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Assistive Technology Devices: New Products and Information

  • Synopsis : Information on a large range of assistive devices and disability products for persons with a disability and seniors.
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What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is a general term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities, including the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks. Assistive technology products are designed to provide additional accessibility to individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities. There are so many instances where, through minor modifications, you can make a mainstream product accessible. Nevertheless, there are also situations where your only option is assistive technology.

Is Adaptive Technology the Same as Assistive technology?

The term adaptive technology is often used as the synonym for assistive technology; however, they are different terms. Assistive technology refers to "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities", while adaptive technology covers items that are specifically designed for persons with disabilities and would seldom be used by non-disabled persons.

If you have a disability or injury you may use a number of assistive devices or rehabilitation equipment to aid you in and around the home. Assistive devices are tools, products or types of equipment that help you perform tasks and activities if you have a disability, injury or are a senior. Assistive devices may help you move around, see, communicate, eat, or get dressed/undressed.

Assistive devices for mobility/ambulation can also be referred to as ambulatory aids. Ambulatory aids (eg, canes, crutches, walkers) are used to provide an extension of the upper extremities to help transmit body weight and provide support for the user.

Assistive devices can help you improve your quality of life and maintain your sense of independence.

Thumbnail pictures of various assistive walking devices
About This Image: Thumbnail pictures of various assistive walking devices.
Well designed high quality assistive devices, or daily living aids, that support independent living for the handicapped and disabled, seniors, or those with a medical condition or injury should make life easier and safer for the aged and disabled.

AT promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to or changed methods of interacting with the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.

An assistive device could be a wheelchair, reacher, or a disability product that allows you to use a computer. If you experience difficulties performing certain tasks it is possible that an assistive device can help you overcome your problems.

Other Disability Aids Include

  • Advanced technology walking products to aid people with disabilities, such as paraplegia or cerebral palsy, who would not at all able to walk or stand (exoskeletons).
  • Standing products to support people with disabilities in the standing position while maintaining/improving their health (standing frame, standing wheelchair, active stander).
  • Seating products that assist people to sit comfortably and safely (seating systems, cushions, therapeutic seats).
  • Walking products to aid people with disabilities who are able to walk or stand with assistance (canes, crutches, walkers, gait trainers).
  • Wheeled mobility products that enable people with reduced mobility to move freely indoors and outdoors (Examples: wheelchairs and scooters).

Certain devices, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids obviously require an expert's assessment, but many assistive devices for the enhancement of daily life such as wheelchairs, walkers, bath seats and grab bars are easily obtainable in general and specialty stores including online disability product websites.

You will also find pharmacy personnel are usually quite happy to provide information on a variety of other assistive products like magnifying glasses, bath seats, joint support bandages, pill organizers, canes, etc.

Specialty computer stores often carry items like screen reading software that include screen enlargement features for persons with vision impairments. Voice recognition systems, modified keyboards and computer mice are also available for people with mobility and dexterity limitations.

When selecting assistive technology products for computers, it is crucial to find the right products that are compatible with the computer operating system and programs on the particular computer you will be using.

What Does the Future Hold for Assistive Technology?

This is a very exciting time for new developments in assistive technology. Not only are existing AT programs regularly updated, but new and previously unseen technology is on-route to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. With the advent of e-book readers like the Kindle, Sony E-reader, and recently the Nook released by Barnes and Noble, there could be another wave of new methods for people with learning disabilities and other conditions to access e-books and books. While not all of the devices have text-to-speech capability, some of them do, and if it proves useful, other producers of e-book readers will probably follow suit and adopt that utility in the near future.

By current estimates, more than 4,000 assistive technologies have been designed for the disabled and seniors. These devices include everything from wheelchairs to a wide assortment of high-tech tools and many companies today are turning their research and development to assistive technologies.

Home Automation

The form of home automation called assistive domotics focuses on making it possible for elderly and disabled people to live independently. Home automation is becoming a viable option for the elderly and disabled who would prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move to a healthcare facility. This field uses much of the same technology and equipment as home automation for security, entertainment, and energy conservation but tailors it towards elderly and disabled users.

If you think you could benefit from using an assistive device, start by consulting a health care professional, such as your doctor, pharmacist, or an occupational therapist. Find out what is available to suit your needs. You can also obtain information about assistive devices from catalogs and seniors' magazines. Don't let your disability or sensory loss infringe on your lifestyle, especially when tools and devices exist to help you overcome these obstacles.

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