Assistive technology (AT) is a relative new field of expertise and falls within the broad area of disability services. Very few people working in assistive technology started their career with AT in mind, many started in a profession and then chose to specialise in AT within their broader field (whether by design or chance).
The UK has limited opportunities for dedicated or advanced career based studies in the field of assistive technology, however, many professionals in related fields increase their AT knowledge by attending specialist short courses, workshops, conferences, and on-the-job research and training.
The main career areas are:
Therapists and Healthcare Professionals
- Occupational Therapists (OT)
- Speech and Language Therapists (SLT)
- Physiotherapists (PT)
- Healthcare Scientists (engineers and technologists within the NHS)
- Clinical Scientists (CS)
- Clinical Engineers (CE)
- Clinical Technologists (CT)
- Biomedical Engineer (BME)
- Rehabilitation Engineers (RE)
- Nursing and Rehabilitation Specialists
- Therapy Assistants
Engineering and Technology Professionals
- Design and development engineers
- Software engineers
- Product specialists and sales personnel
- Private sector consultants
- Assistive Technology Assessor/Trainer
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Specialists
- Teachers and Higher Education Lecturers
- Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teachers
- University Disability Officers
- ICT Specialists and support staff
- Teaching Assistants
The list above does not include doctors and medical professionals working in physiological sciences, such as, ophthalmologists, audiologists, neurophysiology and orthopaedic consultants. Their primary role will be medical diagnosis and intervention as part of a multi-disciplinary team for specific patients, which may include AT provision.
Also not listed above are some jobs, often in Social Services, that may have some element of involvement with AT when dealing with clients, such as care providers, social workers, and housing officers.
Assistive Technology does not have a protected status. Any person can give themselves a job title such as Assistive Technologist, Assistive Technology Specialist, Assistive Technology Professional, or Assistive Technology Consultant etc. Some may be highly knowledgeable and experienced within the field while others may have limited knowledge and/or a narrow area of specialism. There is currently no UK legislation to regulate and protect these job titles.
Most healthcare professionals, engineers, and educators such as those in the list above will normally belong to a professional organisation where the professional title is protected by law. Each member is expected to abide the guidelines for professional conduct and to undergo continuing professional development (CPD). The person will usually be listed on a statutory register, conformation of membership status can be obtained from the relevant professional organisation or professional register such as the Health and Care Professions Council.
Job Descriptions (relating to assistive technology)
Listed below are brief descriptions of the main roles undertaken by professionals in relation to aspects of the job involving assistive technology. For a more comprehensive understanding of the full professional roles visit the associated professional institute/organisation, the main ones are listed at the bottom of each job description.
It is usual that complexed disability needs assessments are undertaken by multi-disciplinary teams involving professionals and specialists across relevant fields, including local therapists and carers, this enables the widest knowledge and experience base to be utilised, helping to improve provision and 'best fit' maximising the potential benefits to the assistive technology user.