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Assistive Technology

StreetWise Resource Guide for People with Disabilities

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  • Summary
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Assistive Technology

Learn about...

  1. General resources
  2. Sample research centers
  3. Evaluating assistive technologies for home, school, and workplace

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is any technique, device or service that helps you do something more easily. The Assistive Technology Act of 1998 defines assistive technology devices as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." By this definition, you can see that each topic in this guide discusses related assistive technology. It's also helpful to know that "assistive technology" is often abbreviated "AT."

General Resources

  • ABLEDATA bills itself as the "premier source for information on assistive technology." And it certainly has extensive information on issues, research, and products.

  • Assistivetech.net describes its mission as providing "access to information on AT devices and services as well as other community resources for people with disabilities and the general public." Search their site for product info by function, activity, or vendor. Links are provided to state AT ACT projects and the Pass It On Center. There is also an ATWiki and a list of discussion groups.

  • The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) site provides information about statewide AT programs, alternative financing programs, assistive technology devices and other resources.

  • The National Assistive Technology Advocacy Project of Neighborhood Legal Services presents information on issues of AT advocacy, including funding issues.

  • The Family Guide to Assistive Technology, prepared by Parents, Let's Unite for Kids (PLUK), offers an excellent overview of assistive technology. Though primarily targeted at families with children with disabilities, the guide is a good introduction for anyone interested in AT.

Sample Research Centers

The following sites provide a sample of the many research centers that are active in improving assistive technology in a number of fields.

  • The Trace Center, established in 1971 at the University of Wisconsin, is a pioneering research center in AT. The Center focuses on information and telecommunications technologies.

  • Wireless RERC, a Rehabilitation Engineering Center at the Shepherd Center in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, is one of a number of research centers throughout the country. The Wireless RERC's mission is "to promote equitable access to and use of wireless technologies by people with disabilities and encourage adoption of Universal Design in future generations of wireless devices and applications."

  • AAC-RERC details projects and resources in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

Evaluating Assistive Technologies for Home, School and Workplace

The following sites are just a sample of the resources available to help you evaluate AT for specific needs.

  • ABLEDATA's Products for the Workplace web page profiles equipment and tools for offices (tasks such as dictating or filing, workstations, etc.), agriculture, carpentry, electronics, and adaptive tools.

  • Assistivetech.net provides descriptions of lots of AT products and the ATWiki which has an encyclopedia on assistive technology.

  • The Assistive Technology USA TechGuide from the United Spinal Association offers reviews of a large number of assistive devices that are written by the people who use them. Readers may post their own reviews. The site also provides links to other assistive technology sources.