What are Assistive Technology Tools?

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

assistive technology tools, benefits of assistive technology

What are Assistive Technology Tools?

Assistive technology (AT) is any product, equipment, software program and/or system that enhances learning, working, and daily living for persons with disabilities. The goal of assistive technology is to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities (ATIA).

Assistive technology also refers to the proper selection, training, application strategies, and technical support necessary to produce results. The “tools” that AT specialists select are based on individual user needs, tasks, and factors related to when and where the tools are needed.

Benefits of Assistive Technology

Basically, AT enables independence and function for people with different abilities. There’s an often-re-quoted statement that I often use to explain why technology with a defined purpose is so life-changing for people with disabilities:

“For most of us, technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability, it makes things possible.”

Assistive technology makes things possible. We all benefit from technology but people with disabilities may require technology to participate, show what they know, or be more independent!

Here are some benefits of assistive technology:

benefits of assistive technology tools
  • Increased independence with daily living, mobility, play, and/or academic tasks

  • Increased level of participation

  • Increased access

  • Improved sense of self, self-esteem

  • Increased opportunities for inclusion

  • Enable people of varying abilities to engage in purposeful, meaningful activities

  • Improved communication skills - both verbally and nonverbally

  • Improved ability to demonstrate skills/competencies

Categories of Assistive Technology

Assistive technology tools can fall under 3 categories or along a continuum from: low tech, mid tech, and high tech.

low tech assistive technology tools

Low tech AT tools enable function without the need for batteries or electrical power source. For example, a low tech AT tool for writing is a pencil grip. Low tech supports tend to be the simplest, least expensive, and most commonly implemented AT tools, especially in classrooms where the accommodations naturally exist. These tools need the least amount of maintenance but they also are limited in their features.

mid tech assistive technology tools

Mid tech AT tools are typically battery-operated. These can range from audiobooks, to switches, to screen magnifiers, depending on the needs of the user. The level of training needed to use these tools is more so than with low tech tools, but less than the high tech tools.

high tech assistive technology tools

High tech AT tools are the most expensive and typically require being “plugged in.” These can be cell phones/computers/tablets as well as the computer software. Electric wheelchairs and Augmentative Communication Devices (AAC) are all high tech AT tools that enable function. High tech AT tools require the most amount of skill to use and training to learn because they offer more features, capabilities, and functions. Along with this increase in complexity comes the greater need for maintenance. High tech tools are often not readily available but recommended for user-specific needs.