FAQ about AT

FAQ article in Word format

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) includes a variety of devices and equipment that help a person maximize his or her abilities, thus minimizing the effects or challenges of a disability or the aging process. Many people benefit from technology like remote controls, garage door openers, speakerphones, reachers, or velcro strips that replace buttons. Assistive technology can help people with disabilities get around more easily, communicate better, live independently and become more active in their communities. Assistive technology can also help prevent the worsening of a condition and improve a person’s capacity to learn. For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.

What are some examples of "low tech" AT?

  • Eating utensils or toothbrushes with weighted handles to help a person with limited hand control
  • Communication boards with pictures to help people communicate basic needs
  • Pencil grippers to help someone hold a pencil or pen
  • Easy-grip doorknobs, or car door openers to help people with weak hands
  • Big button phones to aid people with limited vision or hand control
  • Tape recorders to help students who have trouble with note taking
  • Text telephones or phone amplifiers to help people with hearing impairments
  • Sandwich holders to help people with a weak grip
  • A mouthstick to help a person turn the pages of a book
  • Computer screen magnifiers to help people with visual impairments

What are some examples of "high tech" AT?

  • Computers which are operated by voice command instead of a keyboard
    Environmental controls to operate several appliances from a remote control
  • Special lifts which help someone get in and out of the bathtub or in and out of bed
  • Computer software which gives immediate feedback to a student with learning disabilities
  • Talking calculators which “speak” math operations as they are performed
  • Special computer software which helps people compensate for motor disturbances, organize behavior, or communicate with a minimum of stress, fatigue and misunderstanding
  • Talking software which helps a child see and hear as he learns
  • Reading machines which convert printed material into synthesized speech

What kind of AT helps people at work?

  • Workplace accommodations help a wheelchair user access the necessary equipment around the workplace, such as bookshelves, computers or worktables
  • Headset phones and telephone amplifiers help a person use the phone
  • A motorized lift help a person get into a vehicle
  • Tape players and headphones help someone with attention deficit disorder drown out noises

How can a person find out what type of AT he or she needs?

Finding the “best fit” between a person, his or her environment, and available technology is a process. It should involve the consumer, family members, educational and medical professionals, caretakers, and anyone who often works with the person using the technology. A wrong or hasty decision can cause wasted time, money and patience. Finding the right agency to help with an assessment begins by determining what the person needs technology to do for her or him. If technology is medically necessary, Medicaid or Medicare might be the first contact. If it is necessary for employment, Vocational Rehabilitation or the Commission for the Blind might be contacted to see if the person meets eligibility requirements. If it is needed for education, the school district or school itself would be the place to begin.

How does the use of AT save money?

By allowing a person to function more independently at home, families and governments can save on the cost of attendant care or residential facility placement. When assistive technology helps keep a condition from worsening, the further medical expenses are reduced. For example, proper technology for seating and positioning creates less strain on muscles and joints, reducing the number of necessary visits to physicians, therapists or hospitals. A national study on disability showed that assistive technology saved the government significant money in the amounts of SSI and SSDI payments.

Where do people find the money to pay for AT?

Private insurance companies may pay for technology, especially if it will help improve a condition or prevent it from getting worse. State agencies are a major funding source. The school or school district may fund technology necessary for education in the “least restrictive environment.” If the person meets eligibility requirements, technology to help a person in a job may be funded by agencies like Vocational Rehabilitation, Commission for the Blind, or the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. Medicaid and Medicare may fund “medically necessary” assistive technology. Technology for young children may be funded by Children’s Rehabilitative Services of the Department of Health and Human Services. Local and state charities, foundations and service clubs are often funding sources. Contact SCATP at the address given below, for more specific information on funding.

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April 15, 2009