Assistive Technology (AT) refers to any device or system that helps to improve the functional capacity of people with disabilities. It is a very broad field and may range from the very simple to the very complex. People with a disability use AT for a whole range of tasks. Whether it is simply accessing print media or communicating on the telephone, AT provides a vast array of solutions. It can allow a person who cannot manipulate a pen to write, enable those who have difficulty in speaking to communicate and assist people with visual impairments to read.
There are three categories of AT, ranging from 'Low-tech' such as a laptop stand or foot rest through 'Medium-tech' up to ‘Hi-tech' including sophisticated communication and computer control systems for those with little independent functioning or communication ability.
If you have an employee or potential employee with a vision, hearing, speech, mobility impairment or specific learning difficulty, there are assistive technologies to assist in all of these areas, examples include:
- Alternative keyboards, featuring larger or smaller than standard keys
- Touch screens
- Joysticks, manipulated by hand, feet, chin to control cursor on screen
- Personal Listening Devices- many hard of hearing people use these to aid communication.
- Screen enlargers/magnifiers/ readers
- Speech recognition programs
- Simple adjustments to a car can enable people with physical disabilities to be mobile
- Technology for ensuring Deaf and hard of hearing people are alerted to the fire alarm being activated.
Computer-based AT applications help overcome some of the functional barriers created by disability. It increases the independence, employability and productivity for an individual living with a disability and in many cases can be at little cost.
FreedomTech provides an active learning space around accessible and assistive technology across education, employment, independent living and health. They advocate for a coherent infrastructure of supports for people with disabilities and have proposed an AT Passport. They host regular gatherings on different topics including employment. The Community Hub for Assistive Technology (CHAT) facilitates and creates cross-disciplinary opportunities to learn in an atmosphere that supports equality, collective and individual sharing. This makes the most of people’s expertise to identify better challenges, gaps and to consider solutions regarding AT.
Examples of different types of AT
‘AT Hive’ is a new resource brought to you by AHEAD and DAWN (the Disability Advisors Working Network) that aims to raise awareness about Assistive Technology (AT) in the Education and Employment Sectors. AT Hive has about 50 examples of free and paid AT that can help with reading, writing, organisation, recording, communication, collaboration and more. These assistive technologies come in many forms like apps, websites, software, devices as well as in Office 365 and Google Workspace, to just name a few. If you are new to AT, or have some used AT already, then explore AT Hive to see the wide range of technologies that are available that can help people in any ways.
For Employees that use AT
If you use AT and want to share a technology with some tips, just download this AT write up template. It takes a few moments to fill in the information and your insights can be shared with the AT Community. Find the #ATHive on Twitter and email Trevor.Boland@ahead.ie if you have any questions about AT Hive.