nonspeaking or severely limited in their quality of speech or written language. UAAACT teams have been established for the purpose of assessing student communication needs and for providing consultation to IEP (Individualized Education Plan) teams for ongoing programming.
- Centers for Independent Living: The staff of each center provides information and services to potential clients and their caregivers, including AT.
- Utah Assistive Technology Foundation is a private, non-profit organization that works with Zions Bank of Utah to provide low-interest loans to purchase assistive technology and telework devices. UATF also offers small grants of $250 or less on a limited basis through non-federal funding to families who meet federal poverty guidelines.
National Resources and Information
- Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative: WATI provides training and specific strategies to increase the capacity of school districts to provide AT services. Included are model forms, suggested procedures, resource materials and access to assistive technology for trial use. The activities are grouped into four major components: provision of regional and local training; local technical assistance; increased access to resources; and development of a collegial support and technical assistance network of individuals across the state.
- Leveling the Playing Field - Technology as an Equalizer in Education, Transition to Careers and Daily Life (PDF): This publication emphasizes the national movement toward universal design of precuts and the benefit for all persons. IT promotes greater awareness of some of the efforts to enhance the lives of youth with disabilities.
- Computer Technology in Special Education and Rehabilitation provides parents and teachers with the information and training needed to find, compare, and use assistive technology.