Assistive Technology can be defined as “any item, 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.” (Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA) 20, USC, Ch 33, Section 1401 (25) US).
The benefits of assistive technology cross all age, disability and/or health challenges. A person using assistive technology may face a range of possible physical and/or cognitive challenges. Some examples are: a Learning Disability (LD), Blindness or Low Vision, Hearing loss, Speech Impairments, Mobility Impairments, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Cerebral Palsy (CP), a Developmental Disability, Autism, ADHD, ADD and Acquired Brain Injury.
Assistive Technology as applied to persons with disabilities can often be referred to as “adaptive technology”, usually in the context of computer related accessibility. However, computer access can be referred to as “Access Technology”. While “access technology” and “adaptive technology” essentially have the same implied meaning, adaptive technology functions to provide access to computer systems. Assistive technology, in a broader sense, is a technology that helps someone participate in his or her environment through adaptation and accessibility whether it is computers, environmental access and control (“electronic aid”) or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
Broad categories of Assistive Technology may include:
- Alternative Keyboards
- Alternative Mouse Systems
- Communication Systems
- Optical Character Recognition
- Personal Data Assistants
- Refreshable Braille Displays
- Screen Magnifiers
- Screen Readers
- Text-to-Speech Systems
- Voice Recognition Systems
- Word Prediction