Objective. RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, is an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability. RESNA's purpose is to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology. RESNA serves that purpose by promoting research, development, education, advocacy, and provision of technology, and it does this by supporting the people engaged in these activities.
RESNA recognized the need to assure quality in the delivery of assistive technology products and services and embarked on the creation and development of a professional credentialing program in 1992. The purpose of the credentialing program was to identify qualified clinicians and providers by testing fundamental knowledge. The program has also set standards to measure competence and guide professional conduct.
Main Content. The RESNA credentialing program currently consists of three certifications. The Assistive Technology Professional (ATP), the Rehabilitation Engineering Technologist (RET) and the Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS). The ATP is a service provider who analyzes the needs of consumers with disabilities, assist in selection of appropriate assistive technology for the consumer's needs, and provides training in the use of the selected device(s). The RET is an ATP professional who applies engineering principles to the design, modification, customization and/or fabrication of assistive technology for people with disabilities. The SMS is an ATP who specializes in the comprehensive seating, positioning, and mobility needs of consumers with disabilities.
All applicants for certification must posses certain academic credentials and experience delivering assistive technology services and pass an exam testing their knowledge of the field. The exam was created by first developing a document describing the skills and knowledge required to be an assistive technology service provider. A “practice survey” was then sent to individuals working in various disciplines within the field of assistive technology service delivery in order to describe and confirm the practice of delivering assistive technology. Survey results were then validated to develop the test blueprint. Questions for the exam are solicited from individuals who are subject matter experts with training in item development standards. A passing score study is then conducted with a different set of subject matter experts to analyze the results from the first group of test takers to validate the questions and answers, remove poorly performing questions, and set the passing grade.
The certification process is overseen by RESNA's Professional Standards Board (PSB) who is responsible for revising standards of the certifications, exam design, development and administration as well as monitoring the interpretation and application of standards. The PSB establishes and updates policies for complaints, appeals and maintains a registry of certified providers.
Results. RESNA currently certifies more than 4,200 individuals. Consumers and payors can be assured these individuals have a demonstrated knowledge of assistive technology and abide by the RESNA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. U.S. federal and state agencies have adopted RESNA certification as a requirement to provide certain kinds of assistive technology devices funded by these agencies.
Conclusion. RESNA has developed and maintains a professional certification program that identifies those individuals with a demonstrated level of academic training, experience and knowledge who provide assistive technology services at the highest professional levels. RESNA's certification program can be a model for others interested in assuring the highest quality of assistive technology services to people with disabilities.