What does Accreditation mean? Why is it important for your Assistive Technology program to be accredited? We asked professionals in and leaders of the programs to tell us why an accredited program is valuable.
The opportunity for professional development
The CAAHEP accreditation of the University of Pittsburgh Master of Science in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences with a concentration is Rehabilitation Science and Technology proves invaluable for all of the students currently in pursuit of their degree or for students interested in the program. I was a student in the MSRT program throughout the accreditation process, and officially graduated from the accredited program in August 2018. When I began the program, however, we were not accredited, which proved difficult while I was searching for internships. Various organizations, including the Department of Veterans Affairs Assistive Technology department, could only accept students who were enrolled in an accredited university program. This limited my internship opportunities, as well as potential experiences during my graduate school education. Learning about this stipulation further emphasized the importance of and need for accreditation in higher education. Accreditation of this Master of Science program assisted me in acquiring my new job, as a Clinical Rehabilitation Engineer for the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, as the program and my graduate education is now backed by an accepted standard. Furthermore, this accreditation prevents future MSRT students from missing out on internship or other professional opportunities which aid in the growth of their knowledge and skills.
Clinical Rehabilitation Engineer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Defining the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology profession
Accreditation is an essential process for the advancement and viability of any program whether it be a service or training curriculum. We applaud the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Education Committee on Accreditation (CoA-RATE) backed by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for taking this important next step to develop and define standards for a curriculum to train the next generation of Assistive Technology Professionals. The ATP credential has been well accepted for over 20 years but now an accredited curriculum will further advance this profession. From the perspective of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology (RST) this accreditation has benefitted our graduate program in Rehabilitation Technology on several levels.
CoA-RATE accreditation has helped RST to better describe to internal and external stakeholders who we are, what we do, and assure what we do in training is within accepted standards. The Rehabilitation Technology Program for the longest time has been the only curriculum within the School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) without an accreditation. Therefore, CoA-RATE standards now clearly defines the role of rehabilitation and assistive technology providers within the interdisciplinary continuum of care. This is also important from the consumer’s perspective as people seek and prefer services from credentialed providers backed by an accredited training program.
Accreditation is critical for student recruitment as it further explains the profession, curriculum, and future employment opportunities. In order for students to be onsite, many potential fieldwork placements such as the Veterans Administration and Health Centers also require trainees to be enrolled in an accredited program. It is further expected that graduation from an accredited program will fully prepare students to sit for the ATP exam and immediately seek employment.
Finally, accreditation legitimizes the profession to payers and policy makers. Assistive Technology products and services for long have been plagued with funding dilemmas perhaps because the profession has not been well explained or understood. CoRATE accreditation moves the profession further forward into a better defined profession backed by a training curriculum leading to credentialed professionals who can work as part of an interdisciplinary team to serve people with disabilities across multitudes of settings.
In summary, CoRATE accreditation has benefitted the Rehabilitation Technology Program at the University of Pittsburgh to better define the role of assistive technology services both within the institution and externally, recruit students, establish fieldwork placements, build relationships with the community, and seek employment opportunities for our graduates. Therefore, we strongly encourage other programs to seek this common accreditation to further promote Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology as a profession.
Mark Schmeler, PhD, OTR/L, ATP, RESNA Fellow
Associate Professor/ Vice-Chair of Education & Training
Dept. Rehabilitation Science & Technology
School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Pittsburgh
Providing a consistent standard
UWM is proud to offer one of the first Accredited Assistive Technology Certificate Programs in the World. CoA RATE facilitated a well organized process for achieving accreditation. As the program coordinator, I felt well supported through the entire process. Questions were answered promptly and communication was ongoing throughout the process. UWM is thrilled to be able to offer a consistent program based upon the CoA RATE standards.
Michelle Silverman, MS, OTR, ATP
Clinical Assistant Professor/ ATAD Certificate Coordinator
Occupational Science and Technology
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
How to provide quality service, experience, and develop professionally
As we learned about the CoA-RATE’s effort to address accreditation of AT academic programs, we were not certain that the timing was right for us. Although we have been active in AT training for a number of years, we were not sure we had all the elements that would be required. We felt good about the content that we offered, but we weren’t sure about the other elements that are required of an accredited academic program. We were also uncertain about having the time to compile a comprehensive application, and for the site visit and application review process, given that we have multiple responsibilities as clinical faculty.
I can report that, although the process took approximately 12 months of effort from start-to-finish, we’re glad we did it.
First, by going through our course offerings in a comprehensive way, we were able to more clearly state how the content prepares students to be providers of quality services. Second, it encouraged us to more fully develop opportunities for field experiences, which lets our students demonstrate their developing knowledge and skill base. Third, our identity on campus was certainly enhanced. Our department head and dean were key participants in the site visit, and they learned of their faculty’s efforts as well as the administrative and infrastructure required for accredited programs. This will have a very positive impact on our program in the future.
For those program directors and faculty members considering seeking accredited status of your program, I would encourage you to do so. It will take work on your part, no doubt, but I am confident that it will be a positive influence on your program. And you will be helping the field, by bringing to light your quality academic program.
Clinical Associate Professor
Assistive Technology Unit
Department of Disability and Human Development
University of Illinois at Chicago