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What Are the Different Types of Assistive Technology Products?

By Susan Abe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Assistive technology products, also known as adaptive technology, refer to equipment, technology, machines or computer-related devices that help the disabled population live their lives as fully as possible. These items need not be exotic, unknown equipment, nor does the disability with which they assist need to be complete. According to the term's definition, anyone who requires eyeglasses to drive or read utilizes assistive technology products — eyeglasses or reading glasses — to compensate for his visual disability. There are assistive technology products and devices to aid in mobility limitations and cognitive limitations as well as those involving most of the senses, such as hearing or vision. Examples of these items include canes, wheelchairs, eyeglasses and hearing aids ranging to sophisticated computer software capable of reading written material to those with vision deficits or learning disabilities.

Most people know that assistive technology products are often used to aid those with physical mobility deficits. For example, many canes are available, ranging from a simple walking stick to a four-pronged or quad cane for individuals with a weakened leg. Walkers, standard or wheeled, are available for those whose ambulation is restricted secondary to general weakness or balance issues. If someone is unable to walk, there are manual or electric wheelchairs and even scooters to compensate for mobility deficits. Computerized technology now even allows for electric wheelchair operation according to pupil direction or voice commands.

Assistive technology products can also compensate for disabilities in some of the senses. As noted, eyeglasses are a device commonly used to offset partial losses in vision. Hearing aids are another well-known product to compensate for partial losses of hearing in one or both ears. Telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) allow the deaf to make and receive telephone calls. Unfortunately, products to compensate for losses of taste, smell and touch have either not yet been developed or are not widely available.

Advances in computer technology have spurred amazing developments in assistive technology products. There are now small, portable handheld devices that can audibly read text to an individual unable to see or comprehend printed words, such as on a restaurant menu. Personal computers and even smart phone applications are capable of allowing individuals with mobility or visual deficits to control their environments and communicate with others via the Internet or telephone. Those with visual disabilities can enlarge screen fonts or use voice commands to control their personal computers and Internet navigation. The number and variety of assistive technology products is virtually unlimited.

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Discussion Comments

By everetra — On Nov 21, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - Electric wheelchairs have been around for awhile and I think they are much better than the standard wheelchairs that people used to have, where they would roll themselves along.

The electric wheelchairs are much more powerful and comfortable. The greatest example I have seen of advances in adaptive technology is in the life of Stephen Hawking.

This famed physicist has both an electric wheelchair as well as computer technology to help him to talk. It hasn’t completely freed him of his disability but at least it has enabled him to carry on in the world and communicate with those around him.

By SkyWhisperer — On Nov 20, 2011

@nony - I think text to speech technology is awesome, not just for people who are visually impaired but for anyone else who gets tired of reading long pages of text, or needs to acquire information on the go so to speak.

I have used text to speech to read text in some of my word processing documents. The only downside is that the software uses a computerized sounding voice.

However, if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars, you can buy some natural sounding male and female voices as well, even with accents if you like.

The flip side of text to speech is speech recognition software. I would call this adaptive technology as well. You just talk into the microphone and your words get dictated on the computer screen.

You can try this software out for free if you have Windows 7, since it’s bundled with that operating system. You can also buy professional speech recognition packages as well.

By nony — On Nov 19, 2011

I use reading eyeglasses. I had never thought of them as assistive technology, at least not using those terms, but they certainly are I suppose.

I think the greatest possibilities for eyeglasses lie in how electronic and computer technologies are making it possible for people who are visually impaired to be able to see.

I don’t think they can help people with total blindness as of yet, but I’ve heard that if you have things like advanced macular degeneration they can help you see more clearly.

These computerized eyeglasses have mini video cameras embedded in them and micro computer displays to help the user see objects in his frame of view. Eventually, I foresee the day when even people who are completely blind will be able to see using an electronic visor, like you see in the science fiction series Star Trek.

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