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What is Assistive Technology (AT)?


Assistive technology is any device or service that improves the ability of people to maintain or improve their independence in performing daily living activities.

Assistive technology can be as simple as a book stand or as sophisticated as a communication device that has both computer and cell phone functionality.

Finding the correct assistive technology may mean buying an item off-the-shelf, ordering a custom-fabricated device, or simply making your own.

What types of Assitive Technology are available?

Assistive Technology is available for many areas of life and for numerous disabilities.

Some of the general Assitive Technology categories are listed below:

  • Mobility - seating and positioning
  • Aids for daily living
  • Communication aids
  • Computers and computer applications
  • Ergonomics
  • Electronic aids
  • Vision aids
  • Hearing aids
  • Prosthetics and orthotics
  • Home and building modifications
  • Recreation and leisure
  • Beds and bed modifications
  • Education and employment
  • Transportation and driving

How can I determine which types of Assistive Technology may benefit me?

Determining which types of Assistive Technology, if any, may benefit a person requires a thorough knowledge of the types of technology that are available. It also requires an Assistive Technology Assessment.

An Assistive Technology Assessment is based on the CETT Framework.
(CETT: Consumer, Equipment, Task, Tool.)

Who needs the equipment? What general type of Assistive Technology do they need?
Where does the Consumer need the equipment? (Home use, school use, or community use?)
What tasks do they need equipment to help with?
Based on the answers to the questions above, what specific equipment is needed?

To speak with someone about scheduling an Assistive Technology Assessment, please call our Duluth office at

(888) 625-1401
(888) 625-1401 V/TTY

Who pays for Assistive Technology?

Medical Assistance (MA)
Medical Assistance will pay for medically necessary medical equipment.
Medical Waiver Programs
In order to use Medical Waiver Programs, several requirements need to be met.
School Districts
An Assistive Technology Assessment must be completed, and the Assistive Technology must be written into the Individualized Educational Plan.
Division of Rehabilitation Services
The Assistive Technology must fit in the Rehabilitation Services plan, and it must be related to a vocational goal.
Private Insurance
Payment for Assistive Technology varies. Prior authorization is required.
STAR Program
For information regarding the STAR Program, please use the link provided:
Grant Programs
Financial assistance varies. Visit the STAR Program listed above, or for more information, contact Access North's Duluth office at

(888) 625-1401
(888) 625-1401 V/TTY

Lending Library or Trial Demonstration
For information regarding the Lending Library or Trial Demonstration, please contact our Duluth office using the phone numbers listed above.
Purchased by Consumer

New Assistive Technology can be purchased in a store or through a specialized company website or catalog.

Used Assistive Technology can be purchased through the Pacer SUPER Program, (Still Useful Products and Equipment Referral). For more information, use the link below:

For assistance with purchasing options, please contact Access North at:

(888) 625-1401
(888) 625-1401 V/TTY

What is Universal Design?

The Center for Universal Design defines Universal Design as

"The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. "

Examples of Universal Design include:

  • sidewalk curb cuts
  • automatic door openers
  • motion detectors for lights
  • motion detectors for water faucets
  • closed captioning
  • lever handles
  • ramp entrances
  • large print

Listed below are some of the benefits of using Universal Design principles.

Responsibility of Design
Implementing Universal Design principles requires additional thought and careful planning, especially at the beginning stages of design development. This Responsibility of Design does save money and resources. For example, when designing a home or building, it is easier to plan for accessibility from the beginning than to later attempt to retrofit a structure to make it accessible.
Serves Many
Implementing Universal Design principles benefits everyone in a variety of situations. For example, a power-assisted door allow people with limited mobility to access a building. They also help someone pushing a baby stroller, as well as a delivery person with a large and heavy item.
Mass Production for General Population
Implementing Universal Design principles means user-friendly products can be made available to all people, as opposed to a small number of products that are later customized for use by a limited number of people.

Assistive Technology:
"Low-Tech" versus "High-Tech"

Low-tech assistive technology does not require complex technology. Low-tech assistive technology tends to be low in cost and is based on Universal Design principles. Low-tech assistive technology is typically available to the general public. Examples include:

  • Planners
  • Pencil Grip
  • Memory Aids
  • Reacher
  • Velcro
  • Foam Tubing
  • Flash Cards
  • Rubber Gripper
  • Image-based Filing Systems

High-tech assistive technology, on the other hand, tends to be more specialized. High-tech assistive technology is higher in cost, and it may require training to use. Examples include:

  • Computer Access Software
  • Communication Devices
  • Environmental Controls