Digital Assistive Technology Education and Training

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Background: Assistive Technology (AT) is, by its nature, interdisciplinary. However, education and training in AT is usually delivered within specialist programmes, e.g., in occupational therapy where AT is intrinsic to the delivery of services which aim to support independence and inclusion of persons with disabilities. With the increase in digital AT, there is a need to equip a wider range of professionals with knowledge and skills to ensure effective use of such technology. Training in digital AT and accessibility has been embedded into both mainstream undergraduate
and taught postgraduate degree programmes in Computer Science at Dundee University. This study was conducted to identify the range and focus of AT training as reported in the literature, compared to that being offered in Dundee.

Method: A high sensitivity literature review was conducted to identify the nature and delivery of AT training. The Web of Science bibliographic database was used to identify published outputs using the terms: (assistive technology) AND (teaching OR learning OR education OR training OR instruction OR “professional development”). A total of 1,504 papers were returned. Examination of the paper titles revealed a focus on the teaching or instruction of users instead of professional education and training. The search was thus refined by using the following terms: (assistive technology) AND (education OR “professional development”). On inspection, 32 papers describing a range of AT education and training.

Key results: The papers described a range of education and training of AT. Some programmes were
specifically designed to provide training to a multidisciplinary cohort of students at post-graduate level. Such programmes tended to be Biomedical with AT as a component, while some have focused specifically on AT, equipping students from both a technical and a clinical background to develop skills in the assessment and provision of AT. Training and awareness of AT was also provided within specialist professional training, e.g., teacher training and occupational therapy, although there is evidence that special educational teachers and therapists lack sufficient exposure to AT.

Conclusion: Most AT training and accreditation have a medical and healthcare focus. This may be appropriate for traditional AT which is dependent on biomechanical and electronic engineers to provide access to mobility (wheelchairs, prostheses, etc.) and aids for daily living (hoists, kitchen appliances, etc.). However, computer science and software engineering are now at the forefront of developing inclusive and accessible technology. Accessible mainstream computing and digital AT have the potential to enable people with complex physical and/or intellectual disabilities to access a wide range of activities including communication, education, employment and recreation. In order to ensure that the “digital economy” does not result in an ever increasing “digital divide”, digital AT and accessibility must be embedded into mainstream software engineering curricula. It can be argued that instead of viewing accessibility as an ‘optional extra’, this area of technological design and application should be embedded into mainstream degree programmes, thus equipping software engineers to meet the needs of any individual, recognizing the natural diversity in all societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of AAATE 2019 Conference Global Challenges in Assistive Technology: Research, Policy & Practice
Subtitle of host publicationTechnology and Disability
EditorsLorenzo Desideri, Luc de Witte, Rabih Chattat, Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf
Place of PublicationHolland
PublisherIOS Press
Number of pages1
EditionSupp 1
ISBN (Electronic)1878-643X
ISBN (Print)1055-4181
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2019
EventAAATE 2019 Conference: Global Challenges in Assistive Technology: Research, Policy & Practice - University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Duration: 27 Aug 201930 Aug 2019
Conference number: 15


ConferenceAAATE 2019 Conference
Abbreviated titleAAATE 2019
Internet address


  • Assistive Technology
  • augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)
  • Early intervention
  • Special education


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