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Assistive Technology and Universal Design: A Toolkit for Interagency Collaboration

December 8, 2021
Source: Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR)

Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination based on disability, people with disabilities continue to face significant barriers to accessing routine daily activities. While the government continues to engage in ADA implementation and enforcement activities, there remain significant access gaps for people with disabilities across a variety of realms: the physical environment, education, health care, technology, employment, transportation, and housing, among other areas . Assistive technology and universal design (AT/UD) are two areas of disability research that have the potential to significantly improve accessibility across society for people with disabilities.

The goal of AT/UD is to consider accessibility for all people at the outset of designing buildings, transportation, technological devices, and many other features of society.  AT seeks to harness recent technological advances to allow people with disabilities to perform functions that would otherwise be difficult. UD research strives for accessible design of the physical environment, learning environment, technology, transportation, and a variety of other areas for all people regardless of disability, age, or other factors. These two concepts work together toward a vision for a more inclusive society. One where people with disabilities have equal access to engaging in the same activities as their peers without facing any barriers. 

The Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) released Assistive Technology and Universal Design: A Toolkit for Interagency Collaboration [PDF]. The toolkit provides an overview of current research efforts in assistive technology and universal design across the federal government. The toolkit highlights innovative examples of AT and UD from the private sector, along with a collection of tools and resources such as organizations, guides, and educational materials.

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