People who study and think differently can use assistive technology to work around their difficulties. An app that reads text aloud is one example. Assistive technology gives people the ability to take care of themselves.
What is the definition of assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to help people with disabilities increase, maintain, or improve their functional abilities.
- AT can be low-tech, such as cardboard or fuzzy felt communication boards.
- Special-purpose computers are an example of high-tech AT.
- AT can be hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices.
- AT can be computer hardware: special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
- Screen readers and communication programs are examples of AT software.
- Learning resources and curriculum aids that are inclusive or specialized are examples of AT.
- AT can be specialized curricular software.
- AT can be much more—electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more.
People who have trouble speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other activities can benefit from assistive technology. Assistive technology is required for a variety of disabilities.
Visit the websites of ATIA members and ATIA Alliance Partners to learn more about various assistive technology. Websites run by professional organizations in the industry are also useful. See AT Resources for more resources.
How do you choose the right assistive technology?
Most of the time, you’ll make your choices with the help of a team of professionals and consultants that have been trained to match specific assistive technology to specific needs. Family doctors, regular and special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, rehabilitation engineers, occupational therapists, and other professionals may be part of an AT team, as well as consulting representatives from assistive technology manufacturers.
Visit the websites of several experts’ professional associations to learn more about how they can assist you:
- AOTA, American Occupational Therapy Association
- ASHA, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- CEC, Council for Exceptional Children\sLDA, Learning Disability Association of America
- RESNA, Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America
Important information is also available from service groups and manufacturers. Begin with the ATIA Alliance Partners list.
Assistive Technology: Common Types
Simple, low-tech devices (such as walking sticks or modified cups) to complicated, high-tech devices (such as specialized computer software/hardware or motorized wheelchairs) are examples of assistive devices. It’s useful to group these many assistive gadgets into distinct categories.
- Mobility Products: Walking aids, portable ramps, and grab bars are examples of mobility devices that help people walk or move.
- Seeing/Vision Products: A person’s ability to carry out important life activities is greatly impacted by low vision or blindness. Reading glasses, magnifiers, audio players, talking and/or touching watches, white canes, braille systems for reading and writing audio devices, e.g. radios, talking books, mobile phones, and braille systems for reading and writing are just a few of the devices that can be used to increase participation and independence. A screen reader program called JAWS (Job Access with Speech) is available.
- Hearing Products: Hearing loss affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others; it can impact many areas of development, e.g. speech and language and restricts educational and employment opportunities, resulting in social discrimination and isolation.
- Devices include: hearing aids and alarm signalers that use light, sound, and vibration
Individuals who have trouble comprehending and producing speech can benefit from augmentative and alternative communication devices. They are used to supplement or compensate for speech (augmentative). Communication boards, booklets, and cards are examples of devices.
- Cognition Products: The ability to understand and process information is referred to as cognition (or remembering). Memory, planning, and problem-solving are examples of mental functions of the brain. Many illnesses can damage a person’s cognitive abilities, including brain injury, intellectual impairment, dementia, and mental illness. Pill organizers and whiteboards for remembering things are two cognitive gadgets that can help people remember important tasks/events, manage their time, and prepare for activities.
- Self care and Environment Products: People with physical impairments frequently struggle to maintain good lying, standing, or sitting positions for functional activities, and are at risk of developing deformities as a result of poor positioning. The following gadgets can assist people with disabilities in overcoming some of these challenges and completing daily chores (e.g. eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, home maintenance).  Toilet and shower chairs, as well as absorbent cloths, are examples of these gadgets.
What is the Assistive Technology Information Agency (ATIA), and how can it help you
The ATIA is a non-profit membership association of technology-based assistive device and service manufacturers, dealers, and providers. Members of the ATIA are actively involved in the provision of assistive technology for a wide range of disabilities:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Blindness and low vision
- Deafness and hard of hearing
- Computer access problems
- Communication disorders
- Mobility impairment
- Mounting systems
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive disabilities
- Web accessibility
- Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC)
Architectural items (specific elevators, lifts, ramps, or grab bars), transportation products (wheelchairs and motor vehicle adaptations), prosthetic devices (artificial limbs and eyes), and hearing aids are not the primary emphasis of ATIA members.
Examine the websites of ATIA members, which are included in the ATIA Membership Directory, to learn more about the assistive technology products and services they offer.
ATIA members have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can help satisfy the specific needs of people who need assistive technology. They have extensive expertise adjusting their products to unique scenarios and assisting local practitioners in developing one-of-a-kind solutions for disabled clients.
What assistive technology cannot do
It’s crucial to remember that AT doesn’t “fix” learning and attention challenges, regardless of which tool your child utilizes. AT is unable to:
- Compensate for inadequate instruction
- Make learning and attention problems vanish
What assistive technology can do
It’s critical to remember that AT’s job is to aid your child’s learning. It is not a substitute for proper instruction, but it can be used in conjunction with it. It can assist your child in becoming more self-assured and working independently. It can also assist your child in the following ways:
- Work more efficiently and precisely.
- Organize your classroom routines
- Set big goals for yourself and achieve them.
Kids can use their strengths to work on areas of weakness with the correct AT tools. Audiobooks, for example, could be beneficial if your child struggles with reading but excels at listening.