What is AT?
Assistive technology (AT): products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working, and daily living for persons with disabilities.
Get started learning about assistive technology and the ATIA:
- What is assistive technology?
- How do you choose the right assistive technology?
- Who pays for assistive technology?
- What is the ATIA, and how can it help you find out about assistive technology?
- Can you attend an ATIA conference and what will you learn?
- Can you attend an online ATIA webinar?
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.
- AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
- AT can be high-tech: special-purpose computers.
- AT can be hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices.
- AT can be computer hardware: special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
- AT can be computer software: screen readers and communication programs.
- AT can be inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
- AT can be specialized curricular software.
- AT can be much more—electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more.
Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things. Different disabilities require different assistive technologies.
Find more about specific assistive technologies at the websites of ATIA members and ATIA Alliance Partners. Professional organizations in the field also have helpful websites. For more links, see AT Resource Links.
How do you choose the right assistive technology?
Most often, the choice is a decision you make with a team of professionals and consultants trained to match particular assistive technologies to specific needs. An AT team may include family doctors, regular and special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, rehabilitation engineers, occupational therapists, and other specialists including consulting representatives from companies that manufacture assistive technology.
Find out more about how various professionals can help you at the websites of their professional organizations:
- AOTA, American Occupational Therapy Association
- ASHA, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- CEC, Council for Exceptional Children
- LDA, Learning Disability Association of America
- RESNA, Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America
Service organizations and manufacturers offer important information as well. Start with the list of ATIA Alliance Partners.
Who pays for assistive technology?
The answer depends on the technology, the use, and the user. Many kinds of AT may cost you little or nothing, even for some very expensive items. Some examples:
- School systems pay for general special education learning materials as well as technology specified in an IEP.
- Government programs (Social Security, veteran’s benefits, or state Medicaid agencies) pay for certain assistive technology if a doctor prescribes it as a necessary medical device.
- Private health insurance pays for certain assistive technology if a doctor prescribes it as a necessary medical or rehabilitative device.
- Rehabilitation and job training programs, whether funded by government or private agencies, may pay for assistive technology and training to help people get jobs.
- Employers may pay for assistive technology that is a reasonable accommodation to enable an employee to perform essential job tasks.
Other sources of funds in states or communities include private foundations, charities, and civic organizations. The ATIA’s Funding Resources Guide provides sources and resources to investigate as prospective options.
What is the ATIA, and how can it help you find out about assistive technology?
The ATIA is a not-for profit membership organization of manufacturers, sellers, and providers of technology-based assistive devices and services. ATIA members are active in providing assistive technology for the gamut of disabilities:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Blindness and low vision
- Deafness and hard of hearing
- Computer access problems
- Communication disorders
- Mobility impairment
- Mounting systems
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive disabilities
- Web accessibility
- Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC)
ATIA members are not primarily focused on architectural products (specialized elevators, lifts, ramps or grab bars), transport products (wheelchairs and motor vehicle adaptations), prosthetic devices (artificial limbs and eyes), and hearing aids.
Find out more about the assistive technology products and services provided by ATIA members by looking at their websites, listed in the ATIA Membership Directory.
ATIA members possess an exceptional storehouse of experience and knowledge valuable to meeting the unique needs of persons requiring assistive technology. They have broad experience adapting their products to individual situations and helping local practitioners find one-of-a-kind solutions for consumers with disabilities.
The ATIA Conference, held annually since 1999, showcases products and services for the assistive technology community—from users to educators to industry and government professionals. In addition, the ATIA sponsors working groups through which its members work to advance industry standards as technology changes, and to find new ways to disseminate information about those advances to professionals and the public.
The ATIA and its members develop online webinars that provide continuing education about assistive technology for practitioners and interested members of the public.
Can you attend an ATIA Conference and what will you learn?
Everyone is invited to attend the ATIA Conference, to take advantage of the same broad range of learning opportunities that practicing therapists, teachers, and other industry professionals receive.
You can learn how to choose from the best existing technologies and get a first look at new ones as well as cutting-edge academic research. Teachers can learn proven ways to use AT in the classroom. Hands-on workshops teach more advanced ways to use specific products. In community forums, practitioners, persons who use assistive technology, and their families can discuss issues with manufacturers and professionals.
For some, the most exciting part is the Exhibit Hall, where you can try a full range of products, including new and developing technology. For others, the best part is meeting other people who are facing the same difficulties, sharing stories and helping each other.
Can you attend an Online AT Education webinar?
ATIA members and Alliance Partners provide a wealth of valuable information through the Assistive Technology Online Professional Development Program, both live and recorded. In Live Broadcast webinars, the audience can interact with the presenter. Webinars are also recorded and archived so people who cannot attend a Live Broadcast can access the information.
Webinars are primarily geared toward teachers and practitioners, who can use them for continuing education credits. But they can also be helpful for users, parents, and other members of the public who have learned the basics of assistive technology and want to learn more.