What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Disability Manners

10 Commandments of Communicating with Persons with Disabilities

1. Speak directly rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter who may be present.

2. Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands and offering the left hand is an acceptable greeting.

3. Always identify yourself and others who may be with you when meeting someone with a visual disability. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking. When dining with a friend who has a visual disability, ask if you can describe what is on his or her plate.

4. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.

5. Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending that same familiarity to all others. Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.

6. Do not lean against or hang on someone’s wheelchair. Bear in mind that people with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies. And so do people with guide dogs and help dogs. Never distract a work animal from their job without the owner’s permission.

7. Listen attentively when talking with people who have difficulty speaking and wait for them to finish. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod of the head. Never pretend to understand; instead repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond.

8. Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches.

9. Tap a person who has a hearing disability on the shoulder or wave your hand to get his or her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. If so, try to face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don’t assume that they have the ability to discriminate your speaking voice. Never shout to a person. Just speak in a normal tone of voice.

10. Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as “See you later” or “Did you hear about this?” that seems to relate to a person’s disability.
Wheelchair Etiquette

Many folks simply are no sure how to communicate with wheelchair users. Below are some quick tips taken from the wheelchair community themselves:

1. Always ask the person using the wheelchair if he or she would like assistance BEFORE you help. It may not be needed or wanted.

2. Don't hang or lean on a person's wheelchair because it is part of that person's personal body space.

3. Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to someone nearby as if the person in the wheelchair did not exist.

4. If a conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down or kneeling to get yourself on the same level.

5. Don't patronize the person by patting them on the head.

6. Give clear directions, including distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles that may hinder the person's travel.

7. Don't classify persons who use wheelchairs as sick. Wheelchairs are used for a variety of non-contagious disabilities.

8. When a person using a wheelchair "transfers" out of the wheelchair to a chair, toilet, car or bed, do not move the wheelchair out of reaching distance.

9. Be aware of the person's capabilities. Some users can walk with aid and use wheelchairs to save energy and move quickly.

10. It is ok to use terms like "running along" when speaking to a person who uses a wheelchair. The person is likely to express things the same way.

11. Don't discourage children from asking questions about the wheelchair.

12. Don't assume that using a wheelchair is in itself a tragedy. It is a means of freedom that allows the person to move about independently.