PACE Psych 406
Assistive Technology Supports &
“Technology is now a powerful force in the lives of
residents of the United States... The use of assistive technology
devices and services by individuals with disabilities can reduce the
to society, individuals with disabilities and families of individuals
disabilities by reducing expenditures associated with early
education, rehabilitation, health care, transportation,
services, and other services...” Technology-Related
Disabilities Act of 1988, P.L.100-407
"Disability" has been described as "referring to any condition that
challenges the development or functioning of an individual, such as
physical, or mental impairments..." The term may be used
with "functional limitation."
World Health Organization -
Definition of Disability:
"Disabilities is an umbrella term,
covering impairments, activity
limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem
in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty
encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a
participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in
involvement in life situations.
Thus disability is a
complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction
body and features of the society in which he or she lives
Definitions: An "assistive technology device" is "any item,
of equipment, or product system...that is used to increase, maintain,
improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." An
technology service" is "any service that directly assists an individual
with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive
technology device." [PL.100-407].
The quality of life for many people depends on our creativity in
and applying and funding adaptive devices which may increase their
to communicate, to control their environment, to work, and to enjoy
in the world which many people take for granted.
Consider: What “Assistive
does the general public use regularly?
Technology offers the opportunity to focus on the abilities,
than on the disabilities, of people with functional limitations
For many, assistive devices or technology-related services can make
employment, more independent living, and inclusion and participation
the everyday affairs of the community.
- speed dial
- text messaging
- Typewriter / Computer
- school desks
- electric lights
- dish washer
- grocery store
- Can Opener,
- Door Opener,
According to one policy analysis report, modern technology has
been a major force in improving the quality of life for people [with
In programs throughout the United States, technological devices have
developed and adapted to assist people in many activities.
However, the report also notes that "in spite of numerous
programs, resources, and expertise available in the area," many people
with disabilities still do not have access to the types of technology
could improve their quality of life.
- Technology can assist a person who may have a functional
can help people to see, to hear, to move around, to communicate, to
and to live more independently.
- Technology is not always affordable or accessible for many people
benefit from it.
- Technology has helped us to learn how capable some people are.
need to hear the success stories. Policymakers need to understand how
technology can save money by fostering independence and by helping
to have jobs. Professionals and parents and consumers need to
what is possible. People need to be strong and clear in their advocacy
for the increased availability of assistive technology.
- Technology accommodates functional limitations.
EXAMPLES Of ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES:
- Manual and electronic communication aids to help a nonverbal
to communicate and socialize with other people (augmentative
- Making a switch larger or a device easier to access can increase
of people with physical disabilities to independently control their
This could range from turning the television, lights, and appliances on
to answering the phone to opening doors and steering an electric
- Designing an insert for a wheelchair fitted to the shape of an
(without compromising the ability to maximize trunk strength where
can allow for maximum function and can prevent skin breakdown caused by
pressure sores (custom seating systems).
- Postural supports inserted into a power wheelchair help a student
an optimal functional position that reduces abnormal muscle tone. They
also improves a person's ability to perform desk and table activities
with friends and classmates and allows a person to participate in
and recreational activities.
- Independent mobility is a first step toward independent living.
and models of power wheelchairs are available in which the
of the control can be individualized to a person's particular abilities
- Modifications to a work site may include raising the height of a
or fabricating work areas, or adapting machinery to make it accessible
to employees with disabilities (vocational/employment adaptations).
- A head mounted light beam for a ten year old with cerebral palsy
her to operate a communication system that speaks for her and allows
access to a computer keyboard.
- Ramps at state parks that allow people who can't use stairs to
to key points of interest and to the waterfront to fish.
- Lever door hardware and grab bars in the bathroom, lowered light
and shelves, toe space at counters and the sink, and lowered
and paddle faucet controls may allow someone in a wheelchair
independence at home (home modifications).
- Ramps at state and local parks; restaurants, theaters, retail
and other places of public accommodation allow access to public
commercial, and business opportunities (environmental modifications).
- Lifts for public transportation
- TTYs for phone systems and pointers and switches.
- An environmental control system, including an amplifier on the
accommodate hearing limitations and a personal alarm system to notify
personnel if he has a medical emergency have improved one man's ability
to manage his living quarters. This combination of high and low
has given him the confidence and support to remain quite independent in
his own home. "Equally important, this self-confidence has encouraged
to continue participating in activities out of his home."
- Source: (D.D. Network News 3 (3), March
Definition: Using design principles in built spaces, usability,
software, and other products, systems, and environments such that all
can use, access, and/or participate with the product or environment, as
User-Driven - Non-Users cannot imagine the needs or experience of
In the U.K., the User/Expert is termed
Handle Examples (link)
Creating spaces and products with Universal Design principles is
no costlier than without. The matter is one of planning them into the
design rather than retro-fitting. The challenge is in valuing,
identifying and creatively responding to the needs of the widest range
of potential users PRIOR to finalization of plans.
Principles of Universal Design
- Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage
or stigmatize any group of users.
- Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a
wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
- Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy
understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language
skills, or current concentration level.
- Perceptible Information: The design communicates
necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient
conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
- Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes
hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended
- Low Physical Effort: The design can be used
efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
- Size and Space for Approach & Use:
size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use,
regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.
United Nations Treaty on Human Rights
of People with Disabilities
General Principles of the
UN Treaty on Human Rights
of People with Disabilities
Commits to Universal Design
as "the basis for development of standards
139 Nations are Signatories (as of March 2009)
United States did not sign.
United States did not participate.
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the
freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with
disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
- Equality of opportunity
- Equality between men and women
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities
and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve
Universal Design Education
|Last Modified May 29, 2010