Obtaining an Assistive Technology (AT) device can often be a life-changing event, but without the proper supports and training in place, AT users can sometimes become disenfranchised by their technology and put in aside, even though they may still require the AT. Receiving AT can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. There is a learning curve involved in incorporating the technology into regular work or school life, and sometimes AT users may feel that it would quicker and easier to revert to old habits, rather than learning something new. AT does not always make a task faster, in fact, it may add additional steps to a task. In the long run, however, AT allows tasks to be completed more efficiently, effectively, safely, and independently, thereby opening the door for more complex tasks to be completed in the future.
Here are some best practices that can help an individual get the best out of their AT:
Involve the user
Ensure that the AT user is actively involved in the AT selection process. When an individual does not feel involved in this process, or does not feel a sense of ownership over his/her future, that person is much more likely to abandon their AT early. Furthermore, there is often a social stigma attached to AT that must be considered. If a student feels that their AT is excessively embarrassing or “not-cool” they may be quick to put it aside.
Understand the environment in which the AT will be used, and ensure compatibility. This is imperative, as technologies and strategies that work in one location may not necessarily work in another, leading to frustration and possible AT abandonment. For example, using voice recognition software in a quiet classroom is disturbing to the other students in the class, and is therefore incompatible with that environment
Selection / Complexity
Avoid complex AT when an easier solution will be just as effective. No one enjoys dealing with unnecessarily complex technology when it negatively impacts their everyday quality of life. The simplest solution should always be tried first. Beware of complex AT Solutions that offer a multitude of features which may not be required for the task at hand. Training should focus primarily on the features that are going to be used to complete the required task.
Setup & Orientation
A formal setup and orientation with an AT Specialist is critical in easing anxiety around a new piece of AT, as it provides the AT user with an opportunity to learn how to set up and care for their equipment, as well as how to use their AT appropriately for the task required. It is also a great opportunity for the AT user to have all their questions answered, thus beginning their AT adoption on a positive note.
The AT user must be adequately trained with their AT. Otherwise, they may perceive the technology as being too difficult to use, and quickly abandon it. Initial training should focus on the features that are required for the individual to complete the required task. It should be noted that more complex AT can require ongoing training.
Awareness / Acceptance
In any environment, AT abandonment can sometimes occur if a teacher or employer is uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the AT. For this reason, it is essential that those who are working with and/or supporting an AT user are also made aware of the importance and the impact of the AT.