Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So what is AT and why do I care?

This is a question I get a lot. Just what in the heck is AT? Well, AT stands for Assistive Technology. Assistive technology is something that an individual with a disability can use to help improve their ability to do different things. Technically speaking, it can be a single device or a system of devices. So a cane is assistive technology, eye glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids too! Magnifiers can be if I'm visually impaired or if I process text better if it's bigger for me to read. Even something like an MP3 player can be assistive technology. How? Well, suppose I can't read a book or an article or a memo for whatever reason, but I can listen to it and get all of the information. I could have the book, article, or memo read and recorded as an MP3 that I can listen to on my MP3 player! The main thing to keep in mind with AT is that your mind should always be open to the possibilities. Otherwise, you could miss that special everyday tool that can just make the difference in your or someone else's life.

Assistive technology isn't always a device. No, it can also be a service. Part of the legal definition of AT is the differentiation between AT devices and services. The above definition is for an AT device. An AT service would include training someone in how to use an AT device, helping to maintain that device, and updating that device to keep it current with the user's needs. This is where most education and clinical professionals come in. The therapist who works with someone in learning how to drive a power wheelchair is providing an AT service. Same can be said for the teacher pulling together vocabulary for her student's communication device. Often when treatment plans are developed, in a clinical or educational setting, AT services aren't fully considered. An important part of having AT work for someone is to make sure that we fully consider them too. This can include things like adding time in the plan for training and education, maintenance, and providing any equipment updates necessary.

Until next time, I bid you peace!

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