2000 Conference Proceedings

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USE OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY: FINDINGS FROM NATIONAL SURVEYS

Lita Jans
InfoUse, 2560 Ninth Street, Suite 216
Berkeley, CA 94710
Phone: 510-549-6520
FAX: 510-549-6512
Email: jans@infouse.com

Who uses assistive technology and what types of devices do they use? Who does not have access to assistive technology that could enhance their participation in society and quality of life? What barriers prevent people with disabilities from obtaining the most appropriate assistive technology to meet their needs? The Chartbook on Assistive Technology in the United States answers these questions, summarizing the current state of information on assistive technology in an easy-to-read "chartbook" format. The chartbook, expected to be released in early 2000, summarizes national patterns of assistive technology use and need, and includes sections describing the particular needs of children and youth, adults, and seniors. Sections on work accommodations, home and family life, and groups with higher needs for assistive technology are also included.

Chartbooks: Making disability data accessible

This chartbook on assistive technology is one in a series of publications funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and produced by InfoUse. The popular chartbook series on disability was designed to make the most recent national data on disability easily available to a wide range of audiences, including consumers, advocates, businesses, employers, researchers, and community and government agencies. The chartbook series has also broken new ground in making disability data electronically accessible to people on the World Wide Web. The chartbooks can be accessed on the Web and downloaded as Adobe Acrobat files. Beginning with the Chartbook on Women and Disability in the United States in 1999, chart data are linked to data tables that allow blind and visually impaired people to access visual chart information in accessible tabular form. Copies of the chartbook on assistive technology will be distributed at the CSUN conference. The chartbooks are also available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.infouse.com/disabilityda ta

A heightened awareness of the importance of accessible technology is part of a new disability paradigm. The new paradigm emphasizes the elimination of barriers in the environment that prevent full participation of people with disabilities, rather than focusing on the condition of the individual with a disability. For people who are developing and marketing assistive technology, the Chartbook on Assistive Technology in the United States can be a particularly valuable tool. Highlighting the populations who could especially profit from such technology, the chartbook uses text and charts to graphically present the numbers of people with disabilities and the kinds of assistive technology they use and need across the entire life-span. The chartbook describes the gap between the need for assistive technology and its availability. This information can help developers of assistive technology define the potential market for their products.

Assistive technology across the life span

A recent national survey estimates that one in every five Americans has a disability (McNeil, 1997). However, only one in twenty Americans (about one-quarter of people with disabilities) is estimated to use assistive devices (LaPlante, Hendershot, & Moss, 1997). Use of assistive technology grew rapidly in the 1990s, and the market for AT is expected to expand greatly as the Baby Boom generation ages (LaPlante, 1998).

One section of the chartbook describes special populations of children and youth whose development, mobility, communication, and learning may be enhanced by assistive and educational technology. A recent national survey estimates that 18% of U.S. children, or 12.6 million children nationwide, have a disability in the form of special health care needs (Newacheck, Strickland, Shonkof, Perrin, McPherson, McManus, Lauver, Fox, & Arango, 1998). However, there is no central source of information about how many children are using assistive technology. Although assistive technology is becoming more available to children with disabilities, studies suggest that there are still many barriers to access. The number of infants and toddlers using assistive technology as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has increased dramatically in recent years (RESNA Technical Assistance Project, 1998). School age children with disabilities can usually obtain assistive devices as part of their educational plans, including specialized computers and instructional software, cognitive learning aids and communication devices. However, barriers to obtaining and using assistive technology are frequently reported. In a small random survey of parents whose children had disabilities, all the surveyed parents reported that their children had access to assistive technology at school, but 87% reported that there was no training or technical assistance on the devices (Morris, 1998). A needs assessment of organizations serving children and families with disabilities identified a number of barriers to families obtaining assistive technology for their children. These included difficulty finding appropriate assessments, distance and mobility barriers, problems mobilizing schools to provide technology information and support, and lack of funding sources, among others (Temkin, Kraus, Galvin, Carlson, Hanson, Jans, Ripple, & Samels, 1999).

In adulthood, work-related assistive technology can empower people with disabilities to work creatively and productively in many different industries. Existing data on job accommodations, computer training for people with disabilities, and use of assistive devices in vocational rehabilitation are presented in the chartbook. A recent national survey found that only 27% of companies reported that the average cost of employing a person with a disability is higher than employing a person without a disability, and the median cost per employee for accommodation was $223. Similarly, the Job Accommodation Network reported that 80 percent of job accommodations are achieved for under $500 (McAlees, 1998).

A family and home life section presents information about housing adaptations, personal care technology, and equipment for parenting with a disability. National surveys estimate that there are about 6.9 million parents with disabilities who care for children at home. In a survey of 287 parents with disabilities, about one-third reported using adaptive parenting equipment. However, almost half of the sample reported needing some type of adaptive parenting equipment that they could not afford (Toms-Barker & Maralani, 1997).

To complete the life-span overview of assistive technology, a section on seniors presents data on the use of assistive devices in the aging population, a group that is expected to grow rapidly over the next decades (Mann, 1997; Jans & Stoddard, 1999). Studies have shown that seniors who used assistive devices were more functionally independent than demographically matched seniors who did not use such devices (Mann, Hurren, Tomita, & Charvat, 1995). However, many older people do not have basic, up-to-date information on the availability of assistive devices that could improve the quality of their lives (Mann, Tomita, Packard, Hurren, & Creswell, 1994).

Finally, the chartbook describes other groups of people who have heightened and/or specific needs for assistive technology. Data on access problems encountered by people with certain disabilities, such as those with cognitive impairments and those with mental illness are highlighted. For example, people with cognitive impairments have been found to need specialized training and on-going supervision in order to get the most benefit from assistive technology. (Nochajski,Tomita, & Mann, 1996). The chartbook also describes the needs of other groups whose access to assistive technology is often compromised, including ethnic minorities, immigrants, rural populations, and people living in poverty (Alliance for Assistive Technology, in press).

Other chartbooks and how to obtain them

The chartbook on assisitive technology is one in a series of chartbooks produced by InfoUse with funding from NIDRR. The recent Chartbook on women and disability in the United States, describes the impact of disability on women and girls across the life cycle (Jans & Stoddard, 1999). Other chartbooks include the Chartbook on disability in the United States (Kraus, Stoddard, & Gilmartin, 1996) and the Chartbook on work and disability in the United States (Stoddard, Jans, Ripple, & Kraus, 1998). All of these publications are available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.infouse.com/disabilityda ta

References

Alliance for Technology Access (in press). Assistive technology connections: Meeting the needs of Californians with disabilities. A report to the California Endowment. San Rafael, CA: Alliance for Technology Access.

Jans, L., & Stoddard, S. (1999). Chartbook on women and disability in the United States. An InfoUse report. Washington, DC: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Kraus, L., Stoddard, S., & Gilmartin, D. (1996). Chartbook on disability in the United States, 1996. An InfoUse report. Washington, DC: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

LaPlante, M.P. ). Remarks on national statistical studies on assistive technology. Public meeting on assistive technology hosted by NIDRR, Arlington, VA [On-line]. Available: http://www.resna.org/tap/library/hearing.htm

LaPlante, M.P., Hendershot, G.E., & Moss, A.J. (1997). The prevalence of need for assistive technology devices and home accessibility features. Technology and Disability, 6, 17-28.

Mann, W.C. (1997). Aging and assistive technology use. Technology and Disability, 6, 63-75.

Mann, W.C., Tomita, M., Packard, S., Hurren, D., & Creswell, C. (1994). The need for information on assistive devices by older persons. Assistive Technology, 6(2), 134-139.

McAlees, D.C. (1998). Achieving successful employment outcomes with the use of assistive technology. Memomomie, WI: Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute.

McNeil, J. M. (1997). Americans with disabilities: 1994-95. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P70-61. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

Morris, M. (1998, January). Remarks on ATFSCP Project survey. Public meeting on assistive technology hosted by NIDRR, Arlington, VA [On-line]. Available: http://www.resna.org/tap/library/hearing.htm

Newachek, P.W., Strickland, B., Shonkoff, J.P., Perrin, J.M., McPherson, M., McManus, M., Lauver, C., Fox, H., & Arango, P. (1998). An epidemiological profile of children with special health care needs. Pediatrics, 102, 117-123.

Nochajski, S.M., Tomita, M.R., & Mann, W.C. (1996). The use and satisfaction with assistive devices by older persons with cognitive impairments: A pilot intervention study. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 12(2), 40-53.

RESNA Technical Assistance Project (1998). Use of assistive technology increases among infants and toddlers. The TAP Bulletin. (National Institute for Disability Research and Rehabilitation Grant #HN92031001). Arlington, VA: RESNA Technical Assistance Project.

Stoddard, S., Jans, L., Ripple, J., & Kraus, L. (1998). Chartbook on work and disability in the United States, 1998. An InfoUse report. Washington, DC: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Temkin, T., Kraus, L., Galvin, J., Carlson, B., Hanson, S., Jans, L., Ripple, J., & Samels, K. (1999). Needs assessment and resource analysis for the Family Center on Technology and Disability: Final report. Berkeley, CA: InfoUse.

Toms-Barker, L. & Maralani, V. (1997). Challenges and strategies of disabled parents: Findings from a national survey of parents with disabilities. (National Institute for Disability Research and Rehabilitation RRTC Grant #H133B30076). Berkeley, CA: Through the Looking Glass.


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