Monday, April 21, 2014

The potential of assistive technology for people with developmental disabilities

By Erin Hough 

As an advocate at the Disability Law Center, my position involves mainly working on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last year, I have spent a large amount of time in facilities that serve this population. 

Erin Hough, advocate at the
Disability Law Center
I have visited 33 community day treatment programs, numerous post-high school transition programs and almost every Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-ID) in the state. I also maintain a regular presence at the state’s developmental center. 

Through my observations at all of these places, I have seen a surprisingly small usage of assistive technology (AT). Research supports my observations that AT is being underutilized with this population. A recent study by B. Bryant, Seok, Ok and D. Bryant (2012) found that a majority of individuals in group residential settings do not use AT.  

Followers of this blog are probably aware of the amazing potential for assistive technology to improve peoples’ lives. It can increase peoples’ abilities to live independently. It can enable them to communicate their thoughts and ideas more completely. My question is, if AT has all this potential, why isn’t it being used more widely? What can we do to create the kinds of changes that we want to see?

I do not have the answers to these questions. But Bryant et al. cites three main barriers: funding for devices, training of service providers and AT users, and the lack of a proper person-technology match. 

I think that we have some excellent AT professionals and programs in this state, including the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) and the Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP). They are working vigorously to overcome these barriers. 

The DLC hopes to join their efforts by helping people overcome funding obstacles and helping to spread the word about the potential for AT to improve lives. If you have any ideas on how we can do more to further these efforts, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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