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, December 30, 2009

School Assessment Season

School assessment season is in full swing, as the ones requested for Fall 2009 are done, and more are waiting for Winter 2010. This year we got a late start due to a delay in the contracts department with the contractors who do assessments. These assessments do not cost your school district anything. They are funded by a grant from the Idaho State Department of Education.

To request an assistive technology assessment for a child in or under 12th grade, go to the link to IATP in the leftt margin and from there click on the link for "school based services". Anyone on the student's IEP team may complete the application, including a parent, but it is a good idea to let the other team members know that you are applying, since they will be part of the process.

Pre-school children with physical disabilities may also qualify. If your student does not have an IEP, contact Nora Jehn at 1-800-IDA-TECH with your request for an assessment.

So what happens next? A certified ATP will be sent to your school to conduct the assessment. In the case of students who are home schooled or are pre-school aged, the assessment will happen in the home. This person will interview team members, observe the student, and do some practical testing to see what technologies hold the most promise. The primary goal is to provide equal access to the curriculum or to prepare for transition from home to school and from school to adult life. Within two weeks you should get a detailed report with information about the technologies likely to help, and how to go about obtaining and implementing them. You can get additional training for your team too.

Idaho has been blessed to have a goodly number of highly qualified people to do assessments throughout the state. To get a current list of the ATP's you can call Nora Jehn.

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