There are several trends and issues that arise when selecting,
acquiring and using assistive technology. There continues to be
a general lack of information among professionals, administrators
and parents on the availability and use of devices to promote access
to the general curriculum. Efforts must be made to ensure that parents
and professionals become aware of the existence of these devices
and the legislation that supports their use. Assessment, cultural
& family concerns, device design, training, cost, and maintenance
are issues that must be addressed.
It is vitally important that AT assessments take place where the
AT will be used, with team input by persons actively involved in
the child's life. We begin with an understanding of both the child's
abilities and barriers to learning and then examine the general
curriculum to determine specific tasks within daily routines. We
then work together to identify a range of AT solutions for the student
to try out before determining the most "useable" solutions.
This approach assumes the participation of a student, to the highest
extent possible, with assessment and re-evaluation as an ongoing
Cultural and Family Trends
A critical component of AT selection and use is the involvement
of the family in the selection process to ensure successful educational
and social outcomes for children with disabilities (Judge &
Parette, 1998). When families are involved in all aspects of decision
making, the likelihood of success increases and satisfaction with
assistive technology devices and services is promoted. However,
recognition of the family's needs at home and in community settings
must include the realities of family life, the lack of family-friendly
training and supports and other related issues (Parette, 1999).
Universal Design Trends
Universal design is defined as "the design of products and
environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent
possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."
Technology manufacturers are encouraged to follow suggested federal
guidelines to design products that are accessible to more users.
By applying this broader design standard, classroom technology will
be able to be used by all children in more invisible and normalized
Administrators, professionals and parents require awareness level
information on how AT can benefit education, as well as working
knowledge on how the AT works. This information is basic to the
planning for, acquisition of and effective use of various technologies.
Technology planning in school districts often neglects issues of
AT Hardware, software use and ongoing training. Recent studies report
a lack of training and technical assistance both in the operation
and integration of the technology into the curriculum, a lack of
computer access due to incompatibility of old and new technologies,
and a lack of appropriate and specialized software for severely
disabled students. With more children with disabilities entering
inclusive educational settings, general education personnel must
look to alternate means of access and learning.