Assistive Technology (AT) is defined as “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 the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability.”
Basically, assistive technology helps you to do something that would be hard to do or impossible to do without it. AT includes a wide range of things from very simple tools like a pencil grip or a different kind of writing paper to wheelchairs, walkers, computers and software or expensive communication devices. AT can help a student with a disability to do the same thing that other students are doing, just another way. AT can provide a voice for someone who cannot speak, provide cognitive support for someone with an intellectual disability, provide for materials to be read aloud to students who are blind or have a learning disability, or assist with mobility. It can help an individual with a disability to become more independent and fosters a positive self-concept.
Assistive Technology is something that should be considered in every IEP, regardless of the severity of the student’s disability. It could be the decision of the IEP team that a student does not need AT. But the team should have sufficient experience with Assistive Technology to make that decision. If they do not, they can bring someone who has expertise in AT into the IEP meeting or ask for an AT evaluation. If there are barriers to overcome in helping a student reach a goal, then AT, along with classroom strategies, might be able to help.
The Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (GPAT) is a part of the Georgia Department of Education and serves school districts in developing their expertise in the consideration and implementation of AT. Most districts have developed their own Assistive Technology team but still receive information and updates from GPAT. The mission of GPAT is to improve student achievement, productivity, independence and inclusion by enhancing educator knowledge of assistive technology and increasing student access to appropriate assistive technology devices and services.
Along with Assistive Technology, students may require Accessible Instructional Materials (AIMs)/Accessible Educational Materials (AEMs). AIMs/AEMs and AT working together are designed to give students with disabilities the same access to textbooks and instructional materials like workbooks as other students have. Accessible Instructional Materials/Accessible Educational Materials are produced in Braille, Large Print, auditory versions, or electronic versions so that students with disabilities who cannot use typical instructional materials can have access to the curriculum. In Georgia, the Georgia Instructional Materials Center provides these materials to schools upon request for specific students.