According to the 1988, Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act, assistive technology devices are "items, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." This act enabled the use of assistive technology products to assist the rehabilitation of disabled people, and reduce their dependency on others to accomplish their tasks.
Types of Devices
Assistive technology communication devices include many software and programs designed to help the individual to communicate better, especially while using a computer. Following are some examples used for computing ease.
- Joysticks: The joystick works in the same way as a computer mouse, which is used to control the cursor on the screen. It can be used by hand, feet, chin, etc.
- Touch Screens: Touch screens allow direct interaction with the computer by touching the screen. One can select and activate choices using the hand, rather than through a mouse or a keyboard.
- Easy-to-use Keyboards: A keyboard with features such as larger or smaller key configurations, keyboards for use with one hand, or keyboards with a large-sized font on its keys for the partially-visually-impaired, helps to access the keyboard easily.
- Reading Machines: Reading machine software's read aloud the content or the text that appears on the screen. This is useful for visually impaired people. Information from the page or the computer screen can be easily read using these reading programs.
- Screen and Keyboard Enlargers: Screen enlargers not only help to magnify the computer monitor, but also reduce glare, and block the UV rays. Keyboard enlargers are glued on letters of the keys which are larger than the standard font size.
- Braille Technology: Braille software programs convert the content or the text into embossed Braille output. Using the standard word processing programs the text is generated in Braille, which is then printed on the embosser. The embosser also allows one to access e-mail, internet, audio-streaming, etc.
- Electronic Pointing Devices and Trackers: Pointing devices use infrared beams, ultrasound, eye movements, brain waves, etc. to control the cursor on the screen without the use of hands.
Seating and positioning aids are devices for mobility of physically challenged people. These devices are cushions and wedges, contour seats, standing tables, positioning belts, braces, modified wheelchair, seat lifts, therapeutic seats, postural support systems, etc. Aids to help differently-abled individuals who have restricted mobility include wheelchairs and scooters with special mechanism for applying brakes, light, horn, etc. Besides this, assistive devices also include custom cars and vans, car-top carriers, special driving control, child restraint systems, ramps, lifts, etc. Reading assistive technological aids include reading machines, document reading systems, OCR systems, electronic book readers, voice-fitted equipment like clocks, calculators, manual and electric page turners, etc.
There are many other assistive technology services and devices that can provide a lot of convenience and ease to people who wish to use them. However, before purchasing one, understand the level of comfort it will provide the person who wants to use it. Always have it checked by the doctor, to find out whether the device is safe to use.