Celebrating AT Awareness and Education

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April 6th, 2022, is National Assistive Technology Awareness Day! Congress has designated this day to recognize the role assistive technology (AT) and AT services play in the lives of individuals with disabilities. To extend the celebration, each day this week AT3 Center is highlighting AT for different purposes. Please share and consider telling your own story. Help celebrate #ATAwarenessDay!

First, what is assistive technology (AT)?

A young girl activating a switch-adapted toy.
A busy client of the Montana AT Act Program. (Read Kinsley’s story.)

AT is any item, device, or software used to maintain or improve the independence and functioning of persons with disabilities and older adults. AT devices can be “low tech,” such as a built-up handle on a spoon to improve the ability to grasp, to “high tech,” such as computers controlled with eye gaze. AT includes the services necessary to get and use the devices, including assessment, customization, repair, and training.

How does assistive technology support Education?

A boy with Down syndrome working at a desk

For students with disabilities, AT can be necessary for providing access to the curriculum. Students with dyslexia or a visual impairment, for example, can hear text read aloud (text-to-speech), benefit from a reading ruler or other common adaptative tools such as blocks and tactile graph paper for math. Students with writing challenges may get their ideas down with speech-to-text, the right pencil grip, or alternative computer access such as a dynamic braille notetaker. There is AT to support students with ADHD to concentrate and speech-generating devices for students with complex communication needs. AT is also the durable medical equipment necessary for students to participate in their classroom or eat in the cafeteria. AT is so essential for education that it is a requirement for consideration in every Individualized Educational Program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

What role do AT Act Programs play?

AT Act Programs assist individuals with disabilities of all ages (including veterans and older adults) to identify and acquire AT that supports their independence, safety, and personal goals. Programs serve AT-users directly and their family members, caregivers, educators, therapists, and employers. Anyone with a reason to learn about AT is welcome. Find your State or Territory AT Act Program.

An Education story from Virginia

A smiling boy at home in his stander with tray.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools in the spring of 2020, a mother found herself managing virtual schooling for her four kids. One of her children uses a wheelchair and was without the stander he has at school. Insurance denied this equipment for home use. The mother needed something to make it easy for her to move her son in and out of standing during his “school day” at home. She reached out to the Children’s Assistive Technology Service (CATS), a contractor of the Virginia Assistive Technology Act Program (VATS). CATS was able to provide her with an Easy Stand Evolve. This gently-used device helped this mom and son participate in his educational program and be comfortable while learning from home.

Looking for an accessible PDF that explains AT for Education and the services provided by AT Act Programs? Download Assistive Technology Is A Part Of Everyday Life: Education