Inadequacies in computer access using assistive technology devices in profoundly disabled individuals: An overview of the current literature

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PURPOSE: This study sought to provide a review of the contemporary literature regarding computer access for persons with severe and multiple disabilities using assistive technology (AT). Anecdotally, persons with severe disabilities are assumed to be underserved by the AT community, and the causalities behind this perception were explored. METHOD: An online comprehensive search of literature pertaining to computer access for persons with severe and multiple disabilities was initiated. Due to the fact that personal computers (PCs) have been widely been available for nearly 25 years, 'contemporary literature' was defined as any source(s) from that era relevant to persons with severe disabilities accessing a computer. Databases including the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and the United States National Institutes of Heath (PubMed) were accessed for information in scholarly journals and for Web Postings. Additionally, the Coleman Institute's Assistive Technology Literature Database which provides a comprehensive listing of AT Journals was utilized, and each of the Websites of these journals was accessed and searched. Search engines on the web including Google Scholar, Altavista, Infomine, and Scirus were utilized as well. CONCLUSION: The study depicts the evolution from a 'medical model' to a 'social model' in rendering AT services for these individuals. Prescribing the proper device to enable computer access to persons with severe disabilities is a complex undertaking, and services have been inadequate. Technological advances that enable computer access for persons with disabilities have not reached those persons that need it most, particularly those with severe disabilities, for a number of reasons. The literature is replete with explanations for the underutilization of AT for computer access including prejudicial views towards persons with disabilities, inadequate assessments, lack of a person-centered approach, and methods for practice that are not evidence based.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Assistive technology
  • computer access
  • literature review
  • severe disability

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  • Brian Scott Hoppestad

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