What is Assistive Technology?
What Is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is any kind of technology that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as talking with friends, going to school and work, or participating in recreational activities is a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help to overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance their quality of life and lead more independent lives.
Assistive technology can be anything from a simple (low-tech) device such as a magnifying glass, to a complex (high-tech) device, such as a computerized communication system. It can be big — an automated van lift for a wheelchair — or small — a grip attached to a pen or fork by Velcro. Assistive technology can also be a substitute — such as an augmentative communication device that provides vocal output for a child who cannot communicate with her voice.
Meeting Challenges with Assistive Technology
Assistive technology helps to level the playing field for individuals with disabilities by providing them a way to fully engage in lifes activities. An individual may use assistive technology to travel about, participate in recreational and social activities, learn, work, communicate with others, and much more.
Here are several examples of AT that enable people with disabilities to enter into the community and interact with others.
- For greater independence of mobility and travel, people with physical disabilities may use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Adapted car seats and vehicle wheelchair restraints promote safe travel.
- Hand-held GPS (global positioning system) devices help persons with visual impairments navigate busy city streets and use public transportation.
- Building modifications at work sites, such as ramps, automatic door openers, grab bars, and wider doorways mean fewer barriers to employment, businesses, and community spaces, such as libraries, churches, and shopping malls.
- Special computer software and hardware, such as voice recognition programs and screen enlargement programs, enable persons with mobility and sensory impairments to carry out educational or work-related tasks.
- Education and work aids such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips enable children to participate in classroom activities.
- Bowling balls with hand-grips and one-handed fishing reels are a few examples of how technology can be adapted for sporting activities. Light-weight wheelchairs have been designed for organized sports, such as basketball, tennis, and racing.
- Adaptive switches make it possible for a child with limited motor skills to play with toys and games.
- Accessibly designed movie theaters provide closed captioning and audio description for moviegoers with hearing and visual difficulties.
- Devices to assist a person with daily living tasks, such as cooking, dressing, and grooming, are available for people with special needs. For example, a medication dispenser with an alarm can be set to remind a child to take daily medication. A person with use of only one hand can use a one-handed cutting board and a cabinet mounted can opener to cook meals with improved independence and safety.