AT Assessment - General Information

AT Assessment - General Information (Word)
AT Assessment - Best Practices (Word)

An assistive technology (AT) device is 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 a person’s functional capabilities. An assistive technology service is any service that helps an individual select, acquire, or learn to use an assistive technology device. Examples of services are: customizing, adapting, maintaining, and repairing devices, assistive technology evaluations, funding, technical assistance and training on device use. An AT assessment should match a person's needs and capabilities with appropriate devices and services.

An assessment team gathers and interprets comprehensive information that may include medical, residential, vocational, educational, and family histories. Possible team members include: Consumer and Family Members, Occupational, Speech, and/or Physical Therapists, Rehabilitation Engineer, Technologist, Appropriate School Personnel, Orthotist or Prosthetist, Durable Medical Equipment Representative, Home Health Care Worker or Public Health Aide, Audiologist and/or Vision Specialist, Physician and/or Nurse.

Types of Assessments

Mobility Assessment

Looks at skills and lifestyle as they relate to a person’s ability to move around as independently as possible. Assistive technology examples: wheelchairs, walkers, motorized carts, scooters, electric mobility devices, canes, and crutches.

Seating/positioning Assessment

Fits a seating system to best suit a person’s shape or disability, making the most of all physical capabilities and preventing skin breakdown caused by pressure sores. Improper positioning could prevent a person from operating switches to access a computer or communication device. Examples: standing tables, seat belts, braces, cushions and wedges to maintain posture.

Communication Assessment

Includes speaking, hearing, and writing and could involve many different kinds of assistive technology devices. Examples: communication boards, speech synthesizers, modified typewriters, head pointers, voice to text software, telecommunication devices for the deaf, text telephones.

Computer Access Assessment

Determines the best input device or method of access to a computer. Examples: headsticks, light pointers, modified or alternate keyboards, switches activated by pressure, sound, or voice, touch screen,, voice to text software, special software, sketch and graphics pads.

Switch-access Assessment

May be necessary to help a person with a disability access a computer. It determines which of many possible switches will be most effective, and the placement or positioning of switches for greatest control and/or access. Examples: leaf switch, jellybean switch, light touch switch, sip and puff switch, sound-activated switches.

Assessment of Aids for Daily Living

Identifies adaptive aids to help perform daily living tasks more independently. Many of these devices can be bought commercially in discount and department stores. Modification or custom fabrication may be needed to adapt devices to individual needs and environments. Examples: modified eating utensils, adapted books, pencil holders, page turners, dressing aids, adapted personal hygiene aids.

Work-site Modification Assessment

Compares job requirement activities to a person’s specific needs, recommending reasonable accommodations to help a person meet the established productivity levels or goals. Examples: adjustable table/desk, bright lighting, adapted telephone receivers, adjustable telephone volume.

Home Modification Assessment

Evaluates building barriers to mobility and independence, or a person's ability to activate appliances. Examples: ramps, lifts, automatic door openers, expanded doorways.

Recreational Assessment

Can help select assistive technology that allows participation in many leisure activities, depending on a person's interests. Examples: audio description for movies, sip-and-puff controlled joysticks for video games, cuffs for grasping paddles or racquets, seating for canoes, sailboats.

Steps to a Successful Assessment

  1. Identify and assemble the proper assessment team. For some funding sources, there may be formal requirements that certain professionals be involved and certain documents be obtained.
  2. Provide all necessary information. This may include medical information, family history, and educational records. Information must include emphasis on the functional goals that you are trying to reach. Discuss all technology that has been tried in the past with the results.
  3. Write down specific concerns. Make a list of concerns and questions to be sure they are addressed during the assessment. Specific technology terms or diagnostic labels can be confusing.
  4. Record the session. It may be a good idea to tape-record the entire session or to take notes. Tape-recording allows everyone to participate more actively. If you want to make a recording make sure that it is allowed and legal in each situation.

Who Pays for the Assessment?

State and federal laws require local school districts to provide assessments and education-related assistive technology devices and services for all children from ages three to 21. BabyNet provides early intervention before age three. Finding and funding devices or services may involve a number of agencies and organizations beyond the school district. Contact your county social services department or school district as a first step. Children whose assistive technology needs are related to medical factors can be assessed through Medicaid, Children’s Rehabilitation Services, or agencies which serve people with specific disabilities.

Adults who are beginning the assistive technology assessment and acquisition process need to look into many options. Local and national support groups or foundations should be investigated, as well as Medicaid and agencies that serve people with specific disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation and the Disability Action Center, the state independent living grant, may also be contacted.

AT Assessment Tools

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October 26, 2010