Assistive Technology

You’ve now learned about how to request a reasonable accommodation. However, before you actually talk to your employer about getting an accommodation, it’s very important to learn what types of accommodations exist. Often, tools or types of support are available to you that you’ve never even heard of.

When employers purchase equipment it is important that they try to make sure the equipment is “universally designed.” That means that the equipment is accessible to everybody, because the company that designed it made an extra effort to guarantee that people with diverse disabilities could use it.

However, it isn’t always possible to buy universally designed equipment, because many types of new technology are designed without considering people with disabilities, and this oversight creates unnecessary barriers. In other situations, even if a product has been universally designed, depending on a person’s disability, they may still need a reasonable accommodation in order to perform their work.

In these sorts of situations, employers may get a type of accommodation called Assistive Technology (AT). AT includes technology and devices that enable people with disabilities to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to perform or would have difficulty performing.

AT can include different types of technologies, including communications, computer software and hardware, workspace, and safety equipment. Here are some examples of AT that can be used as reasonable accommodations:

  • Computer screen-reading software for employees who are blind or have dyslexia
  • Software that increases or decreases computer keyboard sensitivity for people with limited use of their hands
  • Electronic organizers for people with traumatic brain injury or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) for employees with hearing loss
  • Adjustable roll-in desks for wheelchair users

Assistive Technology Access

There are some good ways to learn more about assistive technology and to try it out. The Minnesota Regions Assistive Technology Collaborative (MRATC) is a statewide organization that can provide access to AT equipment and education about AT and its related benefits. Locate the regional MRATC in your area.

If you go to a CareerForce location, you can also try out the AT the location has available to help you use their services and resources. CareerForce locations are equipped with computer software and equipment to help people who are blind, visually impaired, or who have other physical impairments, to use computer programs and websites and to read printed materials. Each location has a TTY (teletypewriter) for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments, and access to speech-to-speech service for people with speech impairments. Find a Minnesota CareerForce location near you.

Assistive Technology Funding

Usually, your employer will pay for the AT you need. However, sometimes people need AT that would be too costly for an employer. Alternatively, some people want to be able to keep their AT if they switch employers, because it is specially designed to fit their needs or because they also want it for personal use.

If your employer does not pay for your AT, you can get help paying for it from government resources or private grants. Here are some funding alternatives for AT:

  • Medical Assistance (MA) helps pay medical expenses for people with disabilities, including Assistive Technology (AT). For AT to be paid for by MA, the device must be for a medical condition and be prescribed by a physician.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services often funds AT to help a person with a disability find, get, and keep employment. You must meet eligibility requirements in order to get these services.
  • The Veterans Administration offers funding for AT for veterans with disabilities who are eligible.
  • Workers’ Compensation often pays for AT for people with work-related injuries.
  • PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) is a program offered by the Social Security Administration for people who get SSI or SSDI. Through PASS, it is possible to save up money for AT without losing eligibility for benefits.
  • Nonprofit organizations, private corporations, manufacturers of assistive technology, and service clubs (like Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, and Lions) will often help fund AT for people with disabilities. A directory of organizations that fund AT in Minnesota can be found at the Minnesota STAR Program.

Learn More about Assistive Technology

Other websites that specialize in specific technologies: