Assistive Technology Resources on the Web

Assistive technology is any machine, computer, or device that makes it possible or easier for a person with a disability to perform an action or function. These technological devices enable people without sight, hearing, range of motion, speech or limbs to participate in activities that would otherwise be impossible for them. The earliest forms of assistive technology included walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. Today much more sophisticated devices use computer software and hardware. Many people with disabilities consider assistive technology to be extensions of themselves.

Personal Emergency Response Systems

When most people need emergency help, they can dial “911.” However, for an individual who does not have the mobility to reach a phone or the ability to dial and speak into one, this becomes an impossible task. A personal emergency response system can dispatch help for those who have fallen or become otherwise injured with the inability to call for help any other way. It can also be used to notify authorities of a fire or break-in. Most systems are worn consistently on the body and can be easily activated with a button or voice command.

Accessible computer input
Accessible computer input devices make it possible for those with disabilities to use computers. Not only do they facilitate movement and input, but they make it more comfortable to sit in front of the computer. Some types of accessible computer input aids include keyboards with large print and chorded keyboards. Foot rests and arm supports are also considered assistive computer input aids. Other input aids include joy sticks, eye tracking devices, and software that can recognize speech.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME)
Durable Medical Equipment is equipment designed for people who have chronic or long term disability. Such is equipment is often a necessity for those with debilitating diseases or serious injuries. This durable equipment is made to use repeatedly and often on a daily basis. Most equipment is designed for ease of use at home. Examples include prosthetics, knee braces, and home-based hospital beds.

Learning difficulties
Assistive technology exists to help those with learning difficulties, learning delays, comprehension problems, and faulty memories. Whether the problem is cognitive, emotional, and related to physical trauma in the brain, many devices exists to make learning easier and help people retain information for long periods of time. Learning difficulties can be recurrent, temporary, or permanent. They can stem from a birth defect, accident, or dementia. Supportive technology includes audio books, speech synthesizers, database software, talking calculators, and optical character recognition systems.

Mobility impairment
Mobility impairment affects more than the ability to move across the room and complete gross motor actions; fine motor activities are also restricted. For example, a person with mobility impairment might find it difficult to move fingers, neck, or head. They might not be able to rotate when sitting or stand easily. These restrictions of movement, whether large range or small, can make it difficult to function in many environments. Assistive technology such as tilt tables, adjustable seating, wheel-chair accessible labs, word prediction software, and earplugs can accommodate affected persons. Resources even exist to help those with motion restrictions have fulfilling sexual experiences.

Visual impairment
Assistive technology can not only help those who are completely blind, but those who have partial or limited vision and color blindness. Many aids convert words that can’t be seen into spoken text. Computer aids for visual impairment include screen magnifiers, talking word processors and even talking Web browsers. Technological aids for visual impairment don’t just have to be simply practical; companies Google and Nintendo are proving they can be fun, too. With the advent of personal navigation systems, Google has recently created applications that can help blind people navigate when walking around the community. Also, Nintendo has begun creative gaming technology for the visually impaired.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
People with disabilities don’t just want to function in life. Many have passion opinions and want to debate and present their ideas to the public. This is where assistive technology for Augmentative and Alternative Communication becomes beneficial. These tools can not only enhance speech and the ability to communicate with peers, but also punctuate ideas with facial expression in the event paralysis or other trauma has made face movement impossible or difficult. Aids in this sphere include picture boards, electronic talking boards, and speaking tubes.

Deafness and hearing loss
Hearing aids video phones are just two assistive technology devices used to help those with deafness and hearing loss. Other contemporary aids include text messages and pagers. FM listening systems can also amplify sound to augment the hearing of those with hearing loss. In addition to making sound louder, aids for those with hearing impairments also use vibrations and flashing lights to communicate signals and messages. There are also devices to help hearing-impaired people hear emergency signals such as fire alarms.

Assistive technology is necessary to ensure that those with any impairment have access to all events, joys, and leisure activities available to those in the mainstream. The recent use of text-messaging for the deaf, Android apps for the blind, and Nintendo games for those with disabilities shows that modern equipment is being created with an emphasis on inclusion.

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