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.
Help for Elderly with Limited Function: This article addresses the benefit of personal emergency response systems for senior citizens.
LifeLine: This webpage discusses the benefits of the most popular PER system – Lifeline.
Paying for Personal Emergency Response Systems: Bulletin discusses how waivers, Medicare, and other means can be used to offset costs of systems.
Buyer’s Guide: This guide notes the essentials to consider when shopping for a PERS.
ADT Companion Device: This website discusses the personal emergency response offerings by national security provider ADT.
Questions about PERS: This website by the Federal Trade Commission answers FAQS about personal emergency response systems.
Consumer Advice: This Better Business Bureau website gives advice concerning providers of personal emergency response systems.
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.
Speech Recognition: This website discusses the basics of speech recognition software.
Foot Mice Overview: This webpage explains the benefits of using a foot mouse.
Assistive Keyboards: This site lists different types of keyboards for accessible computer input, including large print ones and Braille-based keyboards.
Joysticks: This website discusses the use of joysticks for those with disabilities.
Computer Ease: Article discusses the need for computer accessibility for people with disabilities.
Using Computers with Disabilities: This article highlights unique ways people with disabilities input information into a computer. One person, for example, uses his breath to create a Morse code that can be read by the computer.
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.
Basics of DME: This website explains Durable medical equipment and answers frequently asked questions.
Acquiring DME: This government site explains the steps for acquiring DME through Medicaid.
Printable Payment Guide: This printable file by Med Pac gives details on payment plans for DME.
Types of DME: This website explains what types of durable medical equipment are available.
Resources on DME: This is a list of resources and articles related to DME and provided by the state of Illinois. Includes information on prosthesis and reading attachments.
DME Advice for Amputees: This website offers advice on durable medical equipment to those who have had arms or legs amputated.
DME FAQS: This site gives answers to a list of the most commonly asked questions about durable medical equipment. Includes information on how to dispose of equipment and what to do if coverage is denied by Medicare.
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.
Resources for Disabled Learners: This website offers a complete list of resources which discuss technology for learners with disabilities. Includes books, multimedia, and articles.
Helping Kids With Learning Disabilities: This website, managed by Great Schools, gives an overview on the assistive technology available for LD students.
Personal Hearing Systems: At this American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website, assistive devices for learners with hearing trouble are discussed.
Using Audiobooks to Learn: This website explores the benefits of audio books for those who can’t read print well.
Guide to Technology for Learners: This website offers a guide to people with disabilities who need assistive technology to learn.
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.
Mobility Impairment & the Web: This website discusses how Internet providers can address needs of people who have mobility impairments.
Word Prediction Software: This website discusses how to use word prediction software to overcome mobility impairment.
Mobility Resource Guide: This entire website is a guide for those need assistive aids and advice for mobility limitations.
Sports Aids: This website looks at the assistive technology that can help people in wheelchairs play sports like soccer and bowling.
Products for Children: This website gives an overview of products like gait trainers that can help children and toddlers with mobility 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.
Resources for the Visually Impaired: This website compiles a list of resources for those needing technological aids with visual impairment.
Computer Aids for Those with Visual Impairment: This Microsoft website offers a guide to computer technology for those who have vision limitations.
Google Apps for the Blind: Google releases navigation apps for the visually impaired.
Talking Browsers & Screen Readers: This site includes links to the most popular speaking browsers and readers.
Nintendo designs Games for the Blind: This technology article discusses the latest Wii game release for the visually impaired.
Using the Web: The website explains how those with disabilities can use the Web. Includes section on using alternative browsers and screen readers for visual impairments.
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.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Institute: This website is devoted to helping those with disabilities find technology to communicate more easily.
Picture Boards: This children’s hospital website discusses the typical communication board used by hospitalized youth.
Communicating Without Words: This website discusses how picture exchange communication systems can help those who are nonverbal.
Electronic and Non-Electronic Devices: This website lists the assistive technology available those with limited communication. Includes a list of device manufacturers.
How to Convey Messages: This website dedicated to inclusion discusses a variety of ways people with impairments can communicate their ideas, including wearing clothing with symbols.
Video: Using AAC: This educational You Tube video discusses on AAC helps people with disabilities feel connected to family and friends. It highlights technology used to communicate.
AAC Tips: This website offers monthly tips on augmentative and alternative communication to families dealing with impairments.
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.
Resources: This advocacy website offers a list of technological resources for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
FM Systems: This site explains how FM systems and other listening devices can block out noise and turn up essential sounds.
Basics of Assistive Listening: Website explains why hearing technology is necessary and how it works.
What to Do When You Need a Hearing Aid: This site offers a guide on the decision to seek a hearing aid.
Using Text Messaging for Hearing Impairment: This website discusses how Sidekicks and other short message systems can benefit those with deafness.
Benefits of VOIP: This website discusses how Voice-Over Internet Protocol can help those with hearing ailments communicate due to its video-based communication and loud audio.
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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