Assistive Technology Specialists
Assistive Technology (AT) specialists are a heterogeneous group of individuals who provide services that are designed to assist people with disabilities to choose, acquire, or use AT devices. They provide any or all of the following services:
- Evaluation of AT needs
- Help in acquiring AT devices
- Guidance in selecting, customizing, adapting, maintaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices
- Coordinating and using necessary interventions (for example, low vision services) with the use of AT devices
- Training or providing technical assistance to individuals with disabilities, family members or significant others, professionals, and employers in the effective use and integration of AT devices
A shortage of qualified professionals who provide specialized AT skills training significantly impedes the employability of blind and visually impaired people. In 2000-2003, the American Foundation for the Blind led a task force to help alleviate this shortage. The task force produced recommendations for AT specialist competencies and urged the vision rehabilitation field and the assistive technology industry to develop training programs to facilitate the attainment of those competencies.
Currently, AT professionals develop their skills through self-study; vendor training workshops; agency, online, and college-based certificate courses; and apprenticeship. There is no professional certification for AT specialists who work with visually impaired people; however, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) offers a Certified Practice in Assistive Technology credential for both practitioners and industry members.