Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities

While technology to assist persons with disabilities is clearly not new, the name for the type of technology is a more recent development. In 1988, Public Law 100-407 - The Technology Related Assistance Act was passed to provide assistance for persons with disabilities in obtaining information, training, funding, and technical assistance needed to acquire and use technology. As part of this legislation the term assistive technology was defined to be any "item, piece of equipment, or product system" that was used to "increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."

Unlike medical technology, whose purpose is to improve or sustain health through diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a condition that could lead to reduced functioning, the purpose of assistive technology is to directly improve function, or performance, in the activities of life in which the individual engages. As we have learned in a previous lesson, performance can be thought of in terms of the outcomes of the activity, specifically the quality of the activity outcome, the amount (quantity) of the activity outcome, or amount of time it takes to complete the activity. Assistive technology improves the productivity of the individual.



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