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Further Information on What Assistive Technology Is

A.T. helps people learn, communicate and live more independently.

Assistive technology is any product or service that maintains or improves the ability of individuals with disabilities or impairments to communicate, learn and live independent, fulfilling and productive lives.

Assistive technology is used in education, employment, healthcare, residential homes and domestic settings. It may be used by all ages, for a wide range of disabilities or impairments, and for a wide range of activities.

The range of disabilities AT can help includes:

  • autism spectrum disorders
  • blindness and low vision
  • deafness and hard of hearing
  • difficulties with computer/web access
  • communication disorders
  • mobility impairment
  • manual dexterity difficulties
  • learning disabilities
  • cognitive disabilities

The range of products AT covers (in broad terms) includes:

  • low tech like communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
  • high tech such as special purpose computers, including those with eye gaze and head tracker systems.
  • hardware such as prosthetics, attachment devices (mounting systems), and positioning devices, pencil holders.
  • computer hardware, like special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
  • computer software such as screen-readers or communication software.
  • inclusive or specialised learning materials and curriculum aids.
  • specialised curricular and educational software.
  • electronic devices to control the living or working environment

Though the following are also examples of assistive technology (as most broadly defined), ‘architectural products (such as specialized elevators, lifts, ramps or grab bars), transport products (such as wheel chairs (though devices attached to them may be) and adapted motor vehicle), prosthetic devices (such as artificial limbs and eyes), and hearing aids, these are generally outside the range of AT products of BATA members.

The range of AT offered by BATA members, in more detail, includes:

AAccessible computer input – physical disabilities e.g., adapted or alternative keyboards and mouse, switches and switch access, word prediction, speech recognition, symbol based software, text to speech, word prediction and word banks, phonetic spell checkers, speech recognition, digital voice recorders, electronic memory aids.

BAccessible computer input – visual impairment e.g. screen magnifiers and readers, speech recognition, Braille translation software with embossers.

CFor learning disabilities - symbol based software, text to speech, word prediction and word banks, phonetic spell checkers, speech recognition, digital voice recorders, electronic memory aids. Also includes software etc to assist mainstream learning.

DVisual impairment – low tech e.g. white canes, talking clocks and watches, liquid level indicators, UV shields protect and increase contrast, writing aids incl signature guides.

EVisual impairment – high tech e.g. CCTV magnifiers, reading machines, audio books and audio book players, Braille embossers, screen magnifiers and readers, speech recognition.

FDeafness and hearing loss – hearing aids, teletext, close captioning, text messaging (SMS).

GAugmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) – low tech (paper or object based e.g. communication books, cards, charts, PECS, eye gaze frames); light tech (simple technology with recording features e.g. single message recorders, sequencers, overlay VOCAs; hi-tech (computerised voice output communication devices VOCA) e.g. dynamic display, dedicated communication devices, computer based communication devices (and mounting solutions, associated aids and adaptations as required).

HMobility impairment e.g. crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, car adaptations, seating, lifts and elevators, hoists.

IEnvironmental control systems (ECS) e.g. door openers, curtain and blind openers, remote lights switches, control of TV, DVD etc, some built in AAC devices.

JDurable medical equipment as used in the home to aid quality of life e.g. medical ventilators, oxygen tents, nebulizers, blood glucose and blood pressure monitors. Also includes telemedicine.

KPersonal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) e.g. electronic sensors connected to alarm system, fall detectors, thermometers (for hypothermia), unlit gas cooker sensors, incontinence detectors.

LAssistive technology services include:

  • the evaluation of the needs of a child or adult identified with a disability, including a functional evaluation of that person in his or her customary environment or place of employment;
  • purchasing, leasing, or facilitating the acquisition of assistive technology devices;
  • selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices;
  • coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with education and rehabilitation plans and programmes;
  • training or technical assistance for an adult or child (or, where appropriate, the family/carer of the child)
  • training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise involved in with individuals with an identified disability.

Barbara Phillips,
Executive Director,
British Assistive Technology Association, UK

March 2012