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Working with People with Disabilities: Five Growing Job Fields in Assistive Technology

written by: Stephanie Torreno•edited by: SForsyth•updated: 6/6/2012

Technology plays an ever expanding role in society. For individuals with disabilities, assistive technology provides solutions in performing daily activities independently, working, and playing. Read about various assistive technology jobs and how those in them serve people with a variety of needs.

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    Since assistive technology represents many different devices and adaptations, from computer equipment to home and workplace modifications, careers in assistive technology vary greatly. One assistive technology professional, such as a rehabilitation engineer, may conduct research, develop devices, and work in universities, hospitals, or other industries. Another professional, such as a seating and positioning specialist, may fit a client with the appropriate wheelchair at a rehabilitation facility. Whatever the particular profession, assistive technology jobs are in high demand and offer rewarding and creative opportunities to work with people with different needs.

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    Assistive Technology Careers

    Rehabilitation engineers work in many facets of the assistive technology field. Some rehabilitation engineers research and develop specific devices and formulate the standards for these devices. Other engineers evaluate and work with clients to determine which assistive technologies will meet individual needs to promote independence and maximize function. If required products do not exist, rehabilitation engineers then develop aids for daily living, communication devices, computer hardware and software, vehicle modifications, and environmental controls.

    An assistive technology consultant recommends computer hardware and software for individuals with disabilities and trains them and those around them to use it. Consultants can work for school districts and serve students with disabilities who are either taught in special education or inclusive classrooms. These professionals usually observe children in the classroom to see their abilities and understand what is needed to promote learning and independence. In addition to working with students, consultants train teachers and support staff to implement technologies. Assistive technology consultants also work in private practice and consult special schools, rehabilitation agencies, and companies implementing technology for specific needs.

    Occupational therapists work with people who have disabilities or illnesses that affect the functioning of the hands. Concentrating on activities of daily living, occupational therapists improve individuals’ abilities to bathe, dress, eat, and care for themselves in the bathroom. In addition, therapists help people gain or regain work skills by recommending treatment or specialized equipment for maximized performance. Occupational therapists recommend and train children and adults to use a variety of equipment and computer technology.

    Another profession in the field of assistive technology jobs is rehabilitation counselor. Rehabilitation counselors provide guidance and case management services to people with disabilities who are seeking employment. Counselors work with clients to evaluate vocational interests, aptitudes, and skills, and provide services to maximize career options. With input from the client's physicians, psychologists, or other specialists, counselors initiate a rehabilitation program to include psychological or adjustment counseling, independent living assistance, academic or vocational training, and job analysis or modification. The rehabilitation counselor can also refer clients to assistive technology vendors and help fund any devices necessary to obtain and maintain employment.

    Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings to help individuals with communication difficulties resulting from identifiable sources, such as cerebral palsy and stroke, or unknown causes. In schools, hospitals, or private settings, speech-language pathologists train clients in producing sounds, improving voice quality, and speaking more effectively. For individuals who cannot talk, more and more speech-language pathologists have become involved with assistive technology in recommending and training people to use augmentative communication devices and communication boards.

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    Demand is Growing

    For all of these and other assistive technology jobs, demand for trained professionals is increasing as the demand for the technology increases. With both people with typical abilities and those with disabilities living longer, additional specialized equipment will have to be developed and implemented to meet more complex and diverse needs. Professionals in assistive technology will be needed to serve and support these needs.

References

  • Source: Infinitec.org