The Value of Assistive Technology in the Lives of People with Disabilities
Technology has become part of our daily lives, and it has also made a positive impact on those with special needs. It has opened up new possibilities and can be life-changing for many individuals. At Individual Advocacy Group, we want to make sure families know about the resources available to them that can make a real difference.
Assistive technology is any device or tool that helps those with disabilities or impairments function better. This could include devices for learning, communication, hearing, and mobility. These tools offer more opportunities for inclusion in different aspects of life such as in the home, school, and leisure activities.
Benefits of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology (AT) is an invaluable tool for people with disabilities as it provides a range of benefits and enables them to enjoy greater independence and access to opportunities. These benefits range from:
Assistive technology such as power wheelchairs can provide individuals with mobility impairments greater independence and enhance the quality of life in their daily living activities. Many individuals with power wheelchairs can perform short commutes to the store or a neighbor’s house without needing assistance from others.
Basic assistive technologies like grab bars and bath chairs can significantly improve an individual's independence and confidence while showering and performing routine hygiene tasks.
Hearing aids allow individuals with hearing impairments to more easily engage in conversation, better navigate potentially dangerous environments like construction sites and city streets, and simply enjoy the sounds of nature.
By using sip-and-puff systems, students with paralysis or fine motor skill disabilities can access and better utilize computers thereby enhancing their educational experience and enabling them to excel alongside their peers.
Technology with features such as enhanced color contrast, voice prompts, or tactile materials can empower students with learning disabilities, cognitive challenges, visual impairments, or language barriers to overcome barriers and achieve their learning goals.
Communication aids enhance educational opportunities for people with speech and/or language impairments by facilitating their active participation in class activities and allowing them to communicate with their peers and instructors.
Wheelchair ramps in a workplace can enable people with disabilities to navigate the space more easily, fostering greater accessibility and inclusivity.
Adaptive keyboards and computer mice can benefit employees who experience fatigue due to conditions like multiple sclerosis.
By enlarging text and images on computer screens, screen magnifiers serve as a valuable assistive technology in the workplace for individuals with visual impairments, enabling them to read documents and complete tasks more effectively.
Types of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can be anything from the most basic solutions to remarkably complex ones. Take for example:
Utensil grips (wrapping pool noodles or sponge hair rollers)
Straw supporter (tape a straw into a clothespin)
Eye-gaze-activated speech-generating devices
Assistive technology solutions come in many forms from store-bought speech recognition software to custom creations made with 3D printers--like prosthetic hands.
Individuals with vision impairments can use a variety of tools to fulfill their needs, from daily living activities to computer access and navigation aids. Here are some examples:
Screen reading software
Text-to-speech systems using Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Large print materials
Talking devices such as talking thermostats
Phones with large tactile buttons
Individuals who have speech impairments and require help with verbal communication in person can benefit from utilizing technology such as:
Speech output software
Speech generating devices
Voice amplification systems
Fluency assistance devices
For those living with hearing loss, there are a variety of tools and technologies to make daily life easier, from augmentative and alternative communication for conversation to assistive technology for everyday tasks. Here are some examples:
The portable closed captioning system
Face-to-face dual keyboard communication system
Phone with captioning
Mobile devices with texting or specialized apps
Personal amplification systems
Wireless TV listening systems
Vibrating alarm clocks
Doorbell with flashing light alert
Mobility, seating, and positioning
Products that provide a sense of independence and freedom for those who require additional mobility assistance. They range from:
Scooters and power chairs
Postural and pressure management systems
People with disabilities should not be denied access to homes, businesses, or other buildings. Products designed for this purpose include systems that control doors, lighting, temperature, and environmental needs in order to ensure maximum comfort and accessibility. Some of these are:
Systems designed to remotely control appliances
Products using a switch, voice, or another method of activation
Motorized and sensor-activated door openers
Lifts and ramps
Those with disabilities and seniors who experience functional difficulties due to aging can gain independence in everyday living activities, such as bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, eating, and shopping. Here are some examples:
Walker carrying bag
Wheelchair cup holder
Automatic soap dispenser
Dressing aids such as zipper pulls and button hooks
Long handle shoe horn
Adapted kitchen tools and eating utensils
Assistive technology has made great strides in recent years, with new devices released regularly and existing ones constantly upgraded. This has enabled people with disabilities to experience a more typical lifestyle as they can now thrive in an inclusive environment.
At Individual Advocacy Group, we are advocating for the rights and needs of people with disabilities and making sure they have access to the needed resources, tools, and technology to thrive today. Through our collective efforts, we can strive for a society that works for everyone.