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If you have never had a professional assessment of your abilities before, this can be very helpful in determining the appropriate technology. For example, if you have limited mobility in one area, a professional could recommend devices which minimize the strain of overuse of these muscles and joints.  There are many different types of assessments, depending on what you want to do and on your disability characteristics. A good assessment matches you to the best assistive technology and can require more than one evaluation. Each evaluation looks at specific things based on your abilities and what you want to do.

Who you choose to help you make an AT decision depends primarily on four factors:

  1. Type of equipment/device (simple over the counter, individually fitted or prescriptive):
    Generally speaking, if a device does not require "fitting" or prescription, and is not at risk for causing injury, it can be bought "off the shelf" or selected from disability product catalogs. Such products include magnifiers, large print playing cards, adapted eating utensils, flashing smoke alarms etc. Other devices need careful personal fitting such as adapted seating systems, adapted skis, etc. and some need prescriptions.

    Prescriptive devices are usually medically necessary devices such as power wheelchairs or communication devices that will be paid for by an insurance funding source. Fitted and prescriptive devices need to be reviewed and recommended by experienced, and in some cases, licensed, professionals.

    Devices that do not need personalized fitting or prescription are often chosen by matching the features of the device to the specific needs of the person. Providing an opportunity for trial use of the AT during naturally occurring daily routines can provide valuable feedback about the appropriateness of the AT.

  2. Complexity of the system involved (single item or complex integrated system):
    The complexity of the device or system you need often makes a difference in your choice of who can help you find the right device to meet your needs. Some AT devices are single, “stand alone” items, such as a closed circuit TV (CCTV) that enlarges print, a switch-operated toy, or a talking calculator, etc.

    Often AT systems consist of several components (such as a computer that speaks scanned text), or they need to be compatible with other AT devices (such as an environmental control unit that operates using a wheelchair driving mechanism). The more complex the system, the more you will probably need experienced help.

  3. Your knowledge, experience, and comfort level with AT ("new user" or "old pro”):
    If you have experience with other pieces of AT, you feel comfortable asking questions and getting information, and have some experience working with vendors and health professionals, you may be able to make decisions on your own or with very little help. If you are new to technology (possibly even technophobic), you probably need the help of experienced people to start the selection process.

  4. Requirements of the procurement/funding source:
    Specific funding sources may require that you have an "AT Evaluation or Assessment" done by a professional before they will pay for an AT device or service. The funding or procurement source is a very important consideration in determining who should assist you. Educational (school districts), vocational rehabilitation, and medical (insurance companies, Medicaid, Medicare) funding sources usually require verification of need and assurance that the AT selected will meet that need in the form of an "evaluation" or "assessment." Other funding sources (low interest loans, private grants, self-pay, gifts) do not require assessments.

If you have never had a professional assessment of your abilities before, this can be very helpful in determining the appropriate technology.  There are many different types of assessments, depending on what you want to do and on your disability characteristics. A good assessment matches you to the best assistive technology and can require more than one evaluation. Each evaluation looks at specific things based on your abilities and what you want to do.

To learn more about assessments/evaluations, please read the artile "How to Get a Good Assistive Technology Assessment" in the learn section of this web page.

The AT Directory includes resources for evalautions. You can also contact your local Disability Network/Center for Independent Living for assistance in finding professionals for evaluation.

Go to Step 3: Identify Devices or Services to Meet Your Need

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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.