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Assistive Technology and AEM


Assistive technology (AT) refers to devices, software programs, or apps that are used by people with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to do.

For most people technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, however, technology makes things possible. In some cases, especially in the workplace, technology becomes the great equalizer and provides the person with a disability a level playing field on which to compete.

Mary Pat Radabaugh, Director of IBM National Support Center for Persons with Disabilities, 1988


Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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AT Defined in Federal Legislation

An AT device is...
"any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

An AT service is...
"any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, and use of an assistive technology device.”

What does AT have to do with accessible materials and technologies?

This relationship can be understood in relation to two sides of an “accessibility coin.” On one side is AT and on the other are accessible materials and technologies that, by definition, are usable with AT. When both sides of the coin are present, individuals with disabilities are given equal access to learning and advancement opportunities offered by education and workforce development agencies.

What laws apply to AT?

AT devices and services are explicitly defined in several federal statutes including

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all areas of public life, including education and employment. Learn more in Policies & Systems.

What AT resources are available?

Numerous national, state and international organizations provide information, technical assistance and learning opportunities related to AT. Learn about them in Assistive Technology Resources.


Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

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Work performed for compensation, at location, and with opportunities for advancement similar to those who are not individuals with disabilities.

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