Assistive technology specialists have a lot more choice these days, but deciding which product is right for their client is subject to an evaluation process and boils down to a number of criteria.
- Ease of Use. If two products offer the exact same functionality, assistive technology teams will likely choose the one that is the most intuitive and user friendly.
- Compatibility with other assistive technologies. Purchasing agents at vocational rehabilitation agencies do a final check to make sure that the recommended assistive technologies work completely in tandem with each other. If they don’t, they recommend products that will.
- Compatibility within the workplace. If the company is a PC shop that uses more complex PC-based software programs, the assistive technology team is not likely to recommend the iPad.
- Technical support. If the product developer doesn’t provide strong help-desk support, the team will choose a different product.
- Reliability. Some products have been around longer than others, and assistive technology specialists know that they’ll hold up over time. As a result, they’ll sometimes go with the tried-and-true over a newer product.
- User preference. If a user doesn’t like the product chosen, they’re unlikely to use it. Assistive technology specialists work to get them familiar with and comfortable using a product, but if in the end the client doesn’t approve, the team will likely try a new option.
And cost? Surprisingly, even in an era of budget constraints, it doesn’t come into play very often. Â “We try to balance cost with functionality and the client’s needs, but the bottom line is, if a purchase is going to mean that they can get a job, then generally it’s worth it,” says Terry Courts, an assistive technology specialist for the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services.