What exactly is Assistive Technology (AT) and who benefits from this type of technology? As defined in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998; AT is any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. To be clear, everyone benefits from AT. As stated by Mary Pat Radabaugh, Director of IBM National Support Center for Persons with Disabilities, “For Americans without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For Americans with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
Assistive Technology is widespread and available for a variety of disabilities. For example, individuals with visual impairments may use screen readers, refreshable Braille, and speech recognition systems. Those with mobility impairments may use touch screens, keyboard filters including typing aids such as word prediction, alternative input devices, or basic wands, sticks, joy sticks, trackballs, and even one-handed keyboards.
There are endless opportunities for assistive technology to meld with the workplace and to help employers make reasonable accommodations for their employees with disabilities. There are also a growing number of resources, both locally and nationally, that support efforts to increase technology into daily life as well as on the job.
Minnesota STAR Program:
STAR’s mission is to help all Minnesotans with disabilities gain access to and acquire the assistive technology they need to live, learn, work and play. The Minnesota STAR Program is federally funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in accordance with the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (P.L. 108-364).
EquipALife is a nonprofit organization that provides access to life changing equipment for people with disabilities. They create a lifeline to financial assistance, education, information and resources throughout Minnesota. EquipALife helps Minnesotans with disabilities by increasing self-sufficiency at work, home, at school and in the community.
AbleData provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. They serve the nation’s disability, rehabilitation, and senior communities. AbleData’s most significant resource is the AbleData database of assistive technology, which contains objective information on almost 40,000 assistive products.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN):
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN’s consultants offer one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities. Assistance is available both over the phone and online. Those who can benefit from JAN’s services include private employers of all sizes, government agencies, employee representatives, and service providers, as well as people with disabilities and their families.
Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC):
MRAC serves audiences in Minnesota’s seven-county metropolitan region through grants, services, and technical assistance to the arts communities of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington counties.
Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) program:
The TED Program provides telephone equipment to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, speech impaired or have a physical disability and need adaptive equipment in order to use the phone. The equipment is loaned out at no cost as a long-term loan. Available equipment include Captel phones, light flashing ring signalers, TTYs, amplified telephones, loud ringers, hands free speakerphones and more.
Gillette Children’s Hospital:
The Assistive Technology Department (ATD) at Gillette Children’s designs and creates customized orthoses (braces), powered wheelchair controls, artificial limbs (prosthetics), augmentative communication devices, protective headgear, custom seating and wheelchair modifications
Assistive Technology (AT) is a crucial part of Courage Center. We believe that through technology intervention all things are possible. Whether you are interested in computer access or a simple talking clock, Courage Center has the program to fit your needs. Courage Center AT is a combination of therapy and non-therapy services, (e.g., Bioness to work on arm strengthening or computer adaptations needed for a student).