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."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Low Reading Level, High Interst E-Books for Free


A common problem for students who are delayed in reading is that books written in simple language are written for a much younger audience. Books that interest them are too hard, but books they can read aren't very interesting. I give credit to Nora Jehn of the Idaho Assistive Technology Project for finding this great website. They have hundreds of stories for teens at very easy reading levels.

Keep Looking Up!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Assistive Technology for Math


The Idaho Training Clearinghouse has just added an online audio-visual presentation I prepared for the Idaho AT Project called "Assistive Technology 4 Math". This 30-minute presentation reviews some of the many resources for teaching and learning math for those students who struggle for whatever reason. Be sure you are ready to take some notes, this is a resource-rich presentation that covers beginning concepts to higher math, and how to get professional help with a student when you need it.

Keep Looking Up!

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Use for an Old Product

The Virtually Indestructible Keyboard, $24.99

This keyboard was designed for medical labs and wet environments. It is a flat flexible keyboard sealed in silicone that we sometimes recommend for people who drool. I don't particularly like using this keyboard myself because the action of the keys is "squishy" and slows me down, but it has come in handy for some clients because of its extremely low profile.

I did an assessment for a woman this week who is preparing to return to work after an injury to her neck and brain. After trying out all the latest ergonomic keyboards, I set her up with this one, because the keyboard is only a few millimeters thick, and she could rest her arms on the desk to reduce fatigue in her neck. The big surprise was that with this keyboard, she was able to type without looking at her fingers for the first time since her injury.

Apparently the "squishy" feel of the keys provided her with enough additional tactile feedback for her to feel where her fingers are on the keyboard better. For people with head injuries, extra feedback can make a real difference.

Keep Looking Up!

Monday, October 6, 2008

AT Expo in Pocatello Oct. 28-29, Holiday Inn

Here's the Agenda:

Tuesday Oct 28
8:30 Introductions
Ron Seiler, IATP Director
8:45 Intro to Assistive Technology for Children with Learning Disabilities
Mike Mann, ATP
10:00 AT for Students with Cognitive Impairments
Ron Seiler, IATP Director
11:00 Panel Discussion: Idaho AT Reutilization Project
Dean Neilson & Valeria Johnson, LIFE, Inc.
Ron Seiler, IATP Director
Sr. Anthony Marie Greving
Area Agency on Aging
1:00 AT For Math
Mike Mann, ATP
2:15 Universal Design for Learning
Ron Seiler, IATP Director
3:30 Adjourn

Wednesday, Oct 29
8:30 Introductions
8:45 Demonstration of Word-Prediction Software
Kathy Griffin, ATP, United Cerebral Palsy
1:00 AgrAbility Training for Physical and Occupational Therapists
Kathy Griffin, ATP, United Cerebral Palsey
2:00 Disability Services: Eastern Idaho Technical College & Idaho State Univ.
Irene Jones and Todd Devries
3:00 Adjourn

If you want a seat, contact 1-800-IDA-TECH or www.idahoat.org.
Keep Looking Up!