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Assistive technologies

detail of a hand manipulating an assistive technology device

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

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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