The world we live often lacks awareness of the many challenges physically diverse
individuals encounter. For example, there are stairs to many buildings and homes, most Facebook posts don’t have alt text, and almost no movie theaters have audio described showings. These types of barriers can mean the difference between independence and relying on other people for help. Physically diverse individuals often use assistive technology to break down these barriers.
Assistive technology is anything that improves functional capabilities for an individual. That’s a broad claim when you think about all the areas of life where you can find assistive tech. What does the term bring to mind for you? Apps on a phone, something to do with the computer, or a joystick in place of the steering wheel in the vehicle? While all of those are examples of assistive technology, there are two main categories – low-tech, or no tech, and high-tech.
Low-tech devices are generally less expensive and don’t require much, if any, training. Some examples can be anything from using grips on pencils or pens to assist with writing, having large print books, or putting Velcro closures on clothing or shoes. Many of these things may be in a person’s home, classroom, or at their work and might not even be thought of as technology. The person might be completely unaware that something they are using could be considered assistive tech.
High-tech is more expensive and training is often needed for use. High-tech products may be more time intensive as well. Some examples might be computers, screen readers, and power wheelchairs. The use of such high-tech devices can increase equality and allow users opportunities to do things for themselves instead of asking others for help.
It is not hard to see how assistive technology that was once thought of as something for disabled people has become ingrained in our everyday life. Many of the apps on our phones sprang from assistive technology from the disabled community. Speech to text is a prime example and is only becoming more prevalent in our world – just think about how often Alexa or Siri are called on to help. Another example might be the #NikeLetter Matthew wrote in 2012. The result was FlyEase line of shoes.
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