Assistive technology is actually changing lives – but what exactly is it? Automation is now making its way into the lives of People with Disability (PwD) around the globe. This is made possible by the introduction of assistive technology. This high tech innovation could improve the quality of life of people who have difficulty performing certain tasks.
I previously worked in the disability employment sector. It was a real eye-opener, and an experience I treasure. I went to quite a few conferences in my time, and was always amazed at the new products that would emerge every year to make the lives of PwD more manageable. Assistive technology is improving year on year, and I thought I would do a bit more investigation into the new technologies that were emerging.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is an essential tool – like software or hardware devices that assists people to perform tasks or acquire information. These disability mobility solutions include electric wheelchairs – similar to the one that Stephen Hawking used. As you may know, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, which made him physically impaired.
Assistive technology also includes screen readers, hearing aids, curriculum software, visual alerting systems, large print screens, and Braille and speech/telecommunication output devices that could assist people that are vision or hearing impaired. There are also tools that provide body support, such as standing tables, braces, adapted seating, and positioning belts, among others.
For output assistive technology, there are products such as prosthetics, electric wheelchairs, pointing devices, and specialised keyboards. These tools could assist people with impaired motor abilities.
The benefits of assistive technology
Assistive technology is beneficial for people with disabilities in many ways. Overall, assistive technology aims to satisfy the needs of physically impaired people through these tools that could help them achieve specific tasks conveniently. Here are some of the ways that assistive technology is changing people’s lives.
#1: Independence is promoted
Assistive technology can help bring people independence in doing particular tasks. For example, hearing impaired people could use TTY or text telephones, and those with hand function problems could use a keyboard with bigger keys or a special mouse. Likewise, physically impaired individuals could manage to roam on their own with electric wheelchairs. People with speech impairments could manage their difficulty through a tool that speaks out loud by entering text through a keyboard.
#2: Improves social life and connection with others
The users of this technology learn to interact with people including family members, relatives, friends, teachers, or even employers. In this way, their social life is constantly improving and, as a result, is enhancing the quality of their lives.
#3: Nurtures learning
Physically impaired people could learn in educational institutions with the help of assistive technology. These tools could help them to listen, read, speak, and do things that were otherwise inhibited by their disability. In fact, in Australia, education providers have to make reasonable adjustments to courses to assist PwD to gain qualifications.
#4: Music therapy and other entertainment
Music is one therapy that has shown promise in relieving some symptoms of physically impaired people. With assistive technology, there is the potential to improve the overall lifestyle of the users. Through these tools, individuals are able to be exposed to arts, sports, and travel. The tools allow them to connect with other individuals and truly thrive.
#5: Assists with gaining and maintaining employment
Some users of assistive technology could find improvements at work. These tools allow PwD to complete tasks and find employment opportunities that were potentially out of reach before. This could also boost confidence and improve emotional health.
Assistive technology is always improving
Assistive technology can be a big help and inspiration to some people with a disability. As the technology improves and changes, hopefully it will become more and more accessible to people who need it the most. Let me know your experiences in the comments below.