Assistive technology is beneficial to everyone, regardless of whether or not a person has a disability. Available devices range from no-tech to low-tech to high-tech. Assistive technology is not only computers, but also a wide variety of accommodations. For example, a pencil can be a form of assistive technology because without it people couldn’t write notes as a memory aid.
The official definition of assistive technology is: Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities.
Courage Center utilizes this definition. Staff realizes that assistive technology is much more than just devices. Courage Center strives to promote that assistive technology is a tool used to accomplish a task. It is important to match the technology with what are the goals and needs.
Courage Center received a grant in 2012 to increase its ability to assist people with disabilities who need assistive technology. Courage Center Assistive Technology Department has more than 1,000 different devices available to evaluate and use.
Some of the equipment found in the assistive technology lab at Courage Center is useful for visual, physical, hearing, and cognitive limitations. Some favorite items are:
• Environmental Control Display: Courage Center can now demonstrate what types of environmental control options are frequently found in a home. Staff created a doll house showing adaptations for bedrooms, bathrooms, play room, office, kitchen and living room. Not all adaptations are expensive as most are under $15.
• Intel Reader: The Intel® Reader can open—or reopen–a world of magazines, newspapers, books, greeting cards, and even menus for people almost anywhere. It’s perfect for readers who want a mobile, easy-to-use reading solution with buttons instead of a touch screen. The Intel Reader converts text to speech by taking a picture. A complete point-shoot-listen device, the Intel Reader needs no additional equipment, networking, or special software.
• Asus Android: The iPad is not the only tablet on the market today. The Asus Android provides many of the same features as the iPad with similar apps available.
• The Nook: Another option, providing similar features is an E-reader. E-readers allow users to download books and apps to have them conveniently available. For many, it provides an accessible, lightweight method for reading.
• Kindle: This is another type of E-reader to compare, with ease in downloading books, magazines, and textbooks.
• Adaptive Keyboards: The many types of adaptive keyboards include small, expanded, one-handed, and ergonomic. Users can try out these keyboards to see what meets individual needs.
• Read & Write USB: Read & Write GOLD’s customizable toolbar integrates reading, writing, studying, and research support tools with familiar applications (i.e. Word, Google Docs, Internet Explorer, Adobe Reader) that are used every day. It is used by students of all ages and by corporations.
• Switches: There are many activities such as computers, games and toys that can be controlled by a single switch. Courage Center added different switches to its inventory to provide input methods for proximity, sip-n-puff, light touch and grip switch. There are more than 1,000 types of switches. Users can also make switches of their own.
• CJT Mounting System: Positioning assistive technology in a proper and easy to access position can make the difference between being able to use a device and not being successful. The CJT Mounting System allows for customization to the user’s abilities.
• Picture Phone: Remembering a phone number can be difficult for people with various cognitive disabilities or traumatic brain injury. This phone dials a number when a picture of the individual is pressed on the phone. It also has speaker phone capabilities.
Plans are for Courage Center’s assistive technology center to grow, to open many possibilities to people with disabilities. Technology can be found everywhere in today’s society and it ensures equal access to all.
Ashley Bailey and Jennifer Mundl work in Courage Center Assistive Technology. Contact them at AT@couragecenter.org