Assistive technology (AT) is any device or system that helps people with disability or impairments to carry out tasks they would otherwise be incapable of doing. It can range from computer programs and apps to physical tools like wheelchairs, hearing aids, and prosthetics. Technology has helped countless individuals achieve unprecedented levels of independence. Learn about the different types of assistive technology available today and how they can help improve the quality of life for those with disability.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes any technology that can improve the functional abilities of individuals with disability. It can range from simple tools like magnifiers and adapted utensils to more complex systems like computer software that allow people with disability to communicate better and participate in the world around them.
There are different main categories of assistive technology:
Vision Assistive Technology
Many types of assistive technology can help people with vision impairments. Some common examples of vision assistive technology include:
Magnifiers: Magnifiers can help people with low vision read print materials such as books, newspapers, and labels.
High-contrast displays: High-contrast displays can make it easier for people with low vision to see computer screens, TV screens, and other electronic displays.
Voice recognition software: This software can control computers and other electronic devices using voice commands.
Screen readers: Screen readers can read text aloud from electronic documents and websites, making it possible for people with partial blindness or low vision to access information online.
Hearing Assistive Technology
Hearing assistive technology (HAT) helps people with hearing impairments to communicate. It can be used differently, depending on the person’s needs.
The main types of HAT are:
These are small electronic devices that amplify sound and make it easier to hear. They are worn in or around the ear and can be either behind-the-ear (BTE) or in-the-ear (ITE). There are also mini BTE and completely in-canal (CIC) hearing aids.
These implants are surgically implanted devices that provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or have severe hearing loss. They convert sound waves into electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve, sending messages to the brain and allowing the person to hear sounds.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs)
ALDs are portable electronic devices that improve communication by amplifying sound and making it easier to hear in noisy environments such as crowded rooms or when there is a distance between the speaker and listener. ALDs can be used with or without hearing aids or cochlear implants. Examples of ALDs include personal amplification systems, FM systems, and induction loop systems.
Speech Communication Assistive Technology
Speech communication assistive technology (SCAT) is any technology that helps people with speech impairments communicate effectively. It can include simple picture boards to more sophisticated computer software that converts text to speech.
People with speech impairments may have difficulty communicating in several ways. They may have difficulty producing speech sounds, or their speech may be unclear. They may also have trouble understanding what other people are saying. SCAT can help with all these problems.
Many types of SCAT are available; the best type for a particular person will depend on their particular needs. Some people only need a simple picture board, while others need more sophisticated software. The following is a brief overview of some of the most common types of SCAT:
Picture Boards: Picture boards are one of the simplest forms of SCAT. They consist of a board with pictures or symbols representing different words or concepts. The person using the picture board points to the appropriate picture or symbol when they want to communicate something.
Video Relay Service: Video relay service (VRS) is a type of SCAT that allows people with hearing impairments to communicate with hearing people using sign language interpreters. VRS uses video conferencing technology to connect the interpreter with the person who is deaf or hard of hearing. The interpreter then translates the conversation into spoken English (or whatever language the hearing person speaks).
Mobility Assistive Technology
A wide range of assistive technology by NDIS is available to help people with mobility impairments. Seating and positioning devices can be used to improve comfort and increase independence. Wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers are common mobility devices.
Some people with limited mobility may benefit from power-assisted wheelchairs or standing frames.
Daily Living Assistive Technology
A wide range of assistive technology can help people with disability live more independently. Here are some examples of daily living and assistive technology:
- Personal care: Personal care can include electric toothbrushes, adaptive eating utensils, and shower chairs.
- Mobility: It can include walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters.
- Environmental controls: systems that allow individuals with physical disability to control their environment remotely. It includes home automation systems, remote-controlled door openers, and wheelchair lifts.
- Leisure and recreation: It can include accessible computer games, specialty sports equipment, and musical instruments.
Vehicle Modification and Transportation Assistive Technology
One type of assistive technology is vehicle modification and assistive transportation technology. This assistive technology can help people with disability get around in their community and participate in activities they enjoy.
Some examples of vehicle modification and transportation-assistive technology include:
- Adapted vehicles: Vehicles modified to meet the needs of people with disability, such as vans with wheelchair lifts or hand controls.
- Public transportation: Transportation services are available to everyone, including people with disability. These services may include buses, trains, or taxis.
- Paratransit: Transportation services that are specifically for people with disability who are unable to use public transportation.
In a nutshell
Assistive technology has opened up a world of possibilities for people with disability. The different types of assistive technology available can provide a range of practical measures to those who need it, from speech-generating devices to providing access to computers and the internet. With these capabilities, people with disability can have more freedom and independence in their everyday life. No matter what type of disability you may have, there is an assistive technology out there that can help make your day-to-day tasks easier and help you carry out your basic functions.
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