The Different Forms of Assistive Tech & How to Choose

The Different Forms of Assistive Tech & How to Choose

Navigating the world of assistive technology (AT) can be daunting, particularly given the diverse range of options available. From devices that aid mobility to software that supports communication, assistive tech has become a game-changer for individuals living with disabilities. However, the question often arises: how does one choose the right assistive technology? Let’s dive on in.

Understanding Assistive Technology

Before diving into the sea of available options, it is important to understand what assistive technology (AT) actually entails. In essence, assistive technology is any device, software, or equipment that helps individuals with disabilities perform tasks they might otherwise find difficult or impossible. The purpose of AT is to enable individuals to live independently, manage their own activities, and navigate their environments without excessive reliance on caregivers. Assistive technology can be as simple as a set of large-handle cutlery for someone with arthritis or as sophisticated as a voice-activated computer for someone with severe physical limitations, it really depends on who is going to use it and what it is going to be used for.

Different Categories of Assistive Technology

To navigate the world of AT, it’s useful to break it down into some basic categories. These categories are easy and fast rules, but they provide a good starting point for understanding the types of devices you might come across.

  • Mobility Aids: This category encompasses devices designed to help people move more easily. It includes everything from walking sticks and wheelchairs to state-of-the-art electric mobility scooters and advanced prosthetic limbs.
  • Transport: Technically, transport could come under the umbrella of mobility aids, but it does deserve its own heading. Several modifications can be made to a vehicle to ensure that it works for a person with a disability. Today, you can even hire them; for more information on how to hire a mobility car, check out Allied Mobility.
  • Daily Living Aids: These are devices intended to make daily tasks more manageable. This might include a simple tool like a button hook for someone with limited hand mobility or more complex solutions like an electronically controlled bed or bathtub.
  • Communication Aids: These devices assist people with hearing, speaking, or both difficulties. They can range from relatively simple devices, such as amplified phones and hearing aids, to more complex technologies, like text-to-speech software and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.
  • Cognitive Aids: These are tools designed to assist people with memory, attention, or other cognitive issues. They can be as simple as an alarm clock with extra-loud alarms or as complex as software that provides reminders for people with memory problems.
  • Computer Accessibility Aids: Computer accessibility aids are technologies that help people with disabilities use computers and the internet. This might include specially designed keyboards, screen readers for the visually impaired, or software that allows control of a computer through eye movement.

Selecting the Right Assistive Technology

Choosing the right assistive technology is a process that should involve careful consideration, trial and error, and professional guidance. Keep reading as we go through step-by-step to help you make an informed choice.

  1. Assessment: Start by getting a thorough assessment of your needs. This could involve a team of professionals, including a doctor, occupational therapist, and speech-language pathologist. They’ll help identify the specific challenges you face and recommend suitable types of AT.
  2. Research and Comparison: Once you know what you’re looking for, spend some time researching your options. Look at online reviews, seek recommendations from professionals, and even talk to others who have similar needs. This approach helps you to gain a deeper understanding
  3. Trial and Testing: Most providers of AT offer opportunities for potential users to trial their products. This is an invaluable step in the selection process, as it allows you to determine if a device meets your needs in real-world conditions.
  4. Training: After you’ve selected a device, you’ll likely need some training on how to use it effectively. This might be provided by the AT supplier, or you may need to seek help from a professional such as an occupational therapist.
  5. Maintenance and Support: Think about the long-term implications of using the AT. Will it need regular maintenance or software updates? What kind of support can you expect from the supplier if things go wrong?
  6. Funding: Finally, consider how you’ll fund the AT. Some devices may be covered by the NHS or other organisations, while others may need to be self-funded.

In the End

The assistive technology landscape is broad and diverse, providing myriad solutions to address different needs. Choosing the right AT involves understanding your specific requirements, exploring various options, testing potential solutions, and seeking professional advice. When chosen correctly, assistive technology can be a game-changer, enhancing independence and improving quality of life. Most importantly, it can empower those with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential.

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