Assistive Technology

This section of Tranistion Services looks at the importance that assistive technology plays in the lives of individuals with disabilities and the thousands of available types of technology available.

Raising a child with a disability presents families and professionals with many challenges. Today, one of the major challenges facing people who care for and about children and youth with disabilities is technology -- what to get, where to get it, how to use it, how to pay for it, how to evaluate its effectiveness, and where to put it.

Technology is receiving the attention of families, advocates, legislators, and professionals due to its potential for enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities. From computers to communication devices to environmental controls, the world of technology offers many children and adolescents with disabilities the tools necessary to be more successful in school, at work, and at achieving independence in daily living. Indeed, opportunities not thought often years ago are now becoming available to some children with disabilities with the assistance of new technology, and rumors of emerging technology are raising new hopes.

Yet, the diversity of available technology, its ever changing nature, the lack of general sophistication regarding it, and the decisions to be made prior to purchase, prompt many and continuous questions. Presently, much information does exist on all issues related to the choice and purchase of any piece of technology; much of the information is, however, of varying degrees of readability, in many and disparate places, and often requires the skills of a super sleuth to uncover or decode.

Technology is bursting into the classroom at all levels, as a tool for professionals to develop, monitor, and provide instructions, and for students to access and engage in learning. P.L. 100- 407, The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) was designed to enhance the availability and quality of assistive technology (AT) devices and services to all individuals and their families throughout the United States.

Computer and other technologies have expanded and enriched lives and given many children with disabilities options not imagined twenty years ago. As there is a wide array of assistive technology, so too are there many decisions, choices and options for families and professionals. Making informed decisions about technology is a challenge that many consumers will encounter in coming years. Resources are available to assist consumers such as: current periodicals; disability, parent, and professional organizations; national technology centers; and private companies. Walking the assistive technology maze can be made less complex and confusing by understanding the implications of technology in the lives of children and youth with disabilities, and by knowing where to go for help.

This section will present an overview of assistive technology devices available to individuals with disabilities. After reading this section you should understand the following:

  • Assistive Technology Defined
  • Assistive Technology Devices
  • Assistive Technology Devices-A Historical Overview
  • IDEA 1997 and Assistive Technology
  • Applying Assistive Technology in Instruction
  • Computer Technology
  • Computer Technology and Educational Software
  • Technology Applications-Case Studies
  • Selecting Assistive Technology Equipment: Becoming Informed
  • Integrating Technology into the Student’s IEP
  • State Level Support for Assistive Technology
  • Factors for Success
  • Funding for Assistive Technology Devices and Services in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997
  • Concluding Thoughts

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