Evening the Playing Field with Assistive Technology

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. One of the results of this legislation is the wide range of technological devices available to assist the 20 percent of Americans with some kind of disability. These devices are designed to allow them to complete tasks that their disability affects.

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology is a broad term describing any sort of technological device that provides assistance to a disabled individual. It may be an item, piece of equipment, software or product system. The assistive technology increases or maintains the functional capabilities of a person who has a disability.

Anyone who has a disability is eligible to receive assistive technology from one of many sources. Schools must provide technology to children who are enrolled and need it. Government agencies provide what is considered medically necessary. Health insurance helps pay for rehabilitative technology. Job training programs and employers provide technology that allows people to complete specific tasks in the workplace.

Why Is Assistive Technology Important?

Individuals with disabilities can’t complete certain tasks on their own, but that doesn’t mean they should be held back by their physical or mental limitations. Assistive technology is one of the keys to giving individuals with disabilities a better quality of life and the opportunities they’d have if they didn’t have disabilities.

Technological innovation has come a long way in recent years, opening up thousands of new types of assistive technological advancements. Quality of life for disabled individuals is at an all-time high with the help of creative technology that helps even the playing field.

Examples of Assistive Technology

Millions of Americans, especially the elderly, wear hearing aids, one of the most common forms of assistive technology. These are programmed based on an individual’s needs and amplify sounds in one or more auditory ranges. They allow the individuals to continue functioning without the need for more high-tech devices, like speech-to-text computers.

Handicapped vans are designed to allow individuals confined to wheelchairs to get around without leaving their chairs. Vans are equipped with a ramp that comes out of one of the sliding doors and anchoring devices in the van to keep the wheelchair securely in place. A wheelchair-confined individual of legal driving age can get vehicles modified to allow them to drive. The control panels for all features are placed near the hands, and handicapped individuals can operate the van from the driver’s position.

Individuals who have limited eyesight can use a wide range of magnifying devices to help them see more clearly, especially when working with text. Extra-large monitors can display electronic books at high magnification. Individuals can also use handheld magnifying devices to project small portions of text onto a screen, which helps read physical books. Some companies make computer keyboards with extra-large letters on the keys to make them more visible.

Children who can’t speak often have trouble in social situations because others cannot understand them and often do not notice when they need to communicate something. There’s a wide range of devices available with buttons a child can press to play specific messages. Children who are too young to read or are unable to read can use devices with an image on the button for each message.

Physical disabilities often make it difficult to control environments, but there are several tools available to help. One of the simplest ones is a pole with a grabber on the end, which individuals can use to reach items that are too high, including light switches. More high-tech items include remote controls for appliances that do not ordinarily have them.

The wide range of assistive technology tools all have one thing in common. They help individuals with disabilities complete tasks they would not have otherwise been able to do, allowing them to maintain as high of a quality of life as possible. We are sure to see even more high-tech devices hit the market in the future, broadening the scope of what people with disabilities can do on their own.