Assistive technology (AT) encompasses a series of products, equipment, and systems that enhance and restore one’s abilities. It includes a broad range of simple and complex solutions that are catered to individuals with disabilities or special needs.
Wheel chairs, screen readers and magnifiers, text-to-speech software, and hearing aids are all examples of adaptive technology that many people are familiar with.
But as with a lot of technology, adaptive equipment is becoming more advanced, specialized, and diversified. And in the process, it’s reducing challenges and enabling people to participate in activities and spaces that would be otherwise inaccessible.
This applies to more than just people with lifelong or chronic impairments, but also individuals who may be losing abilities due to the natural aging process, suffering a serious injury, or contracting a disease.
Developing assistive technology devices for these populations can be life-changing and life-sustaining. But for such positive outcomes, tech developers need to understand specific needs and build solutions accordingly.
Two of the biggest demographics are adaptive technology for seniors and adaptive equipment for students.
Assistive Devices For Elderly Users
Assistive devices for the elderly include aids that account for the limitations of the body as it ages. Canes, mobility scooters, reach entenders, hearing aids, large print books, magnifiers, closed captioning, and even prosthetics like dentures, are conventional adaptive equipment that’s widely used by older individuals.
Many of these are tried and tested standards that continue to be relied upon. In addition to these conventional products, more advanced and high tech adaptive equipment is furthering the potential for seniors to maintain their independence and manage degenerative disorders.
For individuals with cognitive impairments, a growing category of technology known as cognitive orthotics could offer help.
Cognitive orthotics use augmentation software and hardware to help with memory, processing, and information recall impairments.
Assistive eating devices can account for limited grip and hand function, enabling people to retain their independence during meals. Similarly, robotically controlled transfer devices can mechanically lift and assist seniors when moving from lying, sitting, and standing positions.
Other capabilities are part of assistive domotics. As a form of home automation, this equipment enables elderly people to incorporate more automated assistance throughout their home, making it possible to live independently but also ensure their safety and care.
Assistive domotics can be as simple as automated prompts that remind the resident to turn off an appliance or take medication.
They can also be as sophisticated as telehealth monitoring devices that automatically monitor vitals for health complications while enabling self-management for seniors with chronic health conditions.
There is a rising need for more tech innovations like this as conventional home healthcare resources are limited and a growing number of the population is transitioning into retirement.
Making solutions more personalized as well as more affordable will need to become a priority over the next few years.
Adaptive Technology For Students
Students with disabilities and unique learning needs are another major demographic in adaptive technology. These devices may fall into the category of low tech assistive technology, which include a range of low-cost, easy-to-implement tools, such as pencil grips and page overlays.
Over recent years, more mid and high tech adaptive devices have been incorporated into classrooms and learning spaces. Auditory feedback keyboards, image-to-speech and text-to-speech software, noise cancelation devices, and predictive text processors are helping students with unconventional learning requirements.
This and other equipment can enable students who ordinarily wouldn’t thrive in a standard educational setup to build skills and process information with fewer obstacles.
Adaptive technology can be revolutionary for students, educators, and parents, but as with assistive technology for seniors, solutions need to be scalable, affordable, and accessible in order to be effective.
Meeting all these needs in a safe and feasible way is a real challenge for the tech industry but the real-world positive impact can be immeasurable.