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Assistive technology (AT) refers to devices used by people with disabilities to help them perform tasks and activities. AT devices can help you move around, see, communicate, eat, or get dressed. Some are high-tech, such as a computer program that reads aloud what you have typed into the computer. Others are much simpler, like a "reacher" — a tool that helps you grab an object you can't reach.
Other types of assistive technology include:
- A one-handed cutting board that has spikes to hold food in place while you cut it with one hand
- Automatic page turners
- Light-weight wheelchairs designed for organized sports, such as basketball, tennis, and racing
- Motorized scooters
- Talking clocks
- Velcro fasteners on shoes
Another type of assistive technology that you may have heard of is a telephone relay service. This service allows a person who is deaf to communicate with a hearing person over the phone. The person who is deaf types on a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), which has a keyboard and a small screen. A phone company operator receives the message and reads it aloud for the person who can hear. The hearing person gives her reply to the operator, who then types it into a TDD. This text then shows up on the screen of the TDD of the person who is deaf.
Need help choosing or buying an AT device? Try contacting your state's AT program. These programs provide:
- AT demonstration and loan centers, where you can sample a variety of AT devices and take them home to try out
- Information and referral services to help you locate companies that sell AT devices
- Low-interest loans to help you pay for AT products
Explore other publications and websites
ABLEDATA's Publications — This site lists the publications available from ABLEDATA. ABLEDATA produces fact sheets and consumer guides to help you select various types of assistive products.
Adaptive Cooking: Kitchen Accessibility Basics (Copyright © Infinitec) — This website provides information about kitchen accessibility basics, shopping, kitchen tools, and more for people with disabilities.
Assistive Devices and Mobility Aids — This fact sheet provides tips on what to expect when traveling with an assistive device or mobility aid. Being prepared will help speed up the process at security check points.
Assistive Technology — This fact sheet explains what assistive technology is, who might need it, what the benefits are, and where to get financial assistance for it.
Federal Relay Service (FedRelay) — This fact sheet discusses the Federal Relay Service (FedRelay), which is a federal government telecommunications service that enables federal employees with speech, vision, or hearing impairments to use communication devices more easily.
Federal Relay Service TTY Directory — This directory was formulated because of the Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-542), which tasks the General Services Administration (GSA) with ensuring that the Federal Telecommunications System be fully accessible to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities.
Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment — This booklet explains what durable medical equipment is, which durable medical equipment is covered under Medicare, and where to get answers to questions.
National Information System for Assistive Technology (NISAT) (Copyright © Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs) — This website discusses federally sponsored assistive technology programs. Look for your state on this list of Assistive Technology Programs to find help near you.
Services for Adults With Disabilities (Copyright © National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities) — This publication helps adults with disabilities find organizations and resources that can assist them with employment, postsecondary education, recreation, independent living, and assistive technology.
Connect with other organizations
ABLEDATA, NIDDR, ED
Accessible Space, Inc.
Alliance for Technology Access
Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center
Disabled Sports USA
Family Center on Technology and Disability
Institute for Human Centered Design
Media Access Group
National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
National Rehabilitation Information Center, NIDRR, ED
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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