What is assistive technology?
An assistive technology device, as defined by IDEA 2004, 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 a child with a disability. Assistive technology devices range in complexity from no- or low-tech tools such as a pencil grip or a customized mouse to high-tech tools, such as specialized software or electronic voice-output communication devices. This definition does not include medical devices that are surgically implanted (such as a cochlear implant) or the replacement of any such device.
Assistive technology, as defined by the federal law, may also be a service - any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. AT services may include evaluating a student’s need for assistive technology; selecting or adapting AT devices; or coordinating AT services such as training for the student, the student’s family, and educational team members.
What types of assistive technology are available?
Students may require a variety of tools ranging from no- to low- to high-tech options:
• No-tech AT usually refers to simple, nonelectronic solutions that provide access and improve function for the students. These AT solutions may be created or purchased commercially at relatively low cost, and may include devices such as adapted spoon handles, customized pencil grips, or picture communication displays.
• Low-tech AT may be relatively simple or commercially available electronic devices such as single message communicators, portable word processors, and talking calculators.
• High-tech AT devices are more complex electronic devices, such as computers and specialized software. High-tech devices often incorporate multiple features and may be used to meet a variety of needs. The use of high-tech AT is usually combined with low-tech systems that can be used in particular situations or to provide back-up in the event of breakdown.