What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is the application of any technology to a human disability to improve access, function, or independence. This applies to technologies designed specifically for a disability as well as to the application of existing technologies to new uses or populations.

Categories of AT include power wheelchairs, ramps, vans, reading devices, speaking devices, writing devices, educational software, computer access tools, specialized utensils, special bath or toilet equipment, accessible kitchens, hand dexterity aids, environmental controls, door openers, adapted sports equipment, robotic limbs, even sailboat controls for quadriplegics or bikes that blind individuals can safely ride.

Specialists in AT are called Assistive Technology Professionals (ATPs) who adapt and apply existing technology to persons with a disability, or they may specialize in the invention, production, and distribution of devices. ATPs can be therapists, special educators, or engineers before they get involved with AT. Certification is provided by RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.

AT is important for special education departments in schools and colleges because consideration of the AT needs of a student is mandated by law. AT is important to employers, contractors who build public buildings, and transportation officials because of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. AT is important to the medical community because it is a natural extension of the rehabilitation disciplines to consider when a person receiving services needs special equipment to return to or to maintain independent living.

Finally, AT is great for everyone. We have noticed how much AT designed for people with a disability can help non-disabled people do things too. The idea that a new product or facility should be usable by anyone is called "universal access."

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Writing Support Keyboard


The "Fusion" by Advanced Keyboard Technologies, Inc.costs $239.00 and is a significant upgrade from the popular "Alpha-Smart" and "Neo" line of keyboards in use in many schools. I just got mine for the demonstration center, and I know the teachers in the schools I'm visiting are going to want this.

This is a lightweight, battery powered keyboard with an LCD screen that supports large fonts, word highlighting, text-to-speech, and word prediction. It also has a typing instruction program in it called "Perfect Form" for students who do hunt and peck typing.

Files can be saved onto a compact flash memory card, and there is a cool flash to USB adapter so you can move files to a computer that has no flash drive. If your printer has an infrared port, you can print directly without any kind of hookup. This is a real time-saver, and there are no parts to lose.

Having word-prediction and text-to-speech in a portable keyboard allows a student who uses these technologies to move from room to room through the school without needing computer access in every classroom. This is a big deal for students in Junior High and High School who rely on these assistive technologies to access the curriculum.

Keep Looking Up!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

I just want to say thanks for sharing your links- I visit a few of them and -there is always something new to add to the pile

Nettie Fischer, ATP