The United States Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), through its National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), conducts comprehensive and coordinated programs of research and related activities to maximize the full inclusion, social integration, employment, and independent living of disabled individuals of all ages.
Balanced between the scientific and consumer communities, NIDRR plays a unique role in federally funded research activities. In addition, NIDRR's work helps to more fully integrate disability research into the mainstream of our nation's policies regarding science and technology, health care, and economics.
The Center for Assistive Technology (CAT) was established in 1995 with a large donation by the Barco Family Trust. The CAT is an Assistive Technology Service that assists individuals with disabilities and their families in obtaining appropriate interventions. The Center is a joint program of the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the UPMC Health System, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The CAT has evolved to become a model Assistive Technology service delivery program. Services are provided to people with disabilities throughout Western Pennsylvania via a network of service providers including: Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Audiologists, Rehabilitation Engineers, Physicians, Case Managers, and Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers. Most of the clinicians and faculty providing services are Assistive Technology Practitioners certified by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.
The CAT is based on the Oakland campus of the university and medical center however provides services throughout the region in affiliated agencies and facilities including:
The mission of the CAT is to enhance the ability of people with disabilities to fulfill life goals through the coordination and provision of appropriate assistive technology (AT) services.
Services are provided through an integrated access approach, in coordination with other service providers the person may be working with, within the following assistive technology areas;
An important component of the evaluation process is for people to have an opportunity to actually try devices before a final decision is made. A large collection of commercially available assistive devices are used and demonstrated as part of the evaluation process. The Center also works very closely with Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers and manufacturers of assistive devices to ensure devices are made available. Evaluation tools such as simulators are also made available in the clinic. Product literature and electronic database information is available on many other devices.
For some people, the use of a commercially available off the shelf device may not satisfy their personal needs. These people may require modifications to a commercial product or a customized device designed specifically to their needs. Center staff have experience and expertise in the design and fabrication of customized devices. The Oakland based facilities are also equipped with a fully functioning machine shop and machinist.