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.

Sunday

Assistive Technology for Aging

(Please see my Pinterest Site on Aging Supports!)

Assistive technology (AT) resources can help to allow adults to age with dignity. Many senior citizens or people with disabilities, injuries or illness make use of assistive technology-tools, products, or kinds of equipment that help people perform tasks and activities. They can be as simple as a hearing aid, a few bars in the bathroom, or a magnifying glass, or as complex as a computer system or motorized scooter.

Assistive Technology Options and Devices
There are various different types of supports available to help as our functional abilities decline.  These are compensatory tools that are needed to help access the world and are specific to the issue itself, such as vision and/or hearing, issues as a result of a stroke or ALS. They may be temporary needs, from a fall or an illness, or they may need to be a part of every day life for the duration. The main purpose of AT is to provide and encourage independence to its highest degree. Examples:
  • Adaptive Switches -  modified switches that  can use to adjust devices such as air conditioners, television, and lamps by using a finger, a foot, an elbow or possibly voice.
  • Communication Equipment -  helps someone send and receive messages, such as a telephone amplifier or an augmentative alternative communication device
  • Computer Access - special software that helps provide access to the Internet or email or peripherals such as a modified mouse or keyboard to make the computer more accessible. Possibly using a tablet in place of a computer with a mount that allows it to be accessed in various positions.
  • Home Modifications - which can include some remodeling to overcome physical barriers and live more comfortably. Examples: constructing a ramp to allow wheelchair access, universal design which allows for handles and facets to be opened or turned on without twisting.
  • Tools for Independent Living - to participate in or control daily life without additional assistance. Example: a handicapped-accessible bathroom with grab bars in the bathtub, a device to help one put on their own socks or adapted utensils for eating, a daily pill organizer.
  • Mobility Aids -  allows a person to move around more easily, including a power wheelchair, a wheelchair lift, or a stair elevator.
  • Orthopedic or Prosthetic Equipment - tools that compensate for physical challenges. This could include shoe inserts for someone with fallen arches, a cane and/or walker to help make walking safer or an artificial leg for someone who has undergone an amputation.
  • Recreational Assistance -  strategies and/or equipment that enables a person to enjoy fun activities. Examples: specially made skis, golf clubs or basketball club, a card adaptation for holding a hand in cards, a magnifier for cross stitching.
  • Seating Aids - modifications to a chair, wheelchair, or motor scooter that helps someone remain upright, move up and down without assistance, or decrease the amount of pressure on the skin. Example: an extra pillow, an easy chair with a lift.
  • Sensory Enhancements - devices that help people who are partially blind or deaf to participate in more activities. This could include a caption option on a television to provide support for hearing loss, or a specialized hearing device, enlarged print, magnification tools.
  • Transportation Assistance - including devices for senior citizens that facilitate getting into and out of vehicles and driving safely, including adjustable mirrors and steering wheels, a simple rotating pillow or an extra door handle to help with getting in and out of a car.

Top Home Modifications for Seniors 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that these items were most often included in home modifications and aging in place improvements for senior’s homes:


  • Levered doorknobs 


  • Grab bars in bathrooms 

  • Levered faucets in kitchen sink


  • Handrails on both sides of stairwells and on front and rear steps

  • Grab bars in showers


  • Removal of any door threshold
  • Movable shower heads for those who must sit

  • Portable shower seats

  • A bathroom with a bath/shower and a bedroom on the first floor
  • Widened doors to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Ramps for those using walkers and wheelchairs 

Universal Design is about creating an attractive, stylish space that everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability, can live in or visit. A home with Universal Design makes it easier for residents to live in, and for guests to visit now and in the future, even as everybody's needs and abilities change.

Essential Universal Design features include:
  • No-step entry: At least one step-free entrance into your home — either through the front, back, or garage door—lets everyone, even those who use a wheelchair, enter the home easily and safely.
  • Single-floor living: Having a bedroom, kitchen, full bathroom with plenty of maneuvering room, and an entertainment area on the same floor makes life convenient for all families.
  • Wide doorways and hallways: With your home's doorways at least 36 inches wide, you can easily move large pieces of furniture or appliances through your home. Similarly, hallways that are 42 inches wide and free of hazards or steps let everyone and everything move in, out, and around easily.
  • Reachable controls and switches: Anyone — even a person in a wheelchair — can reach light switches that are from 42-48 inches above the floor, thermostats no higher than 48 inches off the floor, and electrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor.
  • Easy-to-use handles and switches: Lever-style door handles and faucets, and rocker light switches, make opening doors, turning on water, and lighting a room easier for people of every age and ability.
Resources
  • Abledbody.com - consumer site with information and tips on assistive technology and innovations for people with disabilities and their families and employers; the site features news, tips, expert opinions, blogs and other resources.  
  • Acadian Monitoring Services - provides protection for homes, businesses, and people. Part of the largest privately-owned ambulance company in the United States with 40 years experience. Our goal is to enhance quality of life through exciting, progressive technologies. 
  • The Accessible Home "goes beyond ramps and grab-bars to help aging boomers, or those faced with disabilities, accomplish home accessibility on a deeper level. With a focus on closing the gap between home and homeowner, architect Deborah Pierce leads readers through the steps of universal design—from hiring the right architect to creating a pleasing space with the final details." 
  • Accessible Showers -  Mark Hager's blog "AgeInPlace" provides a nice write-up about shower accessibility along with pictures of many alternatives to help you through your own process.
  • Aging in Place Technology Watch - a market research firm that provides thought leadership, analysis and guidance about technologies and related services that enable boomers and seniors to remain longer in their home of choice
  • Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) - a network of community-based resource centers and assistive technology developers providing support to adults and children with disabilities. 
  • Alzheimer’s Safe Return Program - nationwide system that helps police and private citizens identify, locate and return to safety people who are memory impaired due to this disease or related forms of dementia.
  • AssistiveTechNet - national public website featuring assistive technologies and links to state programs
  • CareOptionsOnLine - unique, smart- technologies for wellness, healthcare, and care-planning initiatives. Our programs provide proactive planning resources, education, and solutions concerning:Short and Long Term Disability Accident Illness Long-Term Care Rehabilitation Elder Care Caregiving Issues 
  • Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard - an on-screen virtual keyboard designed for anyone with a disability that prevents him or her from typing on a physical computer keyboard. 
  • Elder Issues - Assisting the Care Giver For Senior Geriatric and Aging Community 

  • Eldy is a software that turns any standard PC into an easy-to-use computer for people that have never used a computer before. It provides an easy six buttons interface for email, internet, chat, videoconferencing, documents, pictures, skype and more. Free Download
  • Family Health Network - provides easy to use technology called Connected for Life, enabling seniors to age at home independently and stay connected with family, friends, caregivers and healthcare professionals.  The software allows caregivers and caregiving organizations to participate in the care of loved ones, patients or clients by helping them maintain independence and age in place, managing health and well being with capabilities like video visits for instant communications from anywhere in the world, easily monitoring health status and trends, monitor medications adherence and many more social communication and healthcare management features. 
  • Guardian Alert 911 by LogiMark - a base station which plugs into the phone jack - and a pendant which is worn by the user and can operate anywhere in and around the home. No Monitoring Fees, Service Charges or Contracts ever. Talk Directly through your pendant to a 911 emergency operator.
  • Hoverround - providing power chairs, electric scooters, and other mobility solutions to genuinely improve the quality of life for those with limited mobility. Hoveround has the unique Round for a Reason® design, controls the entire manufacturing process, custom assembles every electric wheelchair in the U.S.A., provides free delivery direct to the customer and offers the Never Without Wheels guarantee. They also offer personal mobility and lifting solutions, wheelchair ramps, and other mobility accessories to help those with mobility challenges regain their independence and freedom. 
  • Jitterbug - created to provide Baby Boomers and their parents with perfectly simple cell phones and services that work the way they want them to. Jitterbug's products, services and systems are centered on simplicity, personalization and ease of use. 
  • Just5 J510 Senior Cell Phone - is a phone that boasts a bright, modern icon and symbol design, and comes in a host of colors. Features including an SOS button that calls or texts up to 5 numbers when pressed, big buttons, back-lit keypad, easy navigation and speaker phone and the ‘speaking keypad,’ which speaks the numbers to you as you dial them. See Mark Hager's full review on his blog, "Age in Place".
  • Life Alert - medical emergency response alert in life threatening events. Life Alert is the only company endorsed by C. Everett Koop, MD,former US Surgeon General Health and Other Helpful Websites. Life Alert appears on TV and in AARP magazine. 
  • Lifeline - medical alarms and personal emergency alert systems for the elderly, senior caregivers, and the disabled. 
  • LifeStation Medical Alert System - medical alert has given seniors throughout America the ability to live independently where they are most comfortable — in their own homes. 
  • Lighthouse International - dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment.For 106 years, Lighthouse International has been a leader in helping people of all ages who are at risk for, or are experiencing, vision loss. Our services enable people with low vision and blindness to enjoy safe, independent and productive lives. 
  • Microsoft Accessibility - products to make a computer more accessible to those with hearing, vision and physical limitations. 
  • Mobility-Advisor - educational guide on wheel chair options, mobility aids, disability resources, and recreational outlets that enhance the lives of individuals of all ages who need mobility assistance.
  • My Health Phone - unique cell phone service and integrated "homecare" software designed to support independent seniors and their caregivers with in-home assistance and daily living activities. Check-In calls, medication reminders, 911 emergency access, caregiver alerts and critical care alerts all packaged with a simple to use touch screen cellphone. Simple and affordable peace of mind for seniors and their families that goes beyond traditional help-at-home and home-stay alternatives by offering 24 x 7 access. 
  • Point-N-Click Virtual Mouse - FREE stand-alone on-screen virtual mouse designed for anyone with a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to click a physical computer mouse. 
  • Quiet Care - 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week early detection and early warning system that lets caregivers and family members know that a loved one is safe. It recognizes emerging problems before they become emergencies. What makes QuietCare unique is that it doesn't require the elderly person to wear anything or push anything, it can summon help even when they can't. 
  • Rescue Alert - medical alert systems provide peace of mind for you and those who care about you the most - anytime, 24 hours a day. 
  • Technology for Long-Term Care - government-sponsored web site that provides information on and assessments of assistive technology aides that can be used for people living in long-term care settings.
  • Tools for Independence - dedicated to making living at home easier and safer. Sponsored by the Independent Living Partnership, dedicated to ensuring the independence and dignity of the elderly and people with disabilities, their families and caregivers through education and access to empowering services and resources. Tools for Independence also conducts outreach and education to promote the understanding, availability and use of assistive technologies for independent living
Just as the human body’s functions begin to slow as we get older, our mental processes decline in a similar fashion. It’s something we see every day in our daily routines. Where’d I leave my keys? When is that conference? What’s that word…? But, like with any other muscle in the human body, a little exercise, repetition and practice, can improve those mental processes that are starting to slack. A few iPhone and/or iPad apps worth exploring:
  • Blue, Yellow, Green - have you ever tried to pass a tests like that? A test in which you should name the color of the word which describes some other color? It’s called “Stroop test” and it demonstrates how our brain is playing tricks on us. Allow me to present The Stroop Effect is fun and educating. It is based on the Stroop test and can be used to measure and improve your ability to focus your mind despite interference. You can also compare your results with others via the Game Center or conduct a fun competition with your friends.
  • Brainscape is unique in that it’s not a series of games that help improve cognition and memory. It helps users learn specific subject matter, optimizing their study time, and it’s not only on the web. Brainscape has a mobile app that reflects the same education platform used on the web, helping users learn any subject as efficiently as possible. I could have used this for my GRE Vocabulary test… And, as you’ve come to expect from Brainscape, it’s based on solid cognitive science. 
  • Fit Brains Trainer is a scientifically-designed app for iPhone and iPad that provides a collection of fun brain games, personalized training sessions, and visual tools to help you improve your brain's performance. The Trainer utilizes an innovative adaptive learning system that automatically scales the level of each brain game to your appropriate level.
  • Portrait Health Brain Teasers by Healthy Life Labs tests you in five areas: word skills, critical thinking, memory, visual perception and coordination. This app rolls out new updates regularly, so when you get through the initial tests, you can continue to turn that brain age around.
For more, check out:
On the computer, check out Brain Games. Fit Brains has quality brain training games, free on the web. Their site states, "It is important to train your brain and these games will make it fun as well. Whether you are focused on completing your latest brain training session or you just dropped-in for a few rounds of Uber Brain (our mental cross-trainer), these games will have you both entertained and challenged."  
In Loving Memory of Bill and Louise Hampton.