The fields of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology can be confusing since many terms seem to be used interchangeably.  We provide some definitions below to help provide some clarity. Please contact us should you have any questions.

Rehabilitation Technology (Rehabilitation Act of 1973, P.L 93-112
The term "rehabilitation technology" means the systematic application of technologies, engineering methodologies, or scientific principles to meet the needs of and address the barriers confronted by individuals with disabilities in areas which include education, rehabilitation, employment, transportation, independent living, and recreation. The term includes rehabilitation engineering, assistive technology devices, and assistive technology services.

Rehabilitation Engineering (Rehabilitation Act of 1973, P.L. 93-112)
The term rehabilitation engineering means “the systematic application of engineering sciences to design, develop, adapt, test, evaluate, apply, and distribute technological solutions to problems confronted by individuals with disabilities in functional areas, such as mobility, communications, hearing, vision, and cognition, and in activities associated with employment, independent living, education, and integration into the community.”

Assistive Technology (Assistive Technology Act of 2004, P.L. 108-364)
The term ‘assistive technology’ means technology designed to be utilized in an assistive technology device or assistive technology service.

Assistive Technology Device (Assistive Technology Act of 2004, P.L. 108-364)
The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Service (Assistive Technology Act of 2004, P.L. 108-364)
The term ‘assistive technology service’ means any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes:

  • The evaluation of the assistive technology needs of an individual with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the impact of the provision of appropriate assistive technology and appropriate services to the individual in the customary environment of the individual;
  • A service consisting of purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by individuals with disabilities;
  • A service consisting of selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, replacing, or donating assistive technology devices;
  • Coordination and use of necessary therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as therapies, interventions, or services associated with education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
  • Training or technical assistance for an individual with a disability or, where appropriate, the family members, guardians, advocates, or authorized representatives of such an individual;
  • Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services and entities that manufacture or sell assistive technology devices), employers, providers of employment and training services, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of individuals with disabilities;
  • A service consisting of expanding the availability of access to technology, including electronic and information technology, to individuals with disabilities.

Universal Design (Assistive Technology Act of 2004, P.L. 108-364)
The term universal design means a concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies.