Assistive technology is a device, equipment, or service that enables a person with a disability to maintain or improve their basic functions. They run the gamut from hand controls to operate brake and gas pedals in vehicles, to the ubiquitous TV remote, to highly sophisticated motorized wheelchairs, hearing aids, screen reading software, and much more.
Assistive technology is generally categorized by either items pertaining to the activities of daily living, and items that pertain to a specific disability.
The key to the full utilization of required or needed assistive technology is to start early.
For children, one of the first resources that parents or guardians should consider in obtaining assistive technology is Child Find, the process of identifying children with potentialspecial education needs. Child Find screenings are provided by the Fairfax County Public Schools Department of Special Services and are free for children ages 20 months to 5 years old who are residents of Fairfax County or Fairfax City.
For school-age children receiving special education services, an assistive technology assessment can be done to determine what or what kind of assistive technology device or service exists for any particular disability. A team approach (the child, his/her parents, and a skilled professional) assesses the needs and determines a recommended solution, with a focus on function and options. An assistive technology assessment can be requested at a student’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
For adults, assistive technology assessments are routinely performed at rehabilitation centers, universities, centers of independent living, and disability advocacy organizations.
Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind
Provides assistive technology assessments and evaluations, sales of assistive technology devices, and training.
Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired: Low Vision Services
Provides assessments, vision examinations, and follow-up counseling and training programs for people who have low vision.
Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired: Rehabilitation Engineering Services
Performs comprehensive client and work site evaluations and consult with employers to design user accessible work environments.
Provides information, training, and technical assistance for parents and professionals to meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Fairfax County Public Library Access Services Branch
Provides various assistive technology services for residents who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, homebound, or have a physical disability.
Northern Virginia Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Has an assistive technology demonstration center that gives individuals an opportunity for “hands on” experience with the equipment before purchasing it.
Distributes equipment that assists Virginia residents who are deaf and hard of hearing to become more independent.
Virginia Assistive Technology System (VATS)
Increases awareness, accessibility, and acquisition of assistive technology.
Connects people who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or have a disability impacting their speech with standard telephone users, relaying the conversation between both parties.
Assistive Technology Loan Fund Authority
Gives low-interest loans to finance of assistive technology for Virginians with disabilities.