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How to Get a Good Assistive Technology Assessment

Who Provides Assessments?

Assistive Technology (AT) assessments may be obtained from rehabilitation providers who are employed in settings such as medical facilities, universities, schools, non-profit agencies or in a private practice. Evaluation providers are most often licensed and or certified in fields related to AT. They may or may not have specific training or experience with AT. While an additional AT certification is not required, it can be beneficial.

Certification of a service provider, in any field, is the process by which a non-governmental agency or association validates an individual’s qualifications and knowledge in a defined functional or clinical area. Candidates for certification typically must meet specific requirements to be eligible for certification, and those declared eligible must pass an examination.  The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) offers national certification for two specialties:

  • Assistive Technology Professional (ATP): Service provider who analyzes the needs of consumers with disabilities, assist in selection of appropriate assistive technology for the consumer’s needs, and provide training in the use of the selected device(s).
  • Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS): An ATP who specializes in the comprehensive seating, positioning, and mobility needs of consumers with disabilities.

It is important to have qualified person(s) who specialize in evaluation for and training of assistive technology involved in the assessment process. Not all professionals will have knowledge of assistive technology. Some (not all) types of professionals who provide assessments include:

  • Occupational Therapist (OT): Evaluates hand (fine motor) and total body (gross motor) skills, touch and movement abilities, visual perception, positioning, and helps to find the person's best method to use assistive technology.
  • Physical Therapist (PT): Evaluates seating, positioning, and mobility. The PT can work closely with the OT and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) to find the best position for the person to be in when using the technology.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP): Evaluates the person's communication abilities. The SLP is very important in deciding the type of augmentative communication that will work.
  • Rehabilitation Engineers: Design and make customized technology.
  • Architects: Plan any structural changes needed in buildings.
  • Physicians: Write prescriptions for an assistive technology assessment and for recommended equipment.
  • Aging in Place Specialists: Can help evaluate your home for safety and ease of use
  • Audiologists: Assess and recommend hearing and listening aids.

What about Vendors?

Vendors sell assistive technology devices and services. They can be important in the process of finding the correct device for you and be quite knowledgeable about the devices they sell. They do have a conflict of interest in an assessment process as they are in business to sell devices and services. It can be difficult to know if a vendor is providing you with the most effective solution to meet your needs. It can also be easy to become excited about features you may not really need. Some vendors are very good about basing their recommendations solely on meeting the customer’s needs, in the most cost-effective manner. However, this is not always the case.

In Wisconsin, an interagency team has produced a list of “Best Practices” for vendors of AT (A PDF, see page 2) which is worth your review.

What Should an Assessment Report Include?

An assistive technology assessment should inform the funding source about how the person can benefit from assistive technology, including:

  • A description of the person’s disability as it relates to the assessment and relevant background information.
  • Identification of any variables that should be considered if the assessment did not occur in the setting where the technology will be used.
  • The specific type(s) of assistive technology being recommended.
  • How and why the equipment will specifically meet the person’s needs.
  • How the decision was reached (e.g. demonstration of a variety of devices, physical assessment with a variety of options, funding options available, etc.).
  • Where or from which vendor the appropriate equipment can be purchased.
  • Potential funding alternatives for the equipment.
  • The availability of a maintenance agreement, warranty or other safeguard, and whether this is included in the purchase price or available at an additional cost.
  • The anticipated cost of the equipment, training and maintenance.
  • Description of the repair procedures (e.g. shipped, in-home, remote service, etc.).
  • The availability of loaner equipment prior to purchase or during repair services.
  • Identification of training needs for the recommended device(s), who is able to provide that training (i.e. the vendor, manufacturer, or an outside provider), and training related expenses.

The "AT Directory" section of this website includes resources for assessments/evaluations. You can also contact your local Disability Network/Center for Independent Living for assistance in finding professionals for evaluation.

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The contents of this web page were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.