An assitive technology is defined as any device, piece of equipment, or apparatus designed to help a child compensate for an impairment (RCDC,2007). Assistive technologies can be as simple as glasses or a Braille notebook, but can be as advanced as a robotic arm. Developments are being made each day to make it feasible for those with impairments to be able to function in society normally. Some of the most interesting technologies include

1. The iBOT Wheelchair

The iBOT is a wheel chair with 5 major configurations: balance (raising chair to reach shelves), stairs (climbing staircases), 4-wheel (allows for travel over uneven terrain), standard (operates as a regular wheelchair), and remote (foldable for easy storage) (Independence Technology, 2008). Hand function is necessary for this wheelchair. A prescription from a doctor is also needed.
Also, the company requires a test drive. A downside to the wheelchair is that it costs $26,000, which makes the technology unavailable to all that could benefit from it. The chair's ability to climb stairs makes it very appealing.

iBOT in Action!

2. Ness L300

A functional electrical stimulation (FES) system for those afflicted with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury, and cerebral palsy (Deaconess Health Systems,2008). Worn on the lower leg, the device contains electrodes that place stimulation on the leg and foot muscles. The device can be customized to perform exercises that when enabled. causes certain muscles to move in different ways. The Ness L300 also allows for a more natural walk, and the ability to exercise muscles that have lost their function from no use (Deaconess Health Systems, 2008)

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Check out the Ness L300!

3. Headmouse Extreme

This device is an optical sensor that allows those unable to use their hands to gain access to a computer. The computer user places a desposable target on their forehead or glasses. The headmouse is placed on top of the computer and translates the movements of the head into movements of the pointer on the screen. This technology allows for keyboard functions, gaming, drawing, and graphics. The Headmouse is compatible with other forms of assistive technologies to allow for complete computer functioning. This device retails for $1000 (Orin Instruments, 2007)

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Communicating with ALS

4. TTY

TTY stands for Tele Typewriter. It is a device that enables those who are deaf to use the phone. With a TTY, the conversation is typed. The device looks like a laptop keyboard and connects via a phone line. A call is placed through the TTY to a relay operator who translates what you type to the person you are trying to communicate with. It is portable and can be connected to any phone, anywhere. Some of the newer TTY's have answering machines, where messages are printed out so that those with hearing impairments do not miss messages or calls ( Brainerd, 2007).

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5. Vibrotactile Devices

These are devices that help people with hearing impairments by communicating sounds through physical contact with the skin. These devices receive sound through a microphone, process the information, and then send a vibrating to the skin. These devices are especially used for detecting rhythm in music. Also, they benefit the user by helping them to understand the pitch of their own voice. Many users find this as a good alternative to a cochlear implant because it is not invasive and lets them adapt to the world around them (Audiological Engineering Corp.).

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