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."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Moving to Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Area

This is a bittersweet move for me as I leave the Idaho Center for Assistive Technology next week to re-unite my family in Spokane, but if you don't have family, what benefit is a great job?

I'm returning to my former work as a contractor for the Idaho AT Project while I look for something closer to full-time in the Spokane/North Idaho area.

The happy part of this tale is all the great stuff I learned as a full-time ATP working along side of Kathy Griffin, the AT "guru" of Idaho and all the knowledgeable folks who make up the AT community in Southern Idaho.

It has been a challenging first year of operation as an independent non-profit after disaffiliating from United Cerebral Palsy last January. Best wishes to the ICAT staff and my replacement as the loaning library coordinator, Dan Dyer.

Keep Looking Up!

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