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.