Introduction to Assistive Technology (AT) and the HAAT Model

Broadly, there are three types of technology available to the teaching and learning community at large. They are (a). mainstream technology or consumer technology which is available to us off-the-shelf where one can purchase a piece of technology and use it straight away with minimum or no training. In other words, they are consumer products. e.g. a smart phone; (b). instructional or educational technology facilitates learning and helps improve better student performance and/ or achievement which cannot be achieved in the absence of technology. e.g. a smartbar or an IWB invites more student engagement with its interactive features. (c). assistive technology – popularly known as AT – is for people with disabilities. Three types of AT are available to clients. They are commercially available AT, modified AT, and custom-made AT.

What AT does is that it provides physical or cognitive access to people with disabilities to replace a function or functions to successfully meet their everyday challenges. e.g. a powered wheelchair provides access to different environments to a person who has mobility impairments. Moreover, in an education environment AT allows students to find a way around the barriers they face and helps them to actively participate in their learning so that the educational outcomes of these students with learning differences can me maximised. e.g. a text-to-speech app helps a secondary school student with dyslexia to overcome his/her reading difference so that he/she can cope up with the academic demands of reading longer texts. In a nutshell, AT does not remove the difficulties and/or differences that come with having a disability. Instead, it helps kids to work around their challenges.

Therefore, a student-centred forces must be adopted when deciding AT requirements for kids with learning differences. Because each of them demonstrates a very individual and complex profile of learning strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, the nature of their requirement will vary according to subjects, type of assessments and demands of assessments.

Guiding the AT selection process

Two guiding principles are looked at here. Primarily, AT starts with and centers on the client. Based on this principle, we may ask the client about the goal(s) he/she wants to achieve, the activity or activities he/ she intends to do has meaning in life right now, and what the client is able to do. Secondly, a framework or model is often used to guide the decision making process in the selection and evaluation of AT.

The HAAT Model (Cook & Hussey, 1995)

The Human Performance Model (Bailey, 1996) outlines that people performing in systems have in common that they are each somebody (a person), doing something (an activity), at someplace (within a context). The HAAT Model is an extension of HPM where it has four components – the human, the activity, the assistive technology, and the context in which these three integrated factors exist.

A student-centred forces must be adopted when deciding AT requirements for kids with learning differences.


Article by

Mohamed Samunn

Senior Educational Therapist

DAS Tampines Learning Centre