Assistive Technologies Present and Future

New Tech to Solve Age-Old Issues

In the 21st century, it seems that a new piece of technology changes our approach to a certain activity every few weeks or so. From the way we communicate with each other to the way we order pizza, our lives are constantly becoming more convenient.

Fortunately, the same is true for those who struggle with disabilities. The era of tablets and smartphones has introduced many new opportunities for the disabled community, from text-messaging for the blind to improved daily planning for autistic adults. These innovations are referred to as assistive technologies.

Here are some practical assistive technologies which make the everyday lives of people with disabilities easier:

Dot Braille Watch

  • The Dot is a device that looks and is worn like a watch, but that gives blind people more personal access to services like text-messaging. Information from a smartphone is transferred to the watch using Bluetooth, and the watch uses pins and magnets to translate it into braille characters.
  • It is expected to begin being sold in the US in December, and will cost less than $300.

Custom Bicycles

assistive-bike

Source: Wikipedia

  • For disabled children, the most common childhood activities, like riding a bike, can be difficult and even seem impossible. But many companies, including US-based Freedom Concepts, Inc. produce customized bikes for those with a wide variety of physical disabilities. These bikes make an impact beyond simple recreation, greatly increasing the general mobility of those who use them.

Brain in Hand

brain-in-hand

Source: Shiny Shiny

  • Brain in Hand is a personal-planning app designed to help autistic people become more independent. The main features include a scheduling service through which the user can record potential problems, and their solutions, that they encounter in daily life. There is also an anxiety-tracking feature that connects the user to a professional mentor if they report that stress has reached excessive levels.
  • The organization is based in the UK, but you can contact them here to learn more about their services and methods.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Apps

app

Source: DS Connection

  • This is a term used to refer to technologies which help those with language disorders communicate. These often take the form of apps for the iPad or other tablets and smartphones. By using pictures, recorded voices, and other audiovisual cues, these apps make communicating much easier for children with language disabilities.
  • A list of some of the highest-rated AAC apps can be found here. A wide range of prices and services are included, covering the many different levels of need that exist.

And just for good measure, here is one particularly futuristic technology that may be revolutionizing daily life for all of us sooner than we think:

Self-Driving Cars

self-driving

Source: Extreme Tech

  • One of the most exciting ideas in the world of assistive technology, self-driving cars are being developed by companies like Google and Toyota. The term “self-driving” is a little misleading in some cases, though. While Google’s prototype car, pictured above, is intended to require literally no human involvement, the models of other companies simply feature technologies that take some risky maneuvers  out of human hands. This could make it easier for many with disabilities to feel more comfortable behind the wheel.
  • Though these companies are hard at work on the concept of self-driving cars, it will likely be the next decade before we begin to see them on the road.

This is just a small sample of the many technologies that exist to ease the daily burden carried by those with disabilities. Assistance can be found for many conditions by consulting with healthcare professionals or through personal research. The government provides a guide to assistive technology on its disability.gov website. This helpful field is still growing, but many solutions can already be found by looking in the right places.