The language we have used in the area of assistive technology has changed over the years. The changes in terminology have represented the expansion of the definition, from one that only included prosthetics and orthotics, to one that now encompasses anything from a modified pencil to a high-tech customized computer system. The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (PL 100- 407) describes an assistive technology device as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." In very basic terms, assistive technology can be thought of as products that assist in eliminating the effects of a disability or most simply as products that make life easier for persons with disabilities.
Some categories of Assistive Technology Aids and Devices are:
· Aids for Daily Living: Self-help aids for use in activities such as dressing, personal hygiene, bathing, home maintenance, and cooking.
· Mobility Aids: Standing/walking aids, transfer aids, wheelchairs and three-wheeled chairs, patient lifts.
· Educational and Vocational Aids: Computers, adaptive software and job modifications.
· Environmental Aids: Worksite/school design or modification, home modification, accessible architecture, adapted furniture, and environmental controls e.g., electronic switches or systems that help a person without mobility to control lights, telephones and appliances.
· Recreational Aids: Aids that help persons with disabilities to participate in activities like skiing, biking, boating etc.
· Communication Aids: Augmentative communication/speech aids, alarm systems, telephone communication aids, assistive listening devices, visual/reading aids.
· Seating and Positioning Aids: Modifications to wheelchairs and other seating that give greater stability to the body and reduction of pressure to the skin, e.g., modular seating, seat lifts and wheelchair cushions.
· Transportation Aids: Aids that give independence in personal transportation, such as hand-controls, car-top carriers, custom cars and vans, and child restraint systems.
Assistive technology provides creative solutions that enable individuals with disabilities to be more independent, productive, and integrated into the mainstream of society and community life. The benefits of assistive technology were first recognized by Congress in 1988 when it passed the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (PL 100-407), as amended in 1994 (also known as the Tech Act). Congress reiterated its intent to enable students with disabilities to be integrated into society through technology by incorporating the Tech Act definition of assistive technology into Parts B and H of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (PL 102-119). Therefore, any student eligible for Part B services is, by definition, eligible to receive assistive technology. PART B Regulations 34 CFR 300.5 and 300.6 distinguish between assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, and define them as follows: [section]300.5 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 children with disabilities. [section]300.6 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 - -
(a) The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
(b) Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;
(c) Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, retaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
(d) Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
(e) Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family; and
(f) Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of children with disabilities.
Regulation [section]300.308 provides further clarification of a school district’s obligations with respect to assistive technology, and reads as follows:
[Section]300.308 Assistive Technology
Each public agency shall ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in [section]300.5-300.6, are made available to a child with a disability if required as part of the child’s—
(a) Special education under [section]300.17;
(b) Related services under [section]300.16; or
(c) Supplementary aids and services under [section]300.550(b)(2).
Internet Resources, State of Mass., Dept. of Education; Public Domain