Module 1: Assistive Technology

1.1 Introduction

Isn’t it fascinating that each product developed in the field of Assistive Technology has the potential to hit the mainstream world!

Check out the short video on the left, on the fascinating side of Assistive Technology and how each user aspires it to be

1.2 Classification & Design perspectives

  • Designing assistive solutions for People with Disabilities goes beyond the lens of the technology involved. The entire cycle of development revolves around the user. Hence, understanding the human element (I.e., how a person interacts with the environment for performing a specific task and identifying the barriers to performance), and keeping it as the focal point throughout the process is essential.
  • The paradigm shift from the medical (the person with disability is a problem to be solved) to social modelof Disability(the problem is in the inaccessible environment and not with the person with disability) opened up the possibility of looking at the individual beyond their impairment. This is where Assistive Technology works as a catalyst.
  • Designing Assistive Technology starts from evaluating the needs of the individual, identifying suitable solutions, evaluating the adaptiveness (safety, affordability, participation, etc), implementing the solution and finally evaluating the impact. Missing out on any of these stages affects the efficiency of the implemented technology.

1.3 Role of Caregivers

  • Assistive Technology doesn’t just enablePeople with Disabilities to lead a better-quality life but also supports the family and caregivers who assist them.
  • A caregiver or a personal attendant is a professional who assists a Person with Disability across their life span in carrying out daily activities. These can include providing support at home, work and anywhere else required.
  • Depending on the level of support required, the role of a caregiver may range from a short span of time like a few hours, to a whole day, especially for people with high support needs. This is derived from a personalized care plan which is made in accordance with the individual’s needs.
  • Assistive Technology provides enhanced support to the care seeker, by lowering the amount of time, effort, the difficulty of the activity and the safety risk, especially for activities that require physical effort.

The video here focuses on some of the common assistive Technology that supports both Persons with Disabilities and their carers.

When understanding the level of support which is required for Persons with Disabilities, it is vital to demystify the term ‘independence’. The profession of caregiving or Assistive Technology pulls us into thinking that only People with Disabilities are dependent in compared to the non-disabled.

Here is a video of Disability rights activist Denise Lance questioning society’s emphasis on independence, especially for those with disabilities, in light of interdependence which points to the way of life.

1.4 Conclusion

Assistive Technologies level the playing field for people with diverse abilities.There is a huge, unmet need for AT across the world, especially in developing countries. A human-centered approach at all levels of AT, from development to distribution is essential to ensure adoption and reduce abandonment of the AT device. In the following chapter, we will look closer at the AT product development cycle with the help of some case studies.

Additional Resources