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Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities

Submitted by Jermaine Raymer, Program Director

Having a disability in today’s world is different from before. While there have been changes in terms of physical, social, and attitudinal access, some of the biggest changes/advances have come in the area of Assistive Technology: technology that is designed to help those with disabilities or special needs lead more productive and independent lives. Here is a small sample of the technology available. (Please note: while I specifically mention the names of organizations, there are multiple resources for similar information.)

VEST (Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer) is being developed to be a wearable vest which takes sound-waves and converts them into vibrating pulses a wearer feels on their back. The aim for VEST is to be a low-cost, non-invasive piece of assistive technology which will allow the Deaf to more fully experience the world. Read more about VEST here.

Navigate and experience the world with Animotus. It is a 3-D navigation device that allows the visually impaired to use GPS easily. Currently, people with low-vision who use GPS put on headphones to hear directions, and this blocks their hearing. Animotus is a cube which shape-shifts to tell a person which direction to turn. Read more about Animotus here.

Augmented Communication is in constant change. “Scene and Heard Communication” is a mobile application designed to allow those with severe speech difficulties to communicate. Pick what you want to say on the screen and have the phone verbalize it. Read more about Scene and Heard Communication here.

For information on mobile apps specifically targeted at accessibility, go to www.bridgingapps.com. This site has hundreds of apps listed by the particular accessibility challenge they aid with, has detailed reviews, and has the cost of the app.

“Assistive Technology Update” and “ATFAQ (Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions)” are podcasts put out by Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. These podcasts explore different topics in assistive technology, and give listeners the opportunity to hear from leaders in the field. Visit Easter Seals here.

Every state has an “Assistive Technology Act Program.” These programs are designed to give people with disabilities access to assistive technology. Each of these programs offers device loans, and many offer cash loans to assist with the purchase of technology. To find your state’s program, go to here. This website is run by the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, and is a great resource for not only locating the program in your state, but also for finding out about advocacy efforts dealing with assistive technology.

Use #assistivetech on Twitter, and find out the latest information on what’s happening in the world of assistive technology.

Whichever way you find out about this world of assistive tech, remember that it is all about access and independence. It is important you find the technology which works best for you. The point of technology is to empower independence, but without knowledge of the technology, access is lost.

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