Section I: Introduction to Assistive Technology and Oklahoma ABLE Tech
What Is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is devices and equipment designed to make your life easier, or to help you perform specific tasks. If you are one of the 600,000 Oklahomans with disabilities, assistive technology devices becomes the door to opportunity and can assist you in realizing your potential. Technology can be a great enabler and an equalizer of opportunity.
Assistive technology is any item or piece of equipment used to improve the capabilities of people with disabilities such as a scooter or wheelchair, aids to helps those with low vision or blindness, devices to assist individuals with hearing impairments, specialized computer hardware and software, aids for daily living, and communication devices. Assistive technology allows people with disabilities to function independently in recreation, education, employment, and daily living activities.
Assistive technology in the classroom brings children with and without disabilities together to share social and educational experiences. In the office or work setting, assistive technology enables people with disabilities to utilize knowledge and skills to be productive. At home, assistive technology makes life easier and more enjoyable. From simple to complex, assistive devices provide more opportunities and greater personal independence for people with disabilities.
See Appendix A for the legal definition of assistive technology within the Assistive Technology Act.
Types of Assistive Technology (AT)
For the purposes of this guide, the types of AT devices are divided into the following categories. Picture icons have been developed and included to represent each category of AT devices. These categories and icons have been used in this guide to quickly identify what types of AT devices are provided or covered by each funding source for eligible applicants. You may want to refer to this list when using the information on funding sources included in this guide.
- Aids for Daily Living: devices for use in activities of daily living; such as, eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, cooking, cleaning, and home maintenance. Some medical devices such as glucose monitors, respirators and many other types of machines and related disposable supplies are also daily living aids.
- Aids for Hearing Impaired: devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing such as hearing aids, TDDs, and visual alerting systems.
- Aids for Vision Impaired: devices for persons who are blind or visually impaired such as magnifiers, braille, speech output devices, and large print computer screens.
- Speech Communication: devices that provide a means for expressive and receptive communication for persons with limited speech; such as, electronic devices with speech output and non-electronic devices. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are considered speech communication devices.
- Mobility, Seating & Positioning: devices to improve personal mobility for persons with physical disabilities; such as, manual and electric wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, motorized scooters, and other utility vehicles. This includes seating systems to improve body stability and sitting posture, provide trunk and/or head support, and reduce pressure on the skin surface (i.e., cushions, contour seats, lumbar and head supports).
- Computers & Related: Hardware and software products to access, interact with, and use computers at home, work or school. Includes modified or alternate keyboards, switches activated by pressure, touch screens, special software, or voice to text software.
- Learning Cognition & Developmental: devices to provide access to educational materials and instruction in school or other environments; may include specialized software.
- Environmental Adaptations: environmental and structural adaptations that remove or reduce barriers and promote access to and within the home, employment and community facilities. This includes home modifications, environmental controls and switches that enables the person with limited mobility to control various devices such as appliances, electronic aids, and security systems.
- Vehicle Modifications: adapted driving aids, such as, hand controls, lifts, and modified vans or other motor vehicles used for personal transportation.
- Recreation & Leisure Devices: devices and modifications that enable persons with disabilities to participate in a) recreational activities; such as, adapted equipment for water skiing, wheelchair basketball, etc., or b) leisure activities using devices such as braille or large print playing cards or board games, adapted tools for gardening, books on tape, etc.
What Is Oklahoma ABLE Tech?
Oklahoma ABLE Tech is a sponsored program of the Department of Wellness, Oklahoma State University, which is the lead agency for the "Tech Act" grant as designated by Governor Frank Keating in 1995. The purpose of ABLE Tech is to make assistive technology devices and services more available and accessible to individuals with disabilities and their families. In addition, ABLE Tech collaborates with state agencies and organization to enhance the understanding and access to AT. ABLE Tech is funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Service Administration. ABLE Tech is a valuable resource for persons with disabilities, their families, advocates, and service providers. Although Oklahoma ABLE Tech does not purchase or sell AT devices they do provide the following services.
- Device short-term loan program allows individuals to borrow AT in order to "try before you buy." Short-term loans are also beneficial for the purposes of assessment, meeting interim needs when devices need to be repaired and for personnel development activities. ABLE Tech partners with various organizations across the state to make specialized equipment available.
- Device demonstration programs have provided an opportunity to compare the features and benefits of a particular AT device or category of devices for an individual or small group of individuals. The device explorations is designed to support informed decision-making regarding the appropriate purchase of assistive technology.
- An assistive technology "Oklahoma Equipment Exchange" (OEE) Program is a free service to help Oklahomans with disabilities needing assistive technology to find affordable, used adaptive equipment to meet their needs. To buy, donate, or sell used AT call the Oklahoma ABLE Tech INFO-line at 1-888-885-5588 or visit the website at http://oec.okstate.edu.
- The Oklahoma Durable Medical Equipment Reuse Program (OKDMERP) in partnership with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) is designed to reuse valuable durable medical equipment (DME) that is no longer needed, and reassign it to an Oklahoma resident in need. Priority will be given to SoonerCare members, but any Oklahoma resident is eligible with a completed application. The program retrieves specific types of donated equipment and reassigns to the best matched eligible individual. Pickup and delivery services are limited to central Oklahoma residents. However, any Oklahoma resident can make arrangements to drop-off or pickup equipment at the OKDMERP office in Oklahoma City.
- A low interest bank loan through a partnership with BancFirst and the Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation offers an Alternative Financing Program (AFP). The AFP provides Oklahomans with disabilities or those that have a dependent with a disability the opportunity to borrow money for the purchase of needed AT.
- A low interest bank loan through a partnership with BancFirst and the Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation also offers an Access to Telework Fund (ATF) bank loan program. The purpose of the ATF is to provide an opportunity for Oklahomans with disabilities that want to telework to borrow money to purchase computers and other equipment.
- Accessible electronic and information technology training, technical assistance, and consultation for state agencies and higher education institutions. ABLE Tech's training is aimed at providing a clear understanding of Oklahoma's electronic and information technology accessibility law and to help agencies provide accessible services and comply with standards. ABLE Tech provides web and digital accessibility review, training and consulting to help agencies and higher education institutions provide, understand and design sustainable digital accessibility processes. Services may also include consultation in the design, development, and procurement of accessible web sites, software, and digital documents (Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF).
- Assistance to Oklahoma's elementary and secondary schools through a variety of resources, training, and one-on-one support to serve students with print disabilities who need accessible instructional materials (AIM). AIM is a specialized format of curricular content that provides accessible text to students who cannot access printed text. Formats include: braille, audio, large print, and digital text. AIM is for students with sensory, physical, cognitive and learning differences that have difficulty accessing printed materials. Students with print disabilities can include; low vision or are blind, a reading disability such as dyslexia, or a physical limitation such as cerebral palsy. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) requires that states and school districts provide accessible versions of instructional materials to students with disabilities in a timely manner, typically at the same time as their peers. Receiving accessible instructional materials in a timely manner is an essential component of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
- Information and referral services on AT through the Oklahoma ABLE Tech INFO-line at 1-888-885-5588. This service is available to people of all ages with disabilities, their family members, and professionals. INFO-line's resources include a statewide computer database, national resources, a collection of AT catalogs, product literature, vendor and evaluation information.
- Assistance to farmers and ranchers through the Oklahoma AgrAbility program. An AgrAbility specialist provides information and referral to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers with disabilities to assist them in maintaining their agricultural lifestyle.