Assistive Technology Review Paper

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Assistive Technology Review Paper

Assistive Technology Review Paper


Educational assistive technology (AT) can serve to both augment and replace function for students with disabilities at all levels of education. These functions can include reading, writing, speaking, walking, remembering, and other activities of daily living, but many barriers to acquisition of AT exist, including lack of funding. The Assistive Technology Act (AT Act) of 1998 provides a definition of AT: “Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off-the-shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Cook and Hussey, 2002).

The law includes in the definition of AT, those services that are necessary to implement AT solutions: “Any service that directly assists in the selection, acquisition, or use of an AT device including: evaluation and assessment; purchasing, leasing, or acquisition; selecting, designing, customizing, repairing; and training and technical assistance” (Cook and Hussey, 2002).


Although AT has the potential to enhance function for students with disabilities, 50 percent of all AT is abandoned within six months. To some extent, this is explained by developmental progress or changes in health or functional status (e.g., a student outgrows the wheelchair). However, it also appears that the failure to include active participation by the individual and family, individualize the process of matching the AT to the individual, include provisions for training the individual in use of the AT, and include a plan for maintaining and servicing the AT contribute to the high rate of abandonment. Most school-based AT specialists recommend a student-rather than technology-centered ecological approach to the evaluation of AT needs for students with disabilities where the interaction between the individual and the educational environment is stressed.

AT evaluations are also best conducted by an interdisciplinary team, which must include the student and family representative and may include the teacher, speech pathologist, occupational and/or physical therapist, school psychologist, or other specialists (Washington Assistive Technology Alliance, 2004). If the student is of an age where transition from school to work and the community should be considered, then representatives of the adult service system, such as a rehabilitation counselor, job coach, or even potential employers should be included to ensure that the AT considered can bridge the transition from school to work and life in the community.

Six Types of Assistive Technology

AT can be described in terms of the function it serves. It is important to note that many AT devices can serve in more than one category.

Aids for Activities of Daily Living: Enhancing independence with activities of daily living reduces the need for human educational aids in school and increases the student's autonomy. Aids for daily living include devices to assist in eating, toileting, personal hygiene, and medical management, which may be useful for students with limitations in mobility, dexterity, endurance, cognition, and support, for example, daily medication requirements. Educators may also become involved in enhancing the independence of the student at home where bath lifts and home modifications may be useful (Washington Assistive Technology ...
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