Assistive Technology in a Changing World
Inclusive design and improved adaptive technology have increased the types of activities that people with disabilities can participate in. Changes have occurred in the way society participates in routine activities such that many involve use of a computer. Shopping, ordering groceries, streaming music and videos, using maps and communicating through email, text messaging and social media are common activities that can be completed using a computer or tablet if a person can access it. Rapid changes in technology necessitate ongoing consideration of how a person with a disability will access basic services and participate in activities of daily living.
Access to a computer or tablet is an important way for people with cerebral palsy to participate in everyday activities as well as use many types of adaptive technology. Computer accessibility features such as using keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse, sticky keys for typing or use of onscreen keyboards and touch screens are customization options that are available on a standard computer. In addition to customizing the standard device features, alternate access methods such as joysticks, switches, voice recognition or eye gaze may be needed.
Many people are familiar with walkers, wheelchairs, specially designed utensils and dishes or accessories to help a person grasp objects. There are also many adaptive technologies that are accessed through a computer. Technologies designed to help people with difficulties speaking, reading and writing are common examples. A variety of programs for computers or tablets allow for voice output to be used along with or in place of verbal communication. Messages can be pre-stored or generated in real time. They can be created using spelling, word banks or symbols. For reading, text to speech software, programs that define words and applications that offer similar content with easier vocabulary can be very helpful and are accessed by a computer. For those who need help with writing and typing, speech recognition, word prediction or writing through symbol selection may be useful. Programs that can create fillable computer documents from paper worksheets or handouts are also available.
People with cerebral palsy are individuals who vary greatly in terms of functional skills and needs. An assistive technology evaluation may be helpful for determining which features and technologies are suitable for a given person. Keep in mind that the strategies and adaptive technologies needed by a person change over time depending on individual characteristics as well as changes in how society uses products and services. Ongoing needs assessment with consideration of changes in technology is important for appropriate accessibility and participation in daily living tasks.
For more information on adaptive technologies, feel free to visit Cerebralpalsyguidance.com. Cerebral Palsy Guidance is a comprehensive informational website providing support for folks with Cerebral Palsy.