Assistive technology tools are devices that help people with various disabilities to interact with a world designed for people who function differently than they do. This can include items like hearing aids, wheelchairs, and specially designed keyboards, but there are also assistive technology tools that help people in less visible ways. For example, many children with learning disabilities use this type of technology to improve their absorption of knowledge, and people with visual impairments relating to color often find that special programs or filters make websites easier to read. In all cases, assistive technology tools aim to improve the experience of the user to allow for more freedom.
Many assistive technology tools relate to specific physical disabilities. For people with visual impairments, for example, Braille printers can be useful. Phones can be modified for use by people with hearing impairments, although many people find that using text is more efficient. Any physical disability may require special tools for interaction in the world, and in some cases custom tools can be built specifically for a set of impairments. This is useful when a combination of disabilities exists.
Although mobility is important for assistive technology, many items of this type focus primarily on communication and understanding. Tools that help people communicate with others open up availability for interaction, which also makes it possible for people to communicate what they need. Comprehension is often a more difficult area to improve using tools, but some programs and learning devices can reformat information in a way that makes more sense to the learner.
Some of the most common assistive technology tools help individuals process information effectively. These items are particularly useful for students who must process knowledge and present information in specific ways in order to be successful. Some assistive technology tools that can help with learning disabilities include spelling programs, organizational programs, and even speech-processing programs for people who have difficulty typing. Most of these items are used for convenience by people who do not have learning disabilities, but they can be necessary for people who have learning disabilities to function.
Assistive technology tools are always being improved, and many more types of tools will likely exist in the future. Many of these tools, such as artificial eyes or hearing aids, have existed at least as ideas for a long time. Others, such as special hearing aids that reduce stuttering, rely on recently discovered knowledge. The types of assistive technology tools depend on the current state of medical knowledge about particular disabilities.