Historically, AT was developed for the overtly physically handicapped. Aside from blindness and deafness, injuries sustained during the world wars were a huge catalyst for technology. As we increase our knowledge as a society of more and more subtle forms of disability, our definition and purpose of Assistive Technology changes.
Before the "Empowerment Period" of Assistive Technology (Bryant, 19), for people with disabilities, discrimination was common. Federal statutes were enacted and legal action more clearly defined these statutes. Parents, who were already concerned about their children's education, got services to which they believed their children were entitled. From 1974, when FAPE (Free Access to Public Education) began to now, students with disabilities who were once discouraged from attending public school or who were confined to a "special" classroom are not included through differentiated instruction or Assistive Technology.
"For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible." (Bryant, 2) Computer applications make our everyday lives simpler. Because technology is so common in every aspect of our lives, it is becoming less expensive. Because we all feel we "need" technology, there is no (or little) stigma about any technology use by students in our classrooms. The professionals' challenge is acquiring the most appropriate and least restrictive technology for students who truly need it.
I see parent advocacy and the ease of acquiring cost effective technology as two factors that have strongly contributed to AT evolution.