The following are different categories and types of assistive technology:
- Aids for Daily Living: Self help aids for use in activities such as eating, bathing, cooking, dressing, toileting, home maintenance, etc. A clear plate which sits on a custom made platform assists a person with low vision. The plate is illuminated from below to help this individual locate her food on the plate so she can feed herself independently.
- Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC): Electronic and non-electronic devices that provide a means for expressive and receptive communication for persons with limited or no speech. I have recorded a message for several patients that can be played by the phone asking for help that give all the salient information for a individual to call for help but has limited speaking skills.
- Computer Accessibility: Input and output devices (voice input, Braille), alternate access aids (head sticks, light pointers), key board masks or large key keyboards, adapted mice, switches, special software, etc. that enable persons with disabilities to use a computer. This category includes speech recognition software. There is help built into many OS to assist with coordination or visual limitations i.e.; sticky keys and high contrast screens built into windows. HOW: click start, settings, control panel and then double click accessibility options.)
- Environmental Control Systems: Devices that enable someone with limited coordination or mobility to control various appliances, i.e. telephones, TV, VCR, Cable, Lights, and Fans in their room, home or other surroundings. Home automation is a very hot topic right now. There are many web sites to assist , train, and sell you need items. Home automation is much cheaper than you think and easily used right off the shelf to provide the assist needed to increase ours patients functioning! See X-10.com or smarthome.com
- Home/Worksite Modifications: Adaptations in the home, worksite or other area (ramps, home elevators, wheelchair accessible showers) that remove or reduce physical barriers for an individual with a disability. Simply removing throw rugs is a good start to any individual with limited mobility.
- Prosthetics and Orthotics: Myoelectric prosthetics or other orthotic aids (splints, braces, etc.). There are also prosthetics to assist with cognitive limitations or deficits, including audio tapes, digital recorders, electronic memos, and pagers (that function as prompts or reminders).
- Seating and Positioning: Accommodations to a wheelchair or other seating systems to provide greater body stability, trunk/head support and an upright posture, to increase functioning. Mobile arm supports to assist with arm movements by assisting with weak muscles. High tech inserts and cushions that assist in reducing pressure on the skin's surface.
- Aids for Vision Impaired: Visual aids for specific populations including magnifiers, Braille or speech output devices, large print screens, closed circuit television for magnifying documents, etc. Magna-glide is a great help for diabetics
- Aids for Hearing Impaired: Aids for specific populations including assistive listening devices (infrared, FM loop systems), hearing aids, TTYs, visual (lights flash when the telephone rings) and tactile alerting systems, etc. (did you know you can have your computer flash a part of the screen instead of beeping- see accessibility options in the control panel page. HOW: click start, settings, control panel and then double click accessibility options.)
- Wheelchairs/Mobility Aids: Manual and electric wheelchairs, Addable inputs such as sip and puff controllers, head switches and programmable controllers that can filter out tremors or ataxic movements with joystick controllers.
- Vehicle Modifications: Adaptive driving aids, low-strength power assists, hand controls, micro-switches, wheelchair and other lifts, modified vans, or other motor vehicles used for personal transportation
- Adapted Switches: Switches can be adapted for a wide variety of modalities. St. Ambrose students learn to to make gross motor switches for toys. Some of these toys are then donated to various charities, not only locally, but to other countries as well.
Many time assistive technology is not always apparent. Once, Professor Turnquist used a small vice grip pliers mounted on a board (for stability) for a patient to assist with opening up his acu-check strips. He remembers the feedback of his diabetic trainer saying how proud he was that he was still independent with his diabetic tasks. The point is, it is not just the high tech that is the most important, but how any device can be used to assist a patient.
For more information contact Jon Turnquist OTR/L at TurnquistJonC@sau.edu.