Disability technology. . . every 21 seconds

Every 21 seconds traumatic brain injury occurs according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Today, there are 5.3 million persons living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with an additional 4.7 million persons diagnosed with an acquired brain injury. The effects of brain injury are vast and different for each individual depending on the area of the brain damaged. Limitations may include physical, cognitive, auditory and/or visual.

The statistics are striking as to the extent of how a brain injury can affect a person. Many times an individual does not return to his/her previous self. For many, achieving independence and returning to the community at large are their two main goals. Assistive technology is fast becoming the compensatory strategy to take when dealing with such brain injury effects as hemiplagia, hemiparesis, aphasia, and memory difficulties.

Hemiplegia and Hemiparesis

These two terms indicate paralysis or weakness on one side of the body. One-handed tools are useful when dealing with one-handed abilities or change in dominance.

Speakerphone or Headset: These items are readily available at OfficeMax, Best Buy, and Target. Look for telephones that have large buttons, speed dial, and a dual mode to allow for a speakerphone and headset.

One-handed Gardening Tools: Whether you are looking for a special rake or an one-handed spade, Life Ease offers a wide variety of products to purchase. Check out their web site at — www.lifewithease.com/garden.html.

Dressing Items: Tying a shoe or buttoning a shirt is difficult with one hand. A looped wire on a stick will do the trick in pulling a button through a hole. Velcro is another simple solution for dressing. Shoelaces can be purchased which do not require tying allowing for sturdier shoes to be worn than sandals or slip-ons.

Reachers: A reacher can assist with picking up an object that is too low or too high. Some strength and dexterity is required. Dynamic Living has several models from which to choose.

Receptive and Expressive Aphasia

Receptive aphasia means difficulty in understanding language whereas; expressive aphasia is difficulty communicating with others. Although the terms are more complex, an example of receptive aphasia is difficulties with reading and writing whereas expressive aphasia may be difficulties with word finding.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): An AAC device is an electronic aid that produces speech. There are a multitude of options to consider when shopping for a device that meets your needs. Some features to consider include programmability, picture-based versus text-based, sound of voice, ease-of-use, durability, and price.

Books on Tape: Anyone with a reading disability can sign up for books on tape through the State Services for the Blind. You do not need a visual impairment to apply. There are thousands upon thousands of books plus a good variety of newspapers and magazines. Ask for the Communication Center when you call 800-652-9000.

Memory

Digital Planner or PDA: Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs are excellent organizational and scheduling aids when a person demonstrates the ability to sequence steps. CompUSA, OfficeMax and Best Buy sell a variety of products. Two products to consider are the Jordana and Zire.

Programmable Watch: Looking for a device to set alarms on? Programmable watches are a possibility. They can be programmed to make a sound throughout the day to alert the individual of an appointment, daily need, or other activity.

Medication Reminder: Medication is an important aspect of one’s regime. There are high-tech and low-tech solutions. Dynamic Living offers one product that will make a sound at a certain time of day. A more sophisticated solution is one where the medication is dispersed into a cup and signals the user until the pills have been picked up. After a certain length of time, the device will call out to indicate the medication has not been taken.

Motivator: Initiation and staying on track are important job skills. The motivator is a programmable device with auditory and text output. It can be programmed to go off on certain integrals to indicate to the individual that they must pay attention.

Invisible Clock: AbleNet sells The Invisible Clock. It has the capability of setting multiple cues, which will vibrate or make a sound when activated. It normally works on into intervals of time.

In light of the statistics of brain injury occurrence, these technological solutions have the potential to not only help an individual function independently, but can also offer the chance to return to the community at large. And that’s important to the many millions who have already sustained an injury as well as the 14 – 15 people who just experienced an injury in the five minutes it took for you to read this article!