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:
However, assistive technology can be items such as:
- zipper pulls
- 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
- 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.
|Vision - Products designed to assist with vision.
|Hearing - Products designed to assist with hearing.
|Speech communication - Products designed to assist with
speaking and face-to-face communication for individuals with speech
|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.
|Mobility, seating, and positioning – Products
whose main focus is on augmenting or replacing the functional limitations
of an individual’s mobility.
|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
| 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.
|Vehicle modification and transportation - Products that
give people with disabilities independence and enhance safety in
transportation through adaptation of vehicles.
Computers and related - Hardware and software products
that enable people with disabilities to access, interact with,
and use computers at home, work, or school.
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.
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.
Abledata's Funding Resource Center
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
State Specific Funding Resources
What is Abledata?
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.
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.
Resources for the Visually Impaired
Veterans Benefits Administration
Veterans Health Administration
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.
|Find Your Area Agency on Aging|
|Find Area Agencies on Aging in NC|
|Caregiver Specialists in NC|