Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Assistive Technology: What is it?

The Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1988. The Act was amended in 1994 and currently states that devices that are for individuals with disabilities should allow them to:

-have greater control over their own lives

-participate in, and contribute more fully in their homes, schools, work environments, and in their communities.

-interact more easily with others who do not have disabilities, and

-benefit from opportunities that are often taken for granted by people who do not have disabilities.

While working in the Best Buddies program I came to realize that when we help people living with disabilities help themselves, and when we help them find the tools they need to be more self-reliant and less dependent on others, we allow them to feel more independent, more in control of their life and less helpless.

Assistive technology is a type of technology that allows people living with disabilities to carryout functions that they would have otherwise not been able to. Some of the devices include: walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that help those with disabilities access computers or other information technologies.

Assistive technology can be quite exciting especially for individuals with disabilities and their families. About a year ago I met a young lady by the name of Anne-Marie who is also nonverbal and had been that way since birth. She would communicate what she wanted with her caregivers by blinking her eyes in response to yes or no questions. When I first met Anne-Marie I was astonished not by her disability but by her ability to communicate. It was as if she had created a form of communication all on her own just by using a gesture of looking up or down, something people without a disability would take for granted.

Since Anne-Marie had already learned how to communicate her caregivers were able to purchase a device that allowed her to communicate more easily with others who were not familiar with her use of eye movements. The device contained two buttons, a green one for yes and a red one for no and when pushed a voice would come out of the box saying either yes or no. I was told that in the beginning Anne-Marie found it difficult adjusting to her new communication device since she had spent her whole life communicating with others through only her eyes. However, over time she became more accustomed to the new technology and was eventually answering questions with ease. Today, Anne-Marie is more confident with herself and her ability to communicate with others. Working with Anne-Marie was quite a rewarding experience for me because I came to learn about her as an individual, her likes, her dislikes, her interests. Although she could only communicate through yes and no questions we had no trouble communicating with each another.


  1. hey i was browsing the web and i found a VERY interesting website you might want to look at for your topic.

    Its a website that puts actual children stories online - IN SIGN LANGUAGE!
    I think its amazing, maybe you will enjoy it as much as I did.


  2. Very helpful info so that I can better understand exactly what you'll be pursuing this semester....