For many adults with disabilities, the common, everyday tasks that most of us perform without a second thought present difficulties and challenges.
To relieve some of these struggles, there are assistive devices and tools that can help people with disabilities perform routine tasks. Some of the assistive devices that we commonly see and think of include mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches, and prosthetic devices. Also common are hearing aids, hearing implants, and wheelchair ramps.
There are, however, many other devices and technologies available that can make the things we do each day much easier for someone with a disability.
Some of the assistive devices and tools that are available for people with disabilities include:
Cognitive aids are devices that help people who struggle with memory, attention, or other challenges that affect their thinking skills. Smartphones and smartwatches such as the Apple Watch can provide assistance for those who have visual, hearing, physical, or intellectual disabilities. Built-in programs on these devices, such as timers, help disabled individuals to stay on their daily schedule and remind them to take medications, eat, exercise, go to appointments, and other things they may have trouble remembering. Voice-to-text software on smartwatches can also help a disabled person with communication.
Computer software and hardware
Computer software and hardware have done so much for those with disabilities. There are numerous technological devices and programs readily available to help with those with physical, intellectual, speech, hearing, and vision impairments. These include voice recognition programs, screen readers, and screen enlargement applications to help people with mobility and sensory impairments use computers and mobile devices. Closed captioning technology also allows people with hearing problems to watch movies, television programs, and other digital media.
Some specific devices and applications include:
Talkitt – Talkitt is an innovative application to help people with speech and language disorders to communicate. Talkitt translates unintelligible pronunciation into understandable speech. It works by learning the user’s speech patterns, creating a personal speech dictionary, and identifying, recognizing, and translating the person’s speech so the individual is more easily understood.
Open Sesame – Mobile phones have become a common need for everyone, including people with disabilities. Millions of people have limited use of their hands, which prevents them from doing activities that most of us take for granted, and regular phones are not equipped for the needs of people with limited mobility. Open Sesame uses the front-facing camera of any Android device to track head movement and unlock a touch-free smartphone.
assist-Mi -assist-Mi is an app that offers comprehensive assistance to disabled users on the go, empowering them to have greater independence while accessing everyday services. It uses location-based technologies and two-way messaging to connect disabled people with service providers and caregivers at the touch of a button.
Google Home and Amazon Echo and Alexa – Devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo and Alexa can make the lives of people with disabilities a little bit easier by taking over the technology controls in a household. Users can employ voice-commands to control things such as music, lights, weather reports, and even updating digital calendars – all of which can be challenging for those with disabilities.
Practical tools which can help people with disabilities complete everyday tasks include devices which help with reading and learning, such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips; adaptive switches and utensils to allow those with limited motor skills to eat, play games, and participate in other activities; devices and features that help with performing tasks such as cooking, dressing, and grooming; and specialized handles and grips.
Specific tools for helping with everyday tasks include:
Liftware – Liftware is a brand of stabilizing and leveling handles and attachments designed to help people with hand tremors or limited hand and arm mobility retain dignity, confidence, and independence. Liftware stabilizes up to 70% of the motion and helps reduce spills.
Lucy 4 Keyboard – Lucy is a hands-free keyboard designed especially for people with limited or no hand function. It is operated by a small laser lamp which is usually fixed on a pair of glasses and controlled with head movement, although it can also be controlled manually. When the laser beam is pointed at the letters on the Lucy panel, the key is activated without having to push anything.
iRobot Home Robots – iRobot’s series of home robots are very helpful for people who cannot easily clean their homes with traditional equipment. These robots use localized navigation to clean their environments thoroughly.
Good Grips Button Hook – The Good Grips Button Hook is an easy-to-use dressing aid that is great for people with limited hand mobility or weak hand strength. The cushioned handle is comfortable to grip and easy to use for quick buttoning.
Vive Health Foam Tube Grips – Vive foam tube grips can be attached to toothbrushes, hairbrushes, eating utensils, and writing utensils. They provide a wide, secure grip for unsteady hands or for those with weak hand strength or limited hand mobility. The soft, non-slip foam can be trimmed to any size, making it very versatile.
One-Handed Can Openers – Aidacare offers a range of one-handed can openers to simplify the task of opening cans for those with the use of only one hand or who have reduced grip or hand strength. By locking into place for easy use with a single hand, they allow users to easily open cans with minimal effort, reducing frustration and strain and preventing injury while affording the user more independence in the kitchen.
Carex Sock Aid – The Carex Sock Aid is ideal for helping those who have trouble bending and reaching to put their socks on. It grips the sock so the user can easily slide it over the foot and includes large loop handles that provide additional support for those with a weakened grip.
Adaptive Shoes and Clothing – Zappos.com carries a wide range of adaptive shoes and clothing designed for disabled individuals, including sensory-friendly clothing, clothing with magnet closures, orthotic-friendly shoes, and easy on/off shoes.
Shower Accessories – Shower accessories like grab bars, handheld shower heads, and shower chairs help people with disabilities to care for themselves and maintain independence, health, and hygiene.
For many people with disabilities, mobility issues are a major concern. Through technology, the creation of mobility aids like electric wheelchairs, lift vans, and rollators make it easier for disabled individuals to get around and be active. Walkers, canes, crutches, braces, prosthetic devices, and orthotic devices allow some people to be able to walk while some use manual or power wheelchairs or electric scooters. Ramps, grab bars, automatic doors, and wider doorways that accommodate wheelchairs can be used to modify a building to make it more accessible.
Other devices which aid with mobility:
Stair lifts – Stair lifts make your home fully accessible. Varieties include custom curved stair lifts, straight stair lifts, stair climbers, and outdoor stair lifts.
Lift chairs – Lift chairs can help a person go from sitting to standing, and safely lower to a sitting position, with the touch of a button. You can choose from a two-position, three-position, or an infinite-position lift chair, depending on the individual’s needs.
Gait trainers – Gait trainers are adaptive mobility equipment designed for a wide range of people with varying abilities. They provide support in learning to walk, maintaining momentum, and building muscle skills.