5.1 Assistive Technology Evaluations

5.1.1 Job Function

Assistive technology evaluations are conducted to determine the most effective assistive technology to meet the consumer's vocational or scholastic needs.

5.1.2 Qualifications

Education, Training, and Experience

Assistive technology evaluators must

  • have a degree from an accredited college or university with a specialization in computer science, education, rehabilitation, or related field, with one year work experience in the education or rehabilitation of persons who have visual disabilities and/or other disabilities, or a high school diploma or GED with four years of progressively responsible work experience in the education or rehabilitation of persons who have visual disabilities and/or other disabilities;
  • be knowledgeable about computers and assistive technology, applications of technology, and methods of evaluating technology for persons who are blind or visually impaired;
  • possess the ability to simulate computer and technological environments similar to the situations an individual may encounter on the job or in school;
  • have the ability to conduct objective evaluations;
  • have the ability to make objective recommendations; and
  • demonstrate proficiency in conducting technology evaluations on specific assistive equipment in accordance with Division for Blind Services (DBS) standards and periodic proficiency tests conducted by DBS.

 

Proficiency Tests

Assistive technology evaluators must pass proficiency tests administered by the Assistive Technology Unit (ATU) in Austin before they can be approved to evaluate a DBS consumer's ability to benefit from the purchase of assistive equipment in achieving a vocational or scholastic goal.

Phase I testing may be completed at the DBS ATU in Austin or online at the discretion of the DBS ATU staff. Phase II testing is completed at the DBS ATU in Austin.

Phase II testing can be scheduled two weeks after successful completion of Phase I.

Service providers are responsible for all travel costs related to Phase I and Phase II testing including transportation, food, and lodging. Costs will not be reimbursed.

Periodic performance checks are also conducted by the Employment Assistance Services (EAS) specialist or his or her designee.

 

In-Service Training Requirement for Service Providers

Contract service providers are encouraged to budget funds for each evaluator to attend a yearly conference or workshop relating to assistive technology. At a minimum, each evaluator must attend a technology vendor demonstration or Train the Trainer Workshop in Austin offered by DBS.

 

Provider Authorization

Services must not be provided to DBS consumers until DBS has issued written authorization and a service authorization and/or purchase order (PO). No service by a provider's employee will be paid for if the service is provided before written authorization is given. For additional information, see Chapter 1: Basic Standards, 1.6.4 Additional Requirements/Documenting Staff Changes and Chapter 4: Service Delivery Guidelines, 4.2 Staff Information Sheets of this manual.

 

Product Authorization

Each assistive technology evaluator must pass a product-specific proficiency test before evaluating DBS consumers on that specific product. DBS maintains a list of approved assistive technology evaluators and the products they are authorized to evaluate consumers on. To maintain DBS approval, the evaluator must obtain new models, upgrades, or versions of the equipment and software that he or she has been authorized for within 45 days of notice that the new product is available.

 

Staff-to-Consumer Ratio

Assistive technology evaluations must be conducted one-on-one with one staff member for each consumer.

 

On-Site Visits

DBS has the right to conduct initial and periodic on-site visits to verify that each contract service provider (or potential provider) meets DBS minimum requirements for assistive technology evaluators or that the provider has evaluators on staff who meet DBS minimum requirements.

On-site visits may include

  • observation of a provider conducting an evaluation or training,
  • observation of the service being provided, and
  • confirmation that the provider is using the latest versions of software and products on the approved product list.

5.1.3 Service Delivery

Scope of Services

Assistive technology evaluations determine the most effective assistive technology for the consumer's vocational or scholastic needs. Assistive technology evaluations give DBS consumers access to

  • the services of a knowledgeable assistive technology evaluator, and
  • the latest assistive equipment.

When not conducted by DBS, assistive technology evaluations must be conducted at the provider's facility.

 

Referral

DBS requires the consumer's DBS counselor or case manager to

  • consult with an EAS specialist or trained designee for the consumer's EAS initial consultation or basic consultation before referring the consumer for assistive technology evaluations, and
  • provide the assistive technology evaluator with a copy of the consumer's EAS Consultation Report or Basic Consultation Report and any specific referral forms required by the provider before the evaluation begins.

The provider shares the responsibility of securing an EAS report or referral forms and service authorization before scheduling an assistive technology evaluation for a DBS consumer. Note: A service authorization must be obtained before any services are provided to DBS consumers.

An assistive technology evaluator may request a consumer's

  • EAS Consultation Report,
  • Basic Consultation Report,
  • Assistive Technology Support Services Report,
  • Baseline Assessment, or
  • typing test scores.

Consultation reports must be less than one year old. Typing tests are conducted if the consumer is being evaluated for computer-based assistive technologies.

 

Referral Requirement—Exception

The only exception to the requirement for an EAS Consultation Report or Basic Consultation Report applies to consumers who require evaluation for a stand-alone and/or portable video magnifier. A video magnifier uses a video camera's zoom lens to project magnified text and images to a monitor or screen. Stand-alone, portable, luggable, and hand-held video magnifiers do not connect to a computer system.

 

Minimum Assessment Requirements

DBS requires most consumers to have

  • a typing speed of at least 30 words per minute (WPM), and
  • a braille reading speed of 50 WPM in Grade 2 using braille devices, when braille is the preferred reading format.

These minimum assessment requirements are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For example, these requirements may be waived for consumers who have secondary disabilities that limit the use of one or both hands and for consumers who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. The evaluator should discuss these circumstances with the consumer's counselor or case manager as appropriate.

 

Initial Assessment for Assistive Technology

If initial assessments indicate that the consumer does not meet the minimum requirements for typing or braille reading, the evaluator may substitute a demonstration for the evaluation. The evaluator should

  • discontinue the formal evaluation process,
  • explain to the consumer why the evaluator cannot recommend the purchase of assistive technology at the current time, and
  • document demonstration results in reference to visual accommodations only (rather than work or school environments).

 

Evaluation Period for Assistive Technology

The initial interview should generally require between 30 minutes and one hour. Other segments of the evaluation process generally require two and three hours to complete. However, the length of time required to complete an assistive technology evaluation is based on the consumer's individual circumstances. Therefore, there are no set requirements as to the amount of time each evaluation will require.

 

Conducting the Evaluation

The evaluator must

  • remain impartial and objective throughout the evaluation process;
  • not express personal opinions, comments, or other actions that may be mistaken for bias or promoting one product over another during the evaluation;
  • show consumers only the products indicated on the EAS Consultation Report or Basic Consultation Report during the evaluation (Written approval must be obtained from the consumer's counselor, case manager, or EAS specialist before any additional products are introduced to the consumer);
  • conduct the evaluation (including the evaluator's interview with the consumer) in a confidential manner; and
  • not grant any person permission to observe the evaluation unless
    • the consumer expressly agrees to allow the person to be present; and
    • the observer agrees not to ask questions, make suggestions, or otherwise comment during the evaluation process.

 

Evaluation Components

Assistive technology evaluations include three components.

  1. A private interview is conducted with the consumer to discuss the individual's background and to review information developed by DBS staff, including the consultation report, if applicable, provided by the EAS specialist.
  2. The consumer's ability (or potential ability) to use assistive technology equipment and to benefit from the contract service provider's recommendations is assessed and observed.
  3. A closing interview is conducted to summarize the results of the evaluation process and is documented in the evaluation report.

 

Interview Process—Overview

Interviews are conducted in a confidential manner. The purpose of the interview is to

  • confirm referral information,
  • confirm the information in the EAS Consultation Report or Basic Consultation Report (except for video magnifier evaluations),
  • elicit additional information from the consumer, and
  • confirm the goals of the evaluation.

Some consumers may experience anxiety related to the evaluation and the use of computers or assistive technology. Therefore, it is important for the evaluator to set a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

The evaluator may find it helpful to explain to the consumer exactly what will be done during the evaluation. It should be stressed that the evaluation process is not an evaluation of the consumer, but an opportunity for the consumer to evaluate the equipment.

The evaluator should refrain from saying "I will be teaching you" and instead emphasize that the consumer and evaluator will be working together during the evaluation process. The evaluator should stress to the consumer that he or she should be as specific as possible regarding which piece of equipment works best and why.

For additional information about the interview process, assistive technology evaluators are encouraged to contact the ATU at atu@dars.state.tx.us or (512) 377-0310.

 

Interview Process—All Evaluations

During the interview process for all evaluations, the evaluator should

  • confirm the consumer's identification by checking that the consumer's name is spelled correctly and by verifying the name of the consumer's counselor or case manager;
  • gather personal information relating to the consumer's visual and/or physical disabilities or limitations;
  • ask the consumer if his or her color vision is intact and how vision is affected by glare and eye fatigue;
  • encourage the consumer to describe his or her vision including when it is good or bad and under what circumstances;
  • ask the consumer to produce or describe any low vision aids he or she may have and discuss how and to what extent the consumer uses the aids;
  • ask the consumer to describe any assistive techniques he or she uses to improve what is seen;
  • ask the consumer to describe any physical problems that might interfere with evaluation or future training and inquire specifically about back or neck problems, hearing problems, or nausea; and
  • for consumers who are totally blind, verify (or determine if the information is not apparent from the file)
    • how long the consumer has been totally blind;
    • what methods the consumer uses to take notes, read, write, and perform other daily living skills;
    • whether the consumer reads Grade I and/or Grade II braille and, if so, the consumer's minimum reading speed;
    • what the consumer sees as his or her biggest problem regarding current employment or vocational goals; and
    • the consumer's environmental structuring at home, in the workplace, and/or at school;
  • discuss the physical structure of the consumer's environment and how it affects his or her vision including
    • the natural and artificial light in the consumer's environment;
    • the consumer's work space, including his or her desk and chair; and
    • colors and/or other things that affect how well or how poorly the consumer sees; and
  • discuss the consumer's work and/or school history, including
    • current occupation or occupational goals (List and describe some of the tasks currently required in the job as well as long-range task requirements of the job);
    • anticipated changes (Does the consumer anticipate any company changes that might affect his or her position or job tasks? Does the consumer anticipate any personal changes in his or her occupational goals?);
    • any samples of materials the consumer brings;
    • If the consumer is a student, his or her academic plans (What is his or her degree program or course work? What is his or her current year and anticipated graduation date? What are some of his or her current tasks such as note taking or reading and how is he or she currently handling these tasks?); and
    • current or anticipated tasks (Try to get the consumer to give as much information as possible regarding known or expected tasks).

 

Interview Process—CCTV Evaluations

The evaluator should address the following questions during closed circuit television (CCTV) evaluation interviews:

  • Is color identification critical to the consumer in terms of course work and/or job?
  • Does the consumer use a computer on the job site or at home?

 

Interview Process—Scanner Evaluations

During scanner evaluation interviews, the evaluator should determine

  • if the consumer has significant eye fatigue;
  • if the consumer has CCTV magnification that is too large to be productive;
  • if the consumer feels nauseous when using the CCTV;
  • the nature of the consumer's degenerative eye condition;
  • if the consumer is fully aware of other resources such as
    • the Texas State Library,
    • Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and/or
    • reader services; and
  • the consumer's computer needs in terms of speech or braille access and any tasks the consumer will perform using a scanner including
    • entering scanned documents into a computer (Has the consumer brought samples of documents to be scanned or can he or she describe the documents?), and
    • manipulating scanned documents on a computer.

 

Interview Process—Computer Applications

The following areas should be addressed during evaluation interviews for screen magnification devices, refreshable braille PC screen access devices, and screen review systems:

  • If the consumer is using a computer in his or her current employment, the evaluator should note
    • the kind of computer the consumer is using,
    • the software the consumer is currently using, and
    • the access equipment the consumer is currently using.
  • The evaluator should discuss as many aspects as possible about the consumer's job and take notes and recheck the consumer file for any discrepancies. If possible, the evaluator should use information documented in the file to elicit additional details about the consumer's job tasks and performance expectations.
  • The evaluator should document the consumer's current skill level including
    • typing speed,
    • accuracy, and
    • keyboard familiarity.
  • The evaluator should note the consumer's previous computer experience including
    • the kind of computer,
    • the kind of software,
    • where and when the consumer acquired the previous experience, and
    • whether or not the previous experience was acquired before loss of vision.
  • The evaluator should ask if the consumer has any previous experience with
    • computer access equipment,
    • CCTV or similar devices,
    • computer braille devices,
    • refreshable braille PC screen access devices, and/or
    • synthesized speech devices.

 

Post-Evaluation Discussion

When the interview and product evaluation(s) have been completed, the assistive technology evaluator should

  • discuss the evaluator's equipment recommendations and the consequences of the recommendations with the consumer, and
  • answer any questions the consumer has about the recommendations and/or the evaluation process.

The contract service provider also must remind the consumer that the evaluation process is for the sole purpose of making recommendations and that the decision to purchase (or not to purchase) assistive technology equipment can only be made by the consumer's counselor.

 

Documenting Assistive Technology Evaluations

Evaluation reports must be submitted in the standard format required by DBS using a DARS2867, Assistive Technology Evaluation Report. Confidentiality issues must be adhered to at all times.

Information gathered during the interview and evaluation process does not need to be included in the evaluation report unless it is different from the information noted in the referral packet and/or the consultation report.

 

Submitting Evaluation Reports

Evaluation reports must be completed within seven working days from the date of the evaluation and may be submitted by email to

  • the consumer's counselor or case manager, and
  • the EAS specialist or trained designee who completed the consultation report.

The evaluation report, DARS2867, identifies consumers using only (a) the consumer's first name and last initial and (b) the DBS caseload number. The consumer's Social Security number (SSN) must not be used when contract evaluation reports are submitted by email.

 

Consumer Statistics Worksheet

The DBS consumer statistics worksheet (available by request) summarizes the services provided to individual consumers. Contract service providers must complete the worksheet on a quarterly basis by the following deadlines:

  • December 15 for the 1st quarter (September, October, November);
  • March 15 for the 2nd quarter (December, January, February);
  • June 15 for the 3rd quarter (March, April, May); and
  • September 15 for the 4th quarter (June, July, August).

5.1.4 Product Inventory

On-Site Visits

DBS may conduct initial and periodic on-site visits to verify that each facility-based contract service provider (or potential provider) meets the following requirements:

  • The provider maintains the required minimum inventory of assistive technology equipment and software.
  • The provider has the technical equipment and software required for the specific evaluation for which the provider has (or is seeking) approved status.
  • The provider's technical equipment and software are the latest version or model on the market. (Providers must obtain new models, upgrades, or versions of software within 45 calendar days of notice that the new product is available.)
  • The provider's software programs are full working copies (not demonstration or trial versions).
  • The provider's software is PC compatible (unless an evaluation on Mac equipment is required).

 

Approved Products

DBS consumers are evaluated only on products and equipment included on the DBS-approved product list. To obtain a list of approved products, vendors can call (512) 424-4558.

Questions about the approved product lists may be addressed to the ATU at atu@dars.state.tx.us or (512) 377-0310.

Product categories on the approved product lists include

  • video magnifiers;
  • screen magnification programs;
  • screen magnification programs with speech;
  • screen reader programs;
  • refreshable braille displays;
  • optical character recognition (OCR) scanning software;
  • stand-alone, portable, and USC OCR scanners;
  • QWERTY and braille notetakers;
  • embossers; and
  • speech input software.

Before completing an evaluation on any product that is not included on the DBS list of approved products, the assistive technology evaluator must get approval from the ATU at atu@dars.state.tx.us. The request should be made in writing.

Vendors must submit an up-to-date inventory list within 30 calendar days of each contract award.

 

Minimum Inventory Requirements

Service providers must conduct assistive technology evaluations using at least two competing products. There may be times when there is only one of a "type" of product available, especially when a product is new to the market. In these circumstances, providers are required to obtain written approval from the regional program support specialist. They can contact Consumer Procurement and Client Services Contracting (CPCSC) at (512) 424-4702 to begin the approval process.

 

Video Magnifier Products

All products used in evaluations must be on the DBS-approved product list. Stand-alone video magnifiers must be available in

  • two 14-inch or two15-inch models,
  • two 17-inch models,
  • two 19-inch models, and
  • two 22-inch or two 24-inch models.

Provider must have two competing products from each of the following video magnifier categories:

  • desktop PC access,
  • USB PC access,
  • USB PC access with OCR,
  • luggable,
  • hand-held, and
  • portable.

 

Computer-Based Assistive Technology

The provider must have at least two computer-based assistive technology programs in each of the categories listed below, as defined in the provider's contract and from the most current DBS-approved products list. The products in the following categories must be compatible with the most current version of Microsoft Windows or the agency standard operating system for DBS-issued computer systems for consumers:

  • screen magnification software with speech support,
  • screen reader software,
  • braille translation software,
  • refreshable braille displays,
  • computer-based OCR and/or scanner software,
  • notetakers—QWERTY keyboard,
  • notetakers—QWERTY keyboard with refreshable braille display,
  • notetakers—braille keyboard,
  • notetakers—braille keyboard with refreshable braille display, and
  • braille embossers.

 

Special Technologies

The provider must have a product from the approved products list for

  • speech recognition, and
  • braille translation.

The provider must also have a Mac computer with the current Mac operating system and the newest version of MS Office installed.

 

Synthesizers—External

A minimum of two external synthesizers from the most recently updated DBS list of approved products is required.

 

Synthesizers—Internal

No internal synthesizers are required. Since software synthesizers are included as an integral component of the screen review software package with which the synthesizer will be used, there is no requirement to maintain internal synthesizers separately.

5.1.5 Performance Measures

DBS considers the following questions in measuring provider performance:

  • Did the provider meet the consumer's assistive technology evaluation needs as requisitioned by the consumer's counselor or case manager?
  • Has the provider met DBS contract specifications?
  • Has the provider performed all contractual services in a professional manner in accordance with the requirements detailed in this manual?
  • If a staff member who provides contract services to DBS consumers was hired during the contract period, did the provider submit a staff information sheet to CPCSC before the new employee provided services to DBS consumers?
  • If a staff member who provides contract services to DBS consumers resigned during the contract period, did the provider inform CPCSC of the staff member's resignation no later than the employee's last day?
  • During the contract period, did the provider maintain the required minimum inventory of assistive technology equipment and software?
  • During the contract period, did the provider obtain the new models, upgrades, and/or versions of equipment and software within 45 calendar days of notice that the new product was available?
  • Within 30 calendar days of each new contract award, did the provider submit an updated inventory list to DBS?
  • Were all evaluations conducted with a staff-to-consumer ratio of one to one?
  • Did evaluators conduct each evaluation using a minimum of two competing products?
  • Were DBS consumers shown only products and equipment included on the most current DBS list of approved products?
  • Did evaluators follow DBS-required procedures during each evaluation?
  • Did evaluators avoid "leading" the consumer to a particular type of equipment or product?
  • Has the provider submitted all required consumer statistics worksheets to CPCSC (a) in accordance with the DBS-required schedule and (b) using the electronic format provided by DBS?
  • Has the provider adhered to DBS confidentiality standards?
  • Has the provider submitted all required reports in accordance with DBS specifications or standards?
  • Has the provider submitted fully completed invoices no later than 30 calendar days following service completion?