The broad term assistive technology is used to describe a combination of services and equipment that aid a person with an intellectual or physical disability as he or she performs activities of daily living. Assistive technology services help a child or adult acquire the support and devices he or she needs. Technology may include many types of adaptive equipment and software to make daily tasks easier and more efficient, such as walkers, modified keyboards, seating systems and communication boards.
One of the largest areas in assistive technology services is adaptive equipment. This could be anything from a walker to a modified bathing system. The goal of adaptive equipment is to help the individual with a disability to achieve as much independence as possible while performing daily tasks safely and efficiently. Some adaptive equipment can be further defined as positioning equipment and is used for children and adults with severe physical disabilities to maintain correct body alignment for sleeping, feeding, sitting and traveling.
For many people with disabilities, assistive technology software can be a key tool for communication and learning. Types of software for communication include items like icon boards, in which the individual can touch a picture to represent a need or want rather than having to verbalize. Other programs allow text to be typed into a device, which subsequently reads the text aloud for others to hear. For those with visual impairments, software is available to magnify images or words, or turn written print into typed text to make it easier to read.
There are many different ways in which a person may receive assistive technology services. Young children can receive support through their county's early intervention system, and school children may receive assistance from their school district. Adults may reach out to local disability services, assistive technology centers, or adult education programs. In many cases, services and equipment are covered through government or local funding and public or private insurance.
The first step for an individual to obtain assistive technology services is to have an evaluation by a qualified professional to establish his or her exact needs. This will include an assessment of the person's environment to identify problems that could be solved or aided by adaptive devices. For example, the evaluator may note areas that are difficult to negotiate or reach, problems with performing independent skills at home, work or school, and barriers to independent living. Devices or technology that could aid the individual are then selected.