Explore AT (Assistive Technology) is a clearinghouse for information and resources on many different assistive technologies. It will help you identify AT devices and services in the environments of education, employment, and community living for all ages and functional abilities.
You can go to the Explore AT national assistive technology public internet site which includes resources arranged by activity. You will also find some useful resources below to help you find AT devices and services. Always remember to contact your State AT Program for free assistive technology information and assistance in your state.
Finding and Buying Assistive Technology
So, you think you know what product you need, and you are going to buy it with your own funds. How can you be sure you are selecting the “right” product? How can you get the best price? Here’s a few hints to get you started (Note: Any companies or websites listed are for illustrative purposes only; no endorsement implied).
Your State AT Program is a Good Place to Start
A good way to think about assistive technology (AT) is by identifying function – what is it the device will help a person with a disability do, like read text, type, hear the TV, dial the phone, rise more easily from a chair – rather than by diagnosis, e.g. AT for people with Parkinson’s, age, e.g. AT for seniors, or by setting, e.g. AT for work. Contact your state AT program for “information and assistance” to help narrow down a category. Depending upon the cost and complexity of the device in which you are interested, they may recommend you explore a formal evaluation, and/or suggest that you borrow the item from their device lending program. The state AT program may also offer to arrange a demonstration that provides you with “hands on” experience with AT devices. State AT Programs provide many free services (pdf). Most often there is no charge for information and assistance or a device demonstration. There is sometimes a nominal fee associated with borrowing a device to help cover shipping costs.
Ask your State AT Program for a demonstration of comparable products that have similar features but different prices.
If there’s a specific product you heard about, the state AT program may be able to introduce you to another device with more (or fewer) features that better fit your needs and pocketbook! Or, check out two or more similar devices from your state AT program’s lending library, to try before you buy.
Your State AT Program may be able to help you find funding sources.
Even if you think paying “out of pocket” is the only way to get the AT you want, the state AT program may know of other possibilities – public programs, community organizations, or other sources for grants or cash loans. In addition, some state AT programs administer programs that distribute specialized equipment such as telecommunication devices to eligible residents. Use the Find Your State Program directory to identify program services (i.e. other state financing) and a contact in your state. Funding sources, programs, and services vary from state to state.
Use your credit card with care.
If you are using a credit card and will not be paying off your monthly bill “in full”, you could be adding anywhere from 12% to 24% to the cost of the item, depending upon your interest rate. You may be better off with favorable terms offered by one of the “alternative financing programs” around the country; search the Find Your State directory to find the cash loan program in your state.
Shop mainstream retailers’ stores, catalogs, and websites.
Especially when it comes to products that might be useful for people without disabilities such as ergonomic keyboards or home automation systems, “generic” retailers like Best Buy, Staples, Home Depot, CVS or Walmart may carry the product in which you are interested. While Best Buy’s website recognizes the term “assistive technology” other sites list products under headings such as “health and wellness”, “disability aids”, and “home health care”. Compare these prices with other mainstream retailers, as well as with “specialized” resellers.
Comparison shop among “specialized” resellers.
Some assistive technology companies compile items from a range of manufacturers or vendors. Depending on the size of the company and other factors, prices may vary considerably. A recent search found variation of more than $100 for a “Go Talk 20+” communication device among such vendors as Attainment Company and Alimed. Amazon has a “Special Needs Storefront” department which provides several vendor options for a single product.
Factor in additional costs like shipping and handling.
Shipping and handling costs can add dollars to the purchase price. Consider whether the item is available at a nearby “brick and mortar” retailer, or whether free shipping is available (e.g. for Amazon “Prime” members).
Cheaper isn’t always better.
Check product reviews on websites, Facebook, and other sources. What do reviews say about the durability and functionality of the product? Warranty and customer service? Return policy?
Explore AT Device Databases
The AgrAbility Toolbox: Agricultural Tools, Equipment, Machinery & Buildings for Farmers and Ranchers with Physical Disabilities is a resource that contains assistive technology solutions for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities.
Bridging Apps is a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston that provides access to educational and therapeutic tools—anywhere, anytime—allowing parents, teachers, and therapists to effectively use mobile devices and apps to target and improve individual skill development to help children and adults with disabilities reach their highest levels of physical and cognitive development.
iAccessibility is an online complete resource for everything related to accessibility of Apple devices including videos, podcasts, accessibility apps, and resources.
Tech Finder is an online database of expert approved apps and games for children with learning and attention difficulties.
The Arc’s Tech Toolbox is a place to find, share, rate, and review technology for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Unified Listing is a central database that stores information about assistive technology solutions and access features in mainstream products. For access to communication, computers and digital devices the site brings together information from 12 different databases in Europe, the US and Australia.
Explore National AT Information Resources
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) maintains a research library of more than 65,000 documents and responds to a wide range of information requests, providing facts and referral, database searches, and document delivery. NARIC maintains REHABDATA, a bibliographic database on rehabilitation and disability issues, both in-house and online. Users are served in English and Spanish by telephone, mail, electronic communications, or in person. NARIC also prepares and publishes the annual NIDILRR Program Directory, available in database format from NARIC’s web site, and several regular publications highlighting NIDILRR research.
Center on Technology and Disability
The Center on Technology and Disability (CTD) was designed to increase the capacity of families and providers to advocate for, acquire, and implement effective assistive and instructional technology (AT/IT) practices, devices, and services. CTD ended in May 2019. However, its legacy website still provides a Library of multi-media, multi-lingual resources and webinars.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN is a consulting service that provides information about job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities.
Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)
The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) is a multi-faceted initiative to foster collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. Guided by a consortium of policy and technology leaders, PEAT works to help employers, IT companies, and others to understand why it pays to build and buy accessible technology, and how to do so.