Getting Started: New ATP Policies for 2009

From its beginning in 2002, Mobility Management has preached the importance of continuing education. But this year, we put those words into practice. I’m preparing to take the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) test administered by the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) and recognized by, among other entities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In this column every month, we will go step by step through various components of the test. At year’s end, it’s my goal to take (and pass) the ATP practice exam.

Meet Our Monthly Mentors

Because I lack the “direct consumer-related services” ATP eligibility requirement — i.e., I report on seating & mobility, but don’t build or recommend seating systems — I do not qualify to take the actual ATP exam. But I’ll prepare as if I did.

To that end, I’ll have the help of monthly mentors, who will advise me on everything from exam content to test-taking strategies to their own exam experiences. Our mentors in January and February are Mark Schmeler (Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP), director of the continuing education program in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the University of Pittsburgh; and Anjali Weber, director of certification at RESNA.
Each month, I’ll also share what info I’ve learned and what I’ve accomplished since last time. So — let’s get started.

This Month: Learning What Needs to Be Done

For a goal this big, I’ll need a plan. So I went to RESNA’s Web site —, then click “Certification” — to see what qualifications are needed to sit the ATP exam. If you don’t yet qualify, you can see what you’ll need to work on.

Coincidentally, this month RESNA changes from having two credentials — ATP (Practitioner) and ATS (Supplier) — to just one, now called the Assistive Technology Professional. Previously, RESNA considered the professional role of the candidate, i.e., whether or not he/she sold equipment. There were also different educational degree requirements for ATP and ATS credentials. But starting Jan. 1, things change.

“Basically,” Anjali says, “we’re consolidating the two certifications into one because the credentialing program is starting its 13th year, and we had a chance to look back at how the current system worked, how people used the certification, what it means, and concerns about it being tied to a role. The purpose of certification is to identify a knowledge base and proficiency base. And the other purpose of certification is to ensure quality services.

“But what we found was when certification was tied to a role, the content areas we were testing on still came from the same outline. And we felt that certification shouldn’t be tied to a role, because people’s jobs change: You’re a therapist, you’ve become a supplier, is your ATP (credential) any good? What does it mean if I’m an ATP, but now I’m working for a supplier? I think (having two different credentials) lent to more confusion.”

Current ATPs and ATSs will be updated to the Professional credential free of charge, once you help RESNA with some documentation; visit the Web site and click “Certification” for more information. And yes, CMS has given the change its blessing.

Step 1: Take an Exam Review Course

Next month, we’ll hear much more from both mentors, including why Mark thinks a study plan is crucial, even if you’ve practiced in this field for years, and how to create an effective one.

But among his first words of advice were, “I recommend to everybody — before you even start to put a study plan together — you should take an exam review course.”

Yes, Mark offers one (co-presented by Kendra Betz of the Veterans Health Administration) through the University of Pittsburgh (, but that’s not why he’s recommending such a course, which is also offered by several mobility/rehab manufacturers. As Mark says, “(The review course is) not designed to teach you the material. It’s designed to let you know what’s going to be on the test, major content areas, it reviews the content areas, and lets you know how that content could be presented in the form of a multiple-choice question.”

So I’ve started an eight-hour review course (more on that next month), and based on what I’ve heard so far, I’ve started a Resources list (see sidebar). Next month, we’ll discuss what I took away from the review course, and we’ll create a real-world study strategy…because we can’t put day jobs and family responsibilities on hold just because we’re preparing for the ATP exam.

Textbook Resources, as suggest , as suggested by Mark Schmeler

Cook & Hussey’s Assistive Technology: Principles & Practice
by Albert Cook & Janice Miller Polgar, $81.95*
Human Anatomy Coloring Book by Margaret Matt, $3.95*
fundamentals in Assistive Technology: $80*

Prices are approximate, vary by seller and were current at press time. Prices do not include sales tax & shipping fees. *Available from & mainstream booksellers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders. **Available from

If you would like to become a mentor for Earning the ATP, please e-mail me at

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

In Support of Upper-Extremity Positioning