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Assistive Technology Assessment: A Comparative Analysis of Five Models

Barbara E. Bromley, Ph.D.
College of Education and Integrative Studies
Cal Poly Pomona

The purpose of this paper is to describe and compare five models of AT assessment: Matching Person and Technology, Lifespace Access Profile, SETT, Education Tech Points, and Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative.

Matching Person and Technology

The Matching Person and Technology (MPT) model considers users’ expectations, preferences, background, family and environmental influences, and economic factors in the determination of appropriate AT (Institute for Matching Person and Technology, 1999). Characteristics that would lead to use or non-use are identified, and ways are developed to modify the environment, the person, or the technology to make a better match.

The MPT seems targeted for adults with disabilities. There are three major components (Milieu, Person, Technology) which are assessed using a series of questionnaires. The Milieu focuses on characteristics of the settings in which AT is to be used. The Person component provides information about the user’s personal characteristics and temperament. The Technology component focuses on specific characteristics of the technology itself, including design factors and funding.

The MPT offers six assessment forms as part of the evaluative process.

The Worksheet for the MPT Model identifies which technologies are potentially useful for the AT user. The Survey of Technology Use solicits information about the person’s experiences with technology. The Assistive Technology Device Predisposition Assessment collects information on physical capabilities, life satisfaction, feelings about having a disability, and temperament. For school-age individuals, the Educational Technology Predisposition Assessment is available, focusing on student characteristics, educational goals, and environment. The Workplace Technology Predisposition Assessment identifies areas that could inhibit the acceptance and appropriate use of new technology in vocational settings. The Health Care Technologies Predisposition Assessment addresses health care needs, including personal characteristics, characteristics of technology being considered, and attitudes.

The ultimate outcome of using the MPT process is selection of an appropriate AT device that does not get abandoned prematurely.


Lifespace Access Profile for Individuals with Severe or Multiple Disabilities

The purpose of the Lifespace Access Profile for Individuals with Severe or Multiple Disabilities (LAP) is to provide a “client-centered, team-based collection of observations that point to next steps in a comprehensive program utilizing technology” (Williams, Stemach, Wolfe, & Stanger, 1995, p. 1).

The target audience for the LAP is primarily those with severe/profound disabilities. The LAP consists of an assessment protocol that evaluates the individual’s current abilities across five domains: Physical Resources, Cognitive Resources, Emotional Resources, Support Resources, and Environmental Analysis.

The Physical Resources domain gathers information on the individual’s general health, mobility support, and body sites for switch access. Cognitive Resources include the ability to understand cause-effect and communication skills. The Emotional Resources section solicits information about reinforcers, distractibility, and tolerance for change. Support Resources identifies the degree to which family members and professionals have adequate training and time to implement AT. The Environmental Analysis section explores the individual’s level of participation across environments and the use of AT within those environments.

Outcomes from the LAP are part of the “Resource Development Priorities”, a section of the LAP protocol. From these priorities, IEP/IFSP objectives can be identified that incorporate AT.


SETT is a “guideline for gathering data in order to make effective assistive technology decisions” (Zabala, 1998, p. 2). The framework identifies three areas to consider (student, environment, and tasks), then encourages research on the tools to meet student needs.

SETT is targeted for students with disabilities. Within the four components (Student, Environment, Tasks, Tools) a series of questions are used to collect information. The first component is the Student; abilities and needs are identified. The second component, Environments, refers both to the physical environments as well as the instructional environments within a classroom. The third component of SETT is Tasks – the activities the student is asked to perform and the barriers to performance. The fourth component is Tools, which include both AT devices and services.

An intended outcome is an appropriate match between the student, the environment, the tasks, and the technology used to accomplish tasks within the environment.

Education Tech Points

Education Tech Points (ETP) is “a tool to help school districts to determine and meet the assistive technology needs of individual students and to evaluate and improve their assistive technology services system wide” (Reed & Bowser, 1998, p. 1). It consists of a comprehensive manual that includes information on team-building, components of effective AT service delivery, and systems change. Assessment forms are provided, also. The specifics of this model center around six “Tech Points”. Each Tech Point identifies the specific times within the planning and provision of special education services that the need for AT should be considered.

Tech Point #1, Referral, starts with the process of identifying students in need of services. Tech Point #2, Evaluation, considers whether the student needs AT during the evaluation process; and whether the student needs AT as part of curricular modifications. Tech Point #3 involves an Extended Assessment -- a trial period with one or more AT devices. Tech Point #4 is Plan Development, consisting of documenting that AT has been considered in the development of the IEP/IFSP. Tech Point #5 involves Implementation. Three critical areas are identified: student training, staff training, and equipment management. For Tech Point #6, Periodic Review, the team reviews the implementation data and determines whether changes are needed.

The ETP process has outcomes built in at each Tech Point. The ultimate outcome is that the student receives the AT devices and services needed to access the curriculum and meet IEP/IFSP goals and objectives.

Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative

The purpose of the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) is to provide a comprehensive and thorough assistive technology assessment process. Assessing Students’ Needs for Assistive Technology: A Resource Manual for School District Teams (WATI, 1998), will be discussed here, and is referred to generically as “the WATI”.

The WATI targets school-age children with disabilities and school districts. It provides both the process as well as specific guides relevant to the 10 sections of the model. Section 1 provides an overview of the AT assessment and planning process. Section 2, the Assistive Technology Assessment Packet, provides all the forms developed for the WATI model. AT for writing and computer access is addressed in Section 3. Section 4 on AT for communication addresses three major groups of individuals: the alternative language group, the expressive language group, and the supportive language group. AT for reading, studying, and mathematics are grouped together in Section 5 for adaptations in academic areas.

Section 6 provides information on AT for recreation, leisure, and activities of daily living, including environmental control. AT for positioning and seating comprises Section 7. Section 8 addresses AT for vision and hearing. Writing AT in the IEP is addressed in Section 9 with examples of IEP goals and objectives. Section 10 has information on AT laws and funding, including funding sources, legal provisions and policies.

The outcomes of the WATI assessment process focus on consideration of AT in the IEP and that the student receives AT devices and services needed to access the curriculum and meet IEP/IFSP goals and objectives.

Comparative analysis

A comparative analysis of the five models reveals both similarities and differences. They share an ultimate goal – to match a person to the most effective AT that will meet his/her needs within the environments in which it will be used. To this end, all models in some capacity explore and assess the person, the environments, and the tasks for which the technology is needed.

Each model emphasizes the process of assessment. A multidisciplinary, collaborative team approach is strongly emphasized in all models. They all follow an ecological, functional assessment approach. The SETT, ETP, LAP, and WATI are primarily designed for AT assessment within school settings. The SETT and LAP programs could easily be adapted for adults and non-school settings, the ETP and WATI less so.

In some ways, a comparative analysis of these models is a bit like the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges. Evaluated separately, they each have specific characteristics, strengths, and emphases. Taken together, they make a good fruit salad!



Institute for Matching Person and Technology (1999). Matching person and technology website. [On-line]. Available: http://members.aol.com/impt97/mpt.html

Reed, P. & Bowser, G. (1998, November). Education Tech Points: A framework for assistive technology planning and systems change in schools. Paper presented at the CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, Los Angeles, CA.

Williams, W.B., Stemach, G., Wolfe, S., Stanger, C. (1995). Lifespace access profile: Assistive technology assessment and planning for individuals with severe or multiple disabilities (revised ed.). Irvine, CA: Lifespace Access Assistive Technology Systems.

Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI; 1998). Assessing students’ needs for assistive technology: A resource manual for school district teams. Amherst, WI: WATI.

Zabala, J. (1998). Ready, SETT, Go! Online Workshop. [On-line]. Available: http://www2.edc.org/NCIP/Workshops/sett3/index.html.




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