Assistive Technology (AT)
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Assistive Technology (AT) can help students with disabilities be fully included in the general education classroom and can be a powerful intervention tool for young children before entering school. AT helps students who have disabilities learn the material in a way that they can understand it. AT helps eliminate barriers students may face that prevent them from being at the same level as their classmates. AT can be anything from a simple device, such as a magnifying glass, to a complex device, such as a computerized communication system.
AT benefits children of all ages, with all types and severities of disabilities. It is key for success in school and future work.
Simply put, AT is any device that allows a person with a disability to do what they need or want to do. It can be bought in a store or online, in can be homemade or specially designed for a specific person. It can be part of a system of devices. In some cases, it might be an "off-the-shelf" device. An example could be a garage door opener, easily available for persons who are not disabled, but for the person with a disability it is considered AT because it allows them to do something they otherwise would not be able to do.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 and subsequent revisions, the team that develops an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a child must consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services. IDEA defines assistive technology in the following ways: "The term 'assistive technology device' means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability." "The term 'assistive technology service' means any services that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device." Such term includes:
- The evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment.
- Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child.
- 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 existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs.
- Training or technical assistance for such child, or where appropriate, the family of such 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 substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.
281—Iowa Administrative Code 41.5(256B,34CFR300) Assistive technology device. “Assistive technology device” means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of such device.
281—Iowa Administrative Code 41.6(256B,34CFR300) Assistive technology service. "Assistive technology service" means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes the following:
- The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
- Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;
- Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
- Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
- Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family; and
- Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of that child.
QIAT is a nationwide grassroots group that includes hundreds of individuals who provide input into the ongoing process of identifying, disseminating, and implementing a set of widely-applicable Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services in School Settings that can be used as a tool to support:
- School districts as they strive to develop and provide quality assistive technology services aligned to federal, state and local mandates
- Assistive technology service providers as they evaluate and constantly improve their services
- Consumers of assistive technology services as they seek adequate assistive technology services which meet their needs
- Universities and professional developers as they conduct research and deliver programs that promote the development of the competencies needed to provide quality assistive technology services
- Policy makers as they attempt to develop judicious and equitable policies related to assistive technology services.
Assistive Technology Consideration
AT Consideration SETT – This document is provided to assist IEP teams in the documentation of the consideration process and to provide local teams information about AT considerations. The use of this documents is optional.
Areas of Assistive Technology
Academic and Learning Aids – Simple to complex technologies to enhance student participation and achievement in all academic areas. Examples include:
- Reading – audiobooks, electronic books with embedded talking dictionary, text to speech software
- Writing – pencil grip, word prediction software
- Math – abacus, talking calculator, accessible math software
- Learning and Studying – content materials in alternate format, guided notes, color-coded organizers
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) – Specialized formats of curricular content that can be used by and with learners who cannot access print in a traditional manner. Accessible formats include Braille, audio, large print and digital text. Visit the True AIM webpages for additional information.
Aids for Daily Living – Technology to enhance and increase independence in activities of daily life. Examples include:
- Adapted eating tools such as a scoop bowl, cut out cup
- Ramps or stair lifts
Augmentative Communication – Students with complex communication needs have difficulty communicating with peers and adults within their environments. Many of these students need a means of supplementing their communication skills. A range of low technology to high technology solutions are available including:
- Object based communication displays
- Picture communication boards and books
- Single message and multi-level multi-message voice output devices
- Computer based communication devices
Computer Access and Instruction – Technology solutions to adapt computers.
Computer access technology offers a method of input other than the standard computer keyboard and mouse. Examples include an alternate keyboard, adapted pointing device, eye gaze technology for navigation and control, switch interface, voice input.
Software and hardware that modify the visual and sound output from the computer. A variety of options are available and include zoom, magnification and high contrast features, text to speech.
Environmental Control – Technology to increase independence in an individual’s environment. Examples include alternate input device such as a switch to control one or more electronic appliances such as lights, or electronically controlled doors; voice assistant technology to control “smart” appliances and televisions or play music
Hearing – Assistive technology to amplify speech and other auditory signals or that provide an alternative to the auditory modality. These include assistive listening devices that amplify sound and speech both in the classroom and home environment, text telephone (TTY), closed captioning devices, real time captioning, and environmental aids that support independent living skills such as a light to alert an individual to phone or doorbell sound.
Mobility Aids – Assistive technology to support individuals in moving about their environments. Mobility aids include walkers and wheelchairs. Generally, assistive technology devices such as the mobility aids listed here are recommended by physical and occupational therapists based on the student’s individual needs.
Pre-vocational and Vocational Aids – Technology solutions that include modifications of tools and manipulatives used in the completion of work related tasks. For example:
- Low technology solutions include grips for handling materials and stabilization devices for supporting work materials.
- An environmental control unit that allows for switch control of items such as staplers and paper shredders.
- Picture-based task schedule to represent steps in a particular activity to guide an individual through a work task.
Recreation and Leisure – Assistive technology used to participate in recreation and leisure activities. A range of low technology to high technology solutions are available including game adaptations, book adaptations, switch adapted toys, and environmental control access for electronic devices for music, video and television.
Seating and Positioning – Assistive technology that provides adaptive seating and positioning supports as an alternative to the standard classroom seating options. Examples include seat inserts for wheelchairs, side liers, prone standers, and adaptive chairs. These seating and positioning systems are generally determined by the physical and occupational therapist in consultation with the classroom staff.
Vision Aids – Assistive technology to access printed information and provide a means of producing written communication. There are many visual aids including audiobooks, large print and talking calculators, braille writers, closed circuit televisions (CCTV), and software such as screen reading and text enlargement programs.
Assistive Technology activities are funded by Federal Part B grant dollars provided to the State of Iowa.
Iowa COMPASS – Iowa's leading source of information on assistive technology and disability services. There are organizations that will pay for or provide for free assistive technology and home accessibility modifications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Assistive Technology FAQs – This document has questions and answers about assistive technology.
Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs) AT Services
AEAs work as educational partners with every public and accredited, nonpublic school in Iowa to improve the learning outcomes and well being of all students. Each of the nine AEA designates one or more professionals to specialize in assistive technology support for schools and families in their region. These specialists support systemic implementation of assistive technology special education services for children and students from birth to 21 years of age. See the following AEA webpages for more information:
- Central Rivers AEA
- Grant Wood AEA
- Great Prairie AEA
- Green Hills AEA
- Heartland AEA
- Keystone AEA
- Mississippi Bend AEA
- Northwest AEA
- Prairie Lakes AEA
The Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Program – Helps Iowans learn about and access the assistive technology they need as part of their daily lives to learn, work, play, and participate in community life safely and independently. ESI ATP serves Iowans of all ages with all types of disabilities, including persons who are aging.
Iowa Reading Research Center – This center offers free assistive technology consultation for families of children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.