What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.
The term adaptive technology is often used as the synonym for assistive technology, however, they are different terms. Assistive technology refers to "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities", while adaptive technology covers items that are specifically designed for persons with disabilities and would seldom be used by non-disabled persons. In other words, "assistive technology is any object or system that increases or maintains the capabilities of people with disabilities," while adaptive technology is "any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities." Consequently, adaptive technology is a subset of assistive technology. Adaptive technology often refers specifically to electronic and information technology access.
Assistive technology (often abbreviated as AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
- AT can be low tech like communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
- AT can be high tech such as special purpose computers.
- AT can be hardware such as prosthetics, attachment devices (mounting systems), and positioning devices.
- AT can be computer hardware, like special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
- AT can be computer software such as screen-readers or communication software.
- AT can be inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
- AT can be specialized curricular software.
- AT can be much more, including electronic devices, wheel chairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze, and head trackers.
Different disabilities require different assistive technologies.
Assistive technology includes products and services to help people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, etc.
Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.
- The term includes:
- the evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
- purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;
- selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
- coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
- training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family; and,
- training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of the individual with a disability
AT ODS Brochure
(PDF, 352 KB)