Assistive Technology

 

 "Assistive technology" consists of devices and other solutions that assist people with deficits in physical, mental, or emotional functioning. Assistive technology devices are items frequently used by people with functional deficits as alternative ways of performing actions, tasks, and activities.

Over the decades, there has been a variety of technological advancements in regard to assistive technology.  According to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (2004), “...an assistive technology device refers to any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability” (Bennett et al., 1993). There are hundreds of assistive devices available to individuals with disabilities. Some of these devices include: augmentative or alternative communication devices, alphabet boards, mobility aids, protheses, and many more. The technologies that are most effective target an individual's ability level, functional need, and context differences. Telecommunications technologies are changing ways of thinking, acting, and communicating throughout the world and within healthcare (Bennett et al., 1993).

Assistive Technology can play an essential role in the well-being of individuals with disabilities, however the access to these technologies have an unmet need. The “World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than a billion people globally could benefit from assistive technologies, yet only one in 10 has access to them” (Bennett et al., 1993). Due to the ageing population and an increase in noncommunicable diseases, it is expected that over 2 billion individuals will need an assistive device by 2050. This increased global use of technology may drive the need for more sophisticated aids, helping individuals with disabilities live their life more efficiently.  There are ethical implications of assistive technology that need to be further analyzed and taken into consideration of the confidentiality issues that may arise.

 

There are hundreds of assistive devices available to individuals with disabilities. Some of these devices include: augmentative or alternative communication devices, alphabet boards, mobility aids, protheses, and many more. The technologies that are most effective target an individual's ability level, functional need, and context differences. Telecommunications technologies are changing ways of thinking, acting, and throughout the world and within healthcare (Bennett et al., 1993).  Researchers have sought out the positive outcomes of using an assistive technology called video self-modeling (VSM), with students with emotional behavior disorders (EBDs).

 

Students with EBD exhibit excessive levels of behavioral problems are often sent to the principal's office frequently or placed in more restrictive environments. This assistive technology is considered an antecedent-based intervention that involves the students observing themselves modeling the correct target behavior at a more advanced level then they currently can do naturally. E-books are a well known available AT application, which allows students to create short interactive digital books to tell their own story. Students can include text bubbles, pictures, and audio within the video e-books(Murry, 2018).

On the other end of the age spectrum is dementia patients. The aging population in many countries will be associated with an increase in the number of individuals  living with dementia.  New assistive technologies have been developed that may be considered valuable for improving the overall health of people living with dementia. Previously, the approach to dealing with individuals with cognitive impairment displaying concerning behavior, including dementia, has been dealt with by using restrictive practices.  The use of robots as an AT could decrease the feeling of loneliness that some patients may be feeling living with this condition. These assistive technologies  in dementia care could enable these individuals to live independently and participate in all aspects of life (Bennett et al., 1993).

Through a review of literature it is apparent that funding, access to devices, and training in use of AT devices are some of the main downfalls in multiple regions. This information is important when thinking about AT and how it can be substantially beneficial to patients of all populations. The World Health Organization (WHO) in affiliation with the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) found internationally barriers include, “(a) user and environmental barriers; (b) policy, funding, and product access; (c) professional training, collaboration, and service delivery; and (d) occupational justice (i.e., empowerment, participation, and progress)” (Boisselle and Grajo, 2018).