Magazine article Work & Family Life

What's New in 'Assistive Technology'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

What's New in 'Assistive Technology'

Article excerpt

It's frustrating to be no longer able to do the things you've always done. But for older people grappling with new obstacles, help is available through the growing field of assistive technology.

"Assistive technology" refers to any service or tool that allows the elderly or disabled to perform activities they've always done but must now do differently. These tools are also called "adaptive devices."

A simple device that makes it possible for older people to bathe themselves and go to the bathroom could make the difference between living independently or having to get long-term, home- health care.

The device could be as basic as a walker, a magnifying glass or an amplification device for the TV-or as high-tech as a motor scooter, wheelchair lift or stair elevator.

Computer access made easier

Perhaps your older relative is having trouble using a computer. Arthritic hands may be unable to operate a keyboard or mouse. A wheelchair may not fit under a computer table.

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, describes an array of hardware and software tools - from special keyboards to voice recognition programs. For more information, visit her "Do It" program at Washington, edu/doit and closingthegap.com.

What's available now

Here are some of the categories of devices and services now available:

Adaptive switches. These may be activated by the voice or tongue to adjust air conditioners, computers, power wheelchairs and other types of equipment.

Tools for independent living. Anything that empowers an older person to perform normal daily activities without help from others - such as a handicapped-accessible bathroom with grab bars in the bathtub.

Inexpensive car gadgets. A gas cap opener with a long handle could help people with arthritis or weak hands. A memory foam steering-wheel cover is easier to grip. A Smart-Clip All-View rear-view mirror provides wider range of vision. …

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