Assistive Technology (AT) includes any item, piece of equipment, software or system that helps people achieve greater independence and quality of life. The goal is to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
A range of low- to high-tech devices are available. Low-tech devices are usually less expensive, don’t require a lot of training and have fewer features. High-tech devices are generally more expensive and while they may require more in-depth training, they tend to have multiple features and purposes.
The following are examples of assistive technology:
There are many low-tech tools and devices for use in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, cooking, dressing, eating and home maintenance. Some examples include:
Shower chairs and grab bars
Eating and grooming utensils with modified handles
Shoe horns and dressing sticks
High-tech tools include medication management and monitoring systems.
Devices for people with hearing, voice, speech or language disorders. These include :
Assistive listening devices (ALDs):Help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. ALDs can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help a wearer hear certain sounds better. These devices may be provided to a student through Special Education and may be required by the Americans with Disabilities Act in some facilities.
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC):Devices help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.
Alerting devices:These systems connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm that emits a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place.
Smartphones:Video-calling apps like Facetime and Skype allow users to communicate directly using American Sign Language (ASL).Relay Connecticutis a free service that allows a person using a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) or video calling to communicate with a hearing person through a relay operator.
These are devices that allow people with disabilities to perform work or school-related activities. Examples are:
Input and output devices
Modified or alternate keyboards
Special software that allow people with disabilities to use a computer.
Many of these devices, if included in a child's Individualized Education Plan, will be covered by the school system. Students in higher education may have devices provided by their college as an accommodation.
These are devices to help a person move around their environment. Examples are:
Canes and walkers
Manual and electric wheelchairs and scooters
Tools such as stair glides, patient lifts and transfer aids.
Devices for people with low-vision or blindness range from low-tech items like magnifiers and canes to high-tech items like screen readers, text-to-speech software and smart watches.The Board of Education and Services for the Blind(BESB) is an excellent source of information for accessing assistive technology.
There have been advances in self-management of chronic disease using assistive technology. For example, there are smartphone apps and devices for monitoring blood glucose for the management of diabetes and telemedicine services that can connect health care providers to patients in the home. Several smartphone apps can also be used to track health information. Some devices may be covered by health insurance.
There are also applications for safety and monitoring of persons with Alzheimer's Disease or related dementias including the use of geolocation technology.
Smart Home Technology
Smart home technology allows people to control and monitor their connected home devices from smartphones, a special wireless speaker such as Amazon's Echo or other Internet-connected devices. A variety of smart appliances can be controlled by using 'digital assistants' like Alexa or Siri. These include lighting, thermostats, door bells and locks and other appliances that can be powered on.
This technology is growing rapidly. While it can be pricey, it can dramatically increase accessibility in the home.