Assistive Technology




What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology is any piece of equipment or any device that can be used to increase independence by making everyday living easier and more convenient for a person with a disability or limited functioning. They are "tools" which people with disabilities use for living, learning, working and playing. These tools can be wheelchairs, augmentative communication devices, prostheses, computers, visual aids, adapted toys, sports equipment, etc.

Assistive technology is important because it can allow a person with a disability to function better in society and to be as independent as possible. Assistive technology also makes simple everyday tasks - tasks that most of us take for granted - easier for the disabled person. As a caregiver, the more independent you can help your family member to become, the less stressful and burdensome your caregiving responsibilities will be.

Remember, too, that the definition of assistive technology is "any piece of equipment or any device that can be used to increase independence by making everyday living easier and more convenient for a person with a disability or limited functioning". You can make assistive technology equipment, find ladles with easy-grip handles in the grocery store, and find numerous "gadgets" that are designed to make life easier in any store or on the Web. Be creative. Think of what would make a task easier for your family member to perform. Then, consider if there is any way you can adapt current tools to work better. Use your favorite search engine to find more available assistive technology.


Assistive technology, sometimes called adaptive equipment, can be high-tech or low-tech, commonplace or out-of-the ordinary. We are used to thinking of assistive technology such as:

  • wheelchairs
  • walkers
  • canes
  • computer adaptations
  • telephone relay systems
Screen Reader


However, assistive technology can be items such as:

  • zipper pulls
  • magnifiers
  • rubber grip utensils
  • pills from pharmacists with labels in larger print
  • clocks or watches programmed to beep for medications
  • a watch with easy to see numbering
  • doors with locks that don't require a key
  • doors that have a lever instead of a knob
  • bath safety equipment such as grab bars a shower seat and non-slip floor covering
  • dentures
  • velcro instead of buttons
  • color coordinated tags on clothing

Anything that can be used to help a person live an independent life safely can be termed assistive technology.




Categories of Assistive Technology

Vision - Products designed to assist with vision. 
  • magnifiers, including CCTV systems
  • talking scales
  • blood pressure gauge
  • glucometer
  • screen readers
  • screen magnifiers
  • Braille displays
  • Braille-based PDAs


Hearing - Products designed to assist with hearing.
  • personal amplification systems (PocketTalker Pro)
  • personal amplification systems – wireless (FM)
  • Group Assistive Listening Systems
  • smoke alarm with strobe flashers
  • door bell with flashing signal
  • vibrating baby monitor


Speech communication - Products designed to assist with speaking and face-to-face communication for individuals with speech disabilities.
  • speech generating devices
  • communication boards/books
  • software with speech output
  • artificial larynx
  • devices that produce text but not voice output for face-to-face communication (e.g. Crespeaker)
  • voice clarifiers
  • voice amplifiers
  • stuttering aids


Learning, cognition, and developmental - Products to provide people with disabilities with access to educational materials and instruction in school or other environments; products that assist with learning, and cognition.
  • calculators
  • clocks/timers/wake-up systems
  • general personal organization
  • memory aids
  • money management
  • notetaking/recording devices
  • electronic organizers/personal digital assistants
  • educational software (spelling, math, reading, writing, science, history, etc.)


Mobility, seating, and positioning –  Products whose main focus is on augmenting or replacing the functional limitations of an individual’s mobility. 
  • ambulatory aids: low tech aids such as canes, walkers or crutches; also includes orthotics & prosthetics
  • wheelchairs
  • scooters and power chairs
  • seating and positioning – considerations for  postural control & deformity management, pressure & postural management, and/or comfort & postural accommodation


Daily living - Devices that enhance the capacity of people with disabilities to live independently, especially AT that assists with Instrumental and other Activities of Daily Living, (ADLs, IADLs) such as dressing, personal hygiene, bathing, home maintenance, cooking, eating, shopping and managing money.
  • writing guides
  • modified or large-handled tools and utensils
  • eating/feeding equipment
  • button hooks
  • zipper pulls
  • spiked cutting board
  • adapted writing implements
  • personal pager


Environmental adaptations- Environmental and structural adaptations to the built environment  that remove or reduce barriers and promote access to and within the built home, employment and community facilities  for individuals with disabilities. Environmental adaptations usually involve building construction, engineering, and architecture, but also include environmental controls and switches that can control a portion of or an entire living environment.
  • adapted structures
  • alarm and security systems
  • door/gate openers
  • environmental controls and switches (i.e., electronic systems that enable people to control various appliances, lights, telephone and security systems in their room, home, or other surroundings) also known as electronic aids to daily living (EADLS)


Vehicle modification and transportation - Products that give people with disabilities independence and enhance safety in transportation through adaptation of vehicles.
  • adaptive shoulder and seat safety belts
  • tie downs and lock downs that secure the wheelchair to the vehicle floor
  • hand controls
  • extended directional mirrors
  • vehicles and vans modified with lifts, ramps, raised roofs, etc.  


Computers and related - Hardware and software products that enable people with disabilities to access, interact with, and use computers at home, work, or school.

  • modified or alternate keyboards (such as  special keyboards for one-hand typists)
  • switches activated by pressure
  • large screen computers with magnified text and images
  • touch screens
  • special software
  • voice to text software
  • talking computers


Recreation, sports, and leisure - Products not already classified in other categories that help persons with disabilities to participate in sport, health, physical education, recreation, leisure, and dance events.

  • switch-adapted toys and games
  • tennis wheelchairs
  • skiing equipment
  • playing card shuffler
  • beach wheelchair
  • adapted camera and other photography equipment
  • adaptive exercise equipment (not used in a rehabilitation setting)
  • adapted equipment for fishing, hunting, and camping

*courtesy NCATP






ABLEDATA, a government website, provides information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment. They also help connect people with assistive technology needs with people who have the equipment to address those needs. Their database contains information on many assistive technology products with detailed descriptions of each product including price and company information. The database also contains information on non-commercial prototypes, customized and one-of-a-kind products, and do-it-yourself designs. Call them at 1-800-227-0216.

ABLEDATA is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the US Department of Education.




Assistive Technology Act of 1998

Fifty six state and territory programs are funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. State Assistive Technology projects have developed statewide programs that work to reduce or eliminate barriers that impede access to and funding for assistive technology devices and services for individuals with disabilities. The projects focus efforts on changing systems, such as education, vocational rehabilitation, medical assistance and others that deliver services to individuals with disabilities.

To access information on your state, contact your state program. They will be able to connect you with state and local resources in the area that will meet your needs. The link below will guide you to information for your state. Choose your state and click on Assistive Technology.




Assistive Technology Suppliers By State

The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America is an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability. Their purpose is to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology. They provide state-by-state search capability to find assistive technology professionals. It is listed under the National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership, which is a project of theirs, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the US Department of Education.





If the person you are caring for is a Veteran and is eligible for veterans’ benefits, check with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Services may include medical related home improvements, prosthetics and durable medical equipment (canes, walkers, etc.), home health including physical and occupational therapy, and more.


Red Phone
VA Benefits




Personalized Assistance

You can find assistive technology devices and equipment in specialty stores, drugstores, through your Doctor, and on the Internet. If you would like personalized assistance to help you determine what products would be best for your family member, contact your local Area Agency on Aging for information and referral.




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