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Resources: Leaps in Technology and Access to Information

A Grand Diversity. The following list is a relatively current reflection of the diversity of approaches and devices.

  • Facilitated communication – a guiding hand to help someone with autism to speak by using a keyboard.
  • Augmentative communication – manual and electronic communication aids to help a nonverbal individual to communicate and socialize with other people.
  • Environmental controls – making a switch larger or a device easier to use can increase the ability of people with physical disabilities to independently control their environment. Examples include turning on the television, lights, and appliances; answering the phone; opening doors; and steering a power wheelchair.
  • Custom seating systems – designing a wheelchair insert that is fitted to the shape of an individual (without compromising the ability to maximize trunk strength where applicable) can allow for maximum function and can prevent skin breakdown caused by pressure sores.
  • Postural supports inserted into a power wheelchair help a student sit in a comfortable position and reduce abnormal muscle tone. The student can then work at a desk or table along with friends and classmates, and generally participate in more educational and recreational activities.
  • Independent mobility is a first step toward independent living. Many kinds of power wheelchairs are available. The controls can be placed to match a person's particular abilities.
  • Vocational and employment adaptations – modifications to a work site such as raising the height of a desk, or fabricating work areas, or adapting machinery to make it accessible to employees with disabilities.
  • Home modifications – lever door hardware and grab bars in the bathroom, lowered light switches and shelves, toe space at counters and the sink, and lowered counters and paddle faucet controls may allow someone in a wheelchair considerable independence at home.
  • Environmental modifications – ramps at state and local parks; restaurants, theaters, retail stores, businesses, and other places of public accommodation allow access to public recreational, commercial, and business opportunities.
  • Lifts for public transportation, TTYs for phone systems, and pointers and switches.
  • One man can manage in his living quarters because an environmental control system has been installed – an amplifier on the phone to accommodate hearing limitations and a personal alarm system to notify health personnel if he has a medical emergency. This combination of high and low technology has given him the confidence and support to remain quite independent in his own home.
  • A head mounted light beam for a ten year old child with cerebral palsy allows her to use a computer keyboard, and operate a communication system that speaks for her.
  • Voice Processor – a microelectronic device that rebuilds the sound waves of speech by analyzing and reconstructing speech weak or difficult to understand voices are clear and concise, background noise is rejected and vocal strain is greatly reduced.
  • Ultra Voice Unit – a loudspeaker with a rechargeable battery that fits on an upper denture or orthodontic retainer; volume and pitch are set by a handheld control.
  • Mind Control Tool Operating Switch (MCTOS) – a switch controlled by bioelectrical activity measured at a person's forehead. The switch operates using eye movement, muscle activity, or the mind – the switch is "off" when the mind is quiet, and "on" when the mind is excited. MCTOS can operate communication devices, environmental control devices, and computers.