Icon of a person using a wheelchair in action Assistive Technology

Introduction to Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) devices and services are items that help people with disabilities be more independent and live life the way they want to live it. The federal definition is more formal and states, “Assistive technology includes any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. An AT service directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.” (P.L. 100 – 407)

Examples of AT are:

  • An adapted vehicle with a ramp, lowered floor and hand controls that makes it possible for a person who uses a wheelchair to get out into the community, visit friends, or go to work.
  • A computer or iPad that helps a person who has a learning disability do well in school. 
  • A hearing aid that helps make it possible for a person who has a hearing loss to communicate with friends.

How Can You Find Out About Assistive Technology (AT)?

Pennsylvania’s statewide assistive technology program is named TechOWL (formerly Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology, or PIAT). TechOWL contracts with a number of agencies across the state to:

  • Provide equipment demonstrations.
  • Help you borrow equipment from the equipment lending library.
  • Refer you to equipment recycling or reuse programs, where you may be able to locate pre-owned devices.
  • Administer the Telecommunications Device Distribution Program (TDDP) and iCanConnect. These programs provide free phones to qualified individuals who need special features.

For more information, go to TechOWL’s website or call 800-204-7428.

A woman rows a scull on a river with city architecture in the background.
Laura enjoys rowing on the Schuylkill River in her adapted scull.