Assistive Technology Resources

Definition and Benefits of AT

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What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is 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 the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2).

Who Uses Assistive Technology?

Individuals with disabilities use assistive technology to accommodate limitations due to their disabilities.

For example:

� Frances, born with cerebral palsy, uses a computer that "talks" to present her acceptance speech for an award honoring her for her outstanding performance on college entrance exams. (The computer is assistive technology)
� Fred uses a power wheelchair to go to work and rides on a lift equipped bus. (The lift equipment on the bus and wheelchair are assistive technology)
� Susan, injured in a farming accident, continues to farm, with the aid of prosthetic legs and a tractor that allow her to drive using hand controls. (The prosthetic legs and driving equipment are assistive technology)
� Peggy, a preschooler who has paralysis in her legs, rides a tricycle that she operates with her hands. (The tricycle with the adaptations is assistive technology)

Other examples of assistive technology are:

� Large screen computers for individuals with visual problems
� Hearing aids and other amplification devices for individuals with hearing loss
� Devices that operate lamps, radios, and other appliances through a remote control switching device, that might be attached to a person's wheelchair
� Toilets and showers equipped with grab bars for persons who may fall easily or require supports

Who Benefits from Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology benefits everyone from individual users to employers, teachers, family members, and other community members who interact with users of AT. By increasing access, assistive technology increases opportunities for participation-which benefits us all.

This section is indebted to information from the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North American (RESNA), especially for their April, 2005, Survey of State AT Act Projects (The RESNA Technical Assistance Project, Grant #H224B020001, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998).

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