Acceptance and use of assistive technology: perspectives of high school and college students with high-incidence disabilities

Poudel, Bishwa Bandhu
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University of Delaware
Assistive technology (AT) is linked with better academic progress and improved post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. Despite the emphasis on the use of AT evidenced by AT effectiveness literature, requirements by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to consider AT, and the proliferation of technological products, studies have indicated concerns about students' AT use. High school and college students with high-incidence disabilities are less likely to accept and use AT or they often abandon it after using it. There could be several factors that influence their decisions about accepting and using or abandoning AT. This study attempted to explore those factors from students' perspectives through qualitative analyses of semi-structured in-depth interviews with 17 high school and college students with high-incidence disabilities. Guided by concepts derived from the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) and Self-Determination theories (SDT), constant-comparative methods were used to explore and describe the factors that students perceived as influencing their AT decision-making, their perceptions of AT decision-making processes, and their beliefs about AT in relation to their success. Findings showed that students who accepted and used AT reported having a well-rounded support system. Other factors included their prior skills, experience with AT and preference for mainstream devices, and timing to introduce AT. Students did not perceive the existence of established assessment and evaluation guidelines while procuring AT and felt little involved in schools' AT decision-making processes, which also influenced their acceptance and use or rejection and abandonment of AT. Students perceived academic improvements due to AT use and their AT proficiency also seemed to boost their overall sense of competence. Implications of the study include considerations for research and practice in creating supportive environments for AT acceptance and use, implementing AT assessment and evaluations, and involving students in the AT decision-making process. Findings also may help educators to design and implement AT-supportive transition programs for continued use of AT in high school and post-school environments.