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."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Big Move to UCP

I'd like to thank my colleagues at the Idaho AT Project for helping me land a full-time position with United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho as the Coordinator for the Assistive Technology Lending Library, and as a consultant for AT assessments. I can't tell you how great it is to be working with Kathy Griffin, ATP, our Program Director and a walking encyclopedia of AT. You can contact me toll-free at 1-888-289-7133 (8:30-4:30 MST), or via email: mmann@ucpidaho.org.

And here is a big preview of what's to come in 2009. United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho is going to become an independent non-profit organization! This will allow us to provide services in a larger region than in the past. Stay tuned for our new name and website.

Keep Looking Up!

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