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Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI 02908, 401-456-8072

Assistive Technology

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What is Assistive Technology? It's all about function!

The term ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY refers to equipment, tools, and services that help people with disabilities to continue to do things they want to or need to do, to do them better or more efficiently, or to do some things that they might not have been able to do before without the technology. Assistive Technology is about functioning better and functioning differently to gain personal independence, productivity and inclusion.

According to federal legislations, which govern services for children and adults, assistive technology is defined in two parts: assistive technology devices and assistive technology services. The following definitions are contained within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act, the Technology-Related Assistance Act (Tech Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and are observed as the official federal definitions of assistive technology.

Assistive Technology Device:

An 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 children and adults with disabilities."

Assistive Technology Services:

An assistive technology service is "any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device." Such services include:
• Evaluation of needs
• Purchase, lease, or acquisition
• Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing
• Coordinating therapies, interventions, or services
• Training or technical assistance for the individual and family
• Training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or others who provide services or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of the person with a disability.

Essentially, all US legislations that reference assistive technology use this definition of assistive technology. Some of these include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Technology-Related Assistance Act (Tech Act).

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