2003 Conference Proceedings

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Elizabeth A. Lahm, Ph.D., ATP
University of Kentucky
126 Mineral Industries Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0051
Phone: (859) 257-5410
Fax: (859) 323-1901
Email: EALAHM1@uky.edu

Margaret E. Bausch, Ed.D., ATP
Email: meb@uky.edu
Melinda Jones Ault, M.S.
Email: mjault@uky.edu
Ted S. Hasselbring, Ed. D.
Email: tsh@uky.edu
Elizabeth A. Hammond
Email: liz@uky.edu
University of Kentucky
229 Taylor Education Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0001
Phone: (859) 257-8810
Fax: (859) 257-1325

The National Assistive Technology Research Institute is conducting two research studies that examine the use of assistive technology is school settings. One study is collecting descriptive data about students who are and who are not using AT. The second looks at effective and ineffective uses of AT. This presentation will synthesize the findings to date of these two studies to describe that status of AT use in schools today.

Status of Assistive Technology in Schools

The goal of the first research study is to determine the status of AT use in schools and the role that AT provides in the education of students with disabilities.

According to the National Council on Disability (NCD), almost six million individuals with disabilities receive educational interventions under Part B of IDEA (National Council on Disabilities, 2000). NCD further stated that these individuals have a right to appropriate support services and assistive technology devices are needed to promote their learning in inclusive settings with their nondisabled peers. Since the inception of IDEA, the availability and use of assistive technology devices have increased. However, NCD reports that people with disabilities "still confront major barriers of discrimination" (p. 5). The extent to which AT devices and services are implemented in the schools is relatively unknown.

To determine the status of AT use, on online survey is being used to query teachers and related service providers about AT use of students' on their case load (http://natir.uky.edu). It collects information about individual students including age, gender, ethnicity, and types of AT.

The following research questions are being addressed:

Critical Incident Study

The second study seeks to identify effective and ineffective assistive technology (AT) practices. A research methodology called the Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan, 1964) is being used to collect data concerning the use of AT devices and services that have been observed in past and current AT applications. Factors related to "assistive device abandonment" also are being identified. This online survey is located at http://natri.uky.ed also.

The Critical Incident Technique is a qualitative research methodology in which researchers obtain descriptions of the effective and ineffective behaviors of people who are performing a given job. Persons in a position to observe task performance are asked to report on specific observable incidents that have had either a positive or negative influence. Reporters describe the antecedents that lead up to the incident, the behavior or action that occurred, and the consequences of that behavior which led the observer to conclude that it was either effective or ineffective.

Since the data are based upon direct observation and since large numbers of incidents are collected and a validation process is used, the technique has greater validity than those procedures that rely solely on literature searches, personal opinions, or simple descriptions of activities.

The following research questions are addressed:

Together these two studies begin to describe the status of AT use in schools. Both studies will continue into 2004. This presentation is a first look at the combined data and what collectively they tell us about assistive technology use.


Flanagan, J. C. (1964). Measuring human performance. Pittsburgh, PA: American Institutes for Research.

National Council on Disability. (2000) Federal policy barriers to assistive technology.[On-line]. Available: http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/assisttechnology.html#4

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