Traditionally people with disabilities have had to lean on others for assistance with housing, meal preparation, bathing and other activities of daily living. Today, many people with disabilities are living independently and performing these activities all by themselves. This trend is due to the creation of assistive technology for those that they are disabled. Assistive technology can be defined as the tools that are used by people with disabilities that enable them to complete their tasks of daily living in a functional and easy way.
A few examples of assistive technological devices are telephones with the telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), computer programs with text-to-speech software for reading and spelling and sip and puff device for an electric wheelchair.
The TDD telephone converts typed characters into certain tones that may be sent over telephone lines. Another type of this service involves an operator reading what a deaf person types and hearing person says, and then converts the text/verbal words accordingly. TDD communications is also used on televisions for many regular sitcoms, game shows and sporting events.
Text-to-speech software programs are great for those with visual impairments, dyslexia or dysphagia. These programs can take words that the computer user speaks and convert it into typed text on the screen. The program can also take written text and read it aloud to the computer user. These types of devices make it possible for many disabled people to attend college, trade school or find gainful employment.
A sit and puff device for an electric wheelchair can allow a catastrophically disabled person to successfully navigate their own wheelchair. The device uses the inhalations and exhalations of the wheelchair user to go forward, backward, turn and go faster or slower. This makes it much easier for both the disabled person and their caregiver to leave the home and enter the community for medical appointments, recreation and special outings.