Advancements in Assistive Technology and AT Laws for the Disabled

Article excerpt

As technology plays an increasingly important role in the lives of Americans, it is imperative to provide assistive technologies so that all persons can participate fully in education, employment, and daily living. The author shares key advancements in assistive technology that empower the disabled to perform functions that were previously impossible or difficult. The article also summarizes major federal legislation that provides and spurs accessibility to assistive technology in our schools and society. Today, assistive technology is not an option, but a necessity and a right for the disabled.

Introduction

Technology advances have significandy impacted peoples lives in the last 50 years. Many persons cannot imagine preparing dinner without the use of a microwave, driving a car without utilizing a global positioning system (GPS), or communicating without using a wireless smart phone. Just 15 years ago, few people imagined paying bills by electronic funds transfer (EFT), shopping online, or using the Internet at broadband speeds to access the worlds greatest library - the World Wide Web (WWW) - as common daily occurrences. For individuals with disabilities, modern technological advancements and lowtech and high-tech breakthroughs have not only changed but have revolutionized the way disabled American children and adults learn and live. Advancements in the development and use of assistive technologies (previously referred to as handicapped apparatus or disability equipment) have been astronomical and now enable the disabled to do what their counterparts of years ago could not have fathomed possible.

Advancements in Technology Devices for the Disabled

The benefits of assistive technology cross age, disability, and health challenge - be it a temporary, fluctuating, degenerative, or permanent condition faced by the individual. From infancy to old age, a person may face a range of possible physical, emotional, or cognitive impairments. Robitaille, author of The Illustrative Guide to Assistive Technology and Devices and diagnosed as profoundly deaf since the age of 4, stated, "One of the most important things to remember is that, as humans, we're all temporarily abled. At one point or another it is likely that each of us will use some form of assistive technology" (Robitaille, 2010, p. 7).

Today, thousands of assistive technology products are on the market to help empower people with mild to severe disabilities and with a wide range of individualized needs, from the simple to the most complex. Assistive technologies can include something as low tech as a walking cane or as complex as a bionic limb. Generally, the term low tech encompasses anything that does not require a battery or electricity, whereas high tech refers to stateof-the-art technologies, sophisticated electronics, computers, or software. "When many people think of assistive technology, they think primarily about computers or sophisticated electronic devices. However, it is important to realize that assistive technology applications can be viewed as a continuum" (National Assistive Technology Research Center, 2012, p. 3).

Computer- Assistive Technology

Computer-assistive technologies provide a wide range of modifications that make itpossible for many disabled persons to attend school or college (either traditional brick or click online education) and to secure gainful employment. Even persons with severe disabilities can now use computers equipped to follow and interpret commands based on eye movement or breath. Modern "Screen Readers can scan what's on the computer monitor and convert it to speech or even Braille" (Assisted Disability, 2012, p. 2).

Apple Incorporated includes assistive technology as standard features in its products and at no additional cost. For example, iPhone, iPad, iPod, OS X, and Apple TV include screen magnification and VoiceOver, a screen-access technology, for the blind and visually impaired. …