What is NOT assistive technology?

Recently on a listserv (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology – www.qiat.org) , a question was posed which caught my eye, “What is and what is not assistive technology?”

WHOA!  That could be a pretty heavy question…!

question marks

At Networks we think everything is assistive technology (AT) and are always looking and exploring different, new, and creative AT, accommodations and adaptations.

What unrolled on this listserv and the responses were nothing short of fantastic and did not disappoint.  If anything, it spurred us to think even more deeply and fully confirmed so much of what we’ve known for years.  We’ve been in situations where a support person didn’t feel AT should be afforded to a person because they saw it as a “crutch”  (my brain was boggled!) where, in fact, it was (in the end) a full support for the person in question to do their job (yes!  a paid job in the community earning a competitive wage!) more effectively.  There are still SO many misconceptions and false beliefs surrounding assistive technology, accommodations, and adaptations.  Part of this is, potentially, just CALLING it assistive technology — these two words alone sets apart things as special and only for a particular group of people…  But, this is a conversation (and posting!) for another day.

We compiled nearly all of the thoughtful responses below.  But, before you read further, ask yourself…  what IS and what is NOT assistive technology?  We hope you’ll leave you thoughts in the comment section & let’s get the conversation started!

What is Assistive Technology, Accommodations, and Adaptations?

 AT is….

  • a game changer
  • access, transforming
  • problem-solving access
  • about asking “how can we…?” and “what can she/he do with the right support?”
  • about discovering new strategies and tools to expand access and opportunity
  • about building the best toolbox
  • a team effort, including the person
  • a process of involving more than just the person to access potential
  • goal driven
  • a dynamic process
  • evolving and constant research
  • (can be) magical
  • a journey, not a destination
  • a tool
  • a process
  • a tool used by a person
  • to express themselves and interact with the world
  • dynamic and ongoing
  • everything
  • a set of words that creates something “special” for a person / creates a separate group (not good!)
  • a state of mind, analogous to the maker movement
  • a state of mind is not all that compatible with the status quo and business as usual

 AT is not….

  • a crutch, cheating
  • quantifying deficits
  • about justifying why something has always been done a certain way
  • done
  • always high-tech
  • a magic wand
  • one size fits all
  • causing an unfair advantage
  • an immediate fix
  • a destination
  • a specific device/app/piece of equipment
  • the complete solution
  • a persons identity [i]
  • a product
  • thinking for a person
  • making connections between ideas for a person
  • analyzing information for a person
  • completing an assignment for a person
  • providing an unfair advantage for a person
  • a one-time event
  • without continual attention

[i] Unless the person using the AT defines it that way

Adapted from QIAT (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology) Listserv, November 2017