Assistive Technology - What and where do I get it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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. AT 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.

When working with employers one of their biggest worries about hiring and retaining persons with disabilities in their organizations is accommodations and the costs associated with them.  Most employers believe that when hiring or retaining someone with a disability they will need to purchase assistive technology, but what and where do they get it.

There are many types of assistive technology available.  The assistive technology required by an individual in the workplace depends on a number of factors:
  • What the job requires
  • What are the particular needs of the individual
  • Type of disability the individual has
Assistive technology is put in place to give an individual with a disability the same opportunities at work that someone who does not have a disability has.  It assists the individual to be productive and contribute within the workplace.

There is assistive technology available various disabilities including:
  • Learning disabilities
  • Vision disabilities
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
Assistive technology depending on the needs of the individual can be (this list is not complete):
  • Tablets or ipads
  • Keyboards
  • Software like JAWS, Zoomtext or Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Communication devices
  • Screen readers
  • Magnifiers
  • Adapted mouse
  • Amplifiers
  • Seating supports
  • Writing devices
  • Recording devices
  • Different applications
As mentioned above the needs of the individual determines what the assistive technology required will be.  The individual requiring the assistive technology will have ideas and suggestions of what they may require and should be part of the process of acquiring the right technology for the individual.

It should be noted that assistive technology does not only benefit persons with disabilities in the workplace but can benefit non-disabled persons too.  And keep in mind not all accommodations require assistive technology but if it does there are a number of community services that can assist employers and the individual requiring the assistive technology to determine what is needed and where to source it.



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