Over 54 million people or 20% of Americans have a disability of some sorts and need some type of assistance to help them through their day. This is where assistive technology comes into play.
Assistive technology is a term used to describe a device or program that is used for people with disabilities. This type of technology aids in helping perform functions that would not be possible without the technology. Assistive technology can include products such as walkers, wheelchairs, hardware, and software that aid people with disabilities in operating computers or mobile applications.
The US government has played an active role in Assistive technology since 1973. There have been nine rehabilitation and disability acts passed, with the most recent being the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This act covers access to electronic and information technology procured by all Federal agencies. Also with the passing of these acts, the ADA (American Disability Act), was created and provides standards and guidelines for all assistive technology devices.
There are many examples of assistive technology in use today. For example, people with limited hand movement are able to use a large key keyboard and special mouse to use a computer, just as a person with no disabilities. People who are blind are able to use special software the reads the words out loud from the computer monitors. For people who have a speech disability they can utilize software that will speak the words that are written out on keyboards. Even the public education system has incorporated this technology into their school districts, such as, implementing classroom amplification systems which will enable students with hearing issues to understand the teachers. Books on tapes, raised line paper, screen readers, and highlighter tapes are all additional examples of what schools are using to help people with disabilities.
Research continues to progress each day in providing more advanced and simplified assistive technology devices. In the future, companies are working on computers to be more adaptive to people with disabilities instead of having the person having to adapt and learn how to use computers. This will be a big step forward as this will reduce the learning curve for people who are already struggling with their disabilities. Another advancement we can look forward to incorporating the latest smart phones with more assistive technology, such as, having a speaking voice give walking directions for a person with a visual disabled.
As you can see assistive technology is playing an important role in many lives across the nation. It has been acknowledged that the need to help the disabled is a priority and the industry is dedicated to help them out as much as possible.