What are Assistive Devices?
Assistive devices and technologies are those whose primary purpose is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence to facilitate participation and to enhance overall well-being. They can also help prevent impairments and secondary health conditions. Examples of assistive devices and technologies include wheelchairs, prostheses, hearings aids, visual aids, and specialized computer software and hardware that increase mobility, hearing, vision, or communication capacities. In many low-income and middle-income countries, only 5-15% of people who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them. (WHO
What are the different assistive devices?
- Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches, prosthetic devices, and orthotic devices.
- Hearing aids to help people hear or hear more clearly.
- Cognitive aids, including computer or electrical assistive devices, to help people with memory, attention, or other challenges in their thinking skills.
- Computer software and hardware, such as voice recognition programs, screen readers, and screen enlargement applications, to help people with mobility and sensory impairments use computers and mobile devices.
- Tools such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips to help learners with disabilities participate in educational activities
- Closed captioning to allow people with hearing problems to watch movies, television programs, and other digital media.
- Physical modifications in the built environment, including ramps, grab bars, and wider doorways to enable access to buildings, businesses, and workplaces
- Lightweight, high-performance mobility devices that enable persons with disabilities to play sports and be physically active.
- Adaptive switches and utensils to allow those with limited motor skills to eat, play games, and accomplish other activities.
- Devices and features of devices to help perform tasks such as cooking, dressing, and grooming; specialized handles and grips, devices that extend reach, and lights on telephones and doorbells are a few examples.
See Also: Understanding Blindness
How does rehabilitative technology benefit people with disabilities?
Rehabilitative technology can help restore or improve function in people who have developed a disability due to disease, injury, or aging. Appropriate assistive technology often helps people with disabilities compensate, at least in part, for a limitation.
For example, assistive technology enables students with disabilities to compensate for certain impairments. This specialized technology promotes independence and decreases the need for other support.1
Rehabilitative and assistive technology can enable individuals to:
- Care for themselves and their families
- Learn in typical school environments and other educational institutions
- Access information through computers and reading
- Enjoy music, sports, travel, and the arts
- Participate fully in community life
Assistive technology also benefits employers, teachers, family members, and everyone who interacts with people who use the technology.
As assistive technologies become more commonplace, people without disabilities are benefiting from them. For example, people for whom English is a second language are taking advantage of screen readers. Older individuals are using screen enlargers and magnifiers.
The person with a disability, along with his or her caregivers and a team of professionals and consultants, usually decide which type of rehabilitative or assistive technology would be most helpful. The team is trained to match particular technologies to specific needs to help the person function better or more independently. The team may include family doctors, regular and special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, rehabilitation engineers, occupational therapists, and other specialists, including representatives from companies that manufacture assistive technology.