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Understanding Assistive Technology (AT)

Did you know that assistive technology:

  • Covers a wide range of items, everything from inexpensive pencil grips to complex technology for communicating and controlling appliances, electronics, and more
  • Can be used at home, school, work and in the community-wherever the need arises
  • Can be store bought, a solution made at home, or even an item professionally designed and fabricated

Assistive Technology Categories

State Assistive Technology Act programs use 10 categories for classifying assistive technology devices.

  • Vision (e.g. magnifiers, CCTV systems, talking devices, screen reader software)
  • Hearing (e.g. personal amplification systems such as hearing aids, visual or tactile alerting systems, captioning, amplified telephones)
  • Speech Communication (e.g. speech generating devices, communication boards/books, software with speech output, voice amplifiers)
  • Learning, cognition, and developmental (e.g. memory aids, instructional materials, personal organization tools, sensory stimulation products)
  • Mobility, seating and positioning (e.g ambulatory aids, wheelchairs, scooters, contoured seating systems, head supports)
  • Daily living (e.g. modified tools and utensils, writing guides, switch adapted appliances, zipper pulls, reacher)
  • Environmental adaptations (e.g. alarm and security systems, lifts, ramps, door and gate openers, switches to control various appliances, lights, telephones, etc.)
  • Vehicle modification and transportation (e.g. adaptive shoulder and seat safety belts, hand controls, tie downs and lock downs that secure a wheelchair to the vehicle floor)
  • Computers and related peripherals (e.g. alternative keyboards and pointing devices, switches and scanning software for computer access, touchscreens, voice recognition software)
  • Recreation, sports, and leisure (e.g. switch adapted games and toys, playing card shuffler, adapted sporting equipment, adapted musical equipment)

A device may fit into more than one category depending upon the needs of the consumer and how and where the device is used.

Assistive Technology: Simply Said

In order to help others better understand assistive technology, STAR funded a video produced by PACER Center and inspired by the video style of Common Craft. This short animated clip answers the question, What is assistive technology?! We hope you enjoy watching this Simply Said video.

National Resources

  • Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a growing national and international network of technology resource centers, community-based organizations, agencies, individuals, and companies.
  • Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) is a not-for-profit membership organization of manufacturers, sellers and providers of technology-based assistive technology devices and services.
  • Explore AT is a clearinghouse for many resources relating to specific disabilities.
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