Assistive technology is a catch-all term that applies to products, equipment and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for people with disabilities. Simply put, it’s anything you can use to get around the difficulties that a disability can create. Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things. It includes everything from special-purpose computers, smartphones and smart homes (Alexa and Google) to wheelchairs, prosthetics, and modified tools for the kitchen. The field is exploding right now, with new software and innovative technologies available every day.
Scroll through this section to get an insight into the organizations, programs products and services that are available specifically for people with spinal cord injuries. Different levels of injury have different needs. This section includes products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
We also list the programs that are available to help pay for assistive devices, which can be very expensive. Some school systems have funds to help pay for programs that promote learning. Government programs (Social Security, veteran’s benefits and state Medicaid agencies) may pay for certain technologies if prescribed by a doctor. Private health insurance often pays for doctor-prescribed or necessary rehabilitative devices. Rehabilitation and job-training programs may also pay for assistive technology or assistance in finding a job. Employers may pay for assistive technology that is a reasonable accommodation to enable an employee to perform essential job tasks.
Sponsored by the US Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), AbleData provides an extensive list of assistive devices. Product listings contain a short description and information on price, manufacturer and where to find it. This resource can assist you in learning about new developments in assistive technology and do-it-yourself ideas.
There are several ways to create a more accessible space for a person who uses a wheelchair. Some options include: altering an existing floor plan, building an addition, converting existing rooms, or buying a new home. The following guidelines are provided by the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to assist in planning for wheelchair accessible housing. Dimensions and tips are provided for entrances and exits, doorways, door handles, thresholds, hallways, floors, outlets and switches, telephones, furniture, bathroom toilet, sink, bathtub, roll-in shower, kitchen turning radius, countertops, refrigerator, sink, storage, stove, microwave, washer and dryer, bedroom bed, closet, and dresser. Figures are based upon ADA Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities.
This is a brochure can be downloaded from the National Highway Safety Administration. It gives tips on adaptive technology for driving. Along with information on requirements, training, and adaptation costs, this publication contains advice on evaluating your need and choosing and maintaining a vehicle.
The Adaptive Driving Alliance is a nationwide group of vehicle-modification dealers who provide adaptive equipment for disabled drivers and passengers. This website provides a database of dealers who meet the Quality Assurance standards for business practices and equipment as defined by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.
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Assistive Technology Videos for Spinal Cord Injury
“There are many people who have fished all of their lives, then they incur a disability and kind of give up…..the truth of the matter is, getting back into the stream of life through adaptive fishing is possible!” This consumer education sheet from Disabled Sports USA provides practical ideas for adaptive fishing with links to adaptive fishing equipment vendors and organizations.
A national manufacturer and supplier of wheelchair ramps and showers, Amramp offers home modification services. They provide a free property evaluation and consultation on adding a ramp to your home before building, as well as the option to rent ramps for special events. The website gives detailed advice on how to determine the best type of ramp for your lifestyle, a listing of various funding sources, and a blog that often sites ideas on how to find additional funding for home modifications.
This website, sponsored by the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at the Georgia Institute of Technology, offers a catalogue of assistive technology products along with updates on the latest technological advances. Here you’ll find products with user comments that you are able to compare by using the site’s product comparison tool. There’s also a helpful encyclopedia of assistive technology terms and facts called ATWiki that’s accessible through this site.
The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) was established in 1977 to support professionals working in the field of driver education / driver training and transportation equipment modifications for persons with disabilities through education and information dissemination. ADED is the primary professional organization in this specialized area, and stands ready to meet the professional needs of its members through educational conferences and research support as well as encouraging equipment development to maximize the transportation options for persons with disabilities. Select Directory & Services in the main toolbar, and then select Member Directory & Search to find Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, Mobility Equipment Dealers, and Mobility Equipment Manufacturers in your state of residence.
Funded by the federal Assistive Technology Act (AT Act), this organization offers programs in every state which feature information about assistive technology and are dedicated to making it available to people with disabilities. Here you can learn what support your state offers for acquiring assistive technology. The website also contains updates on federal legislation dealing with disability and adaptive technology. Select AT Programs on the right to get contact information and the website of your state program.
Blood Brothers Foundation provides financial support for vehicle modification for people living with physical disabilities. Here you can apply for adaptive devices such as hand controls, lifts, steering devices and ramps.
Vehicle modifications provide transportation options for people with disabilities but can be very expensive. This can be especially difficult if you’re already budgeting for other medical expenses or necessary home modifications, in addition to car modifications. This guide offers resources on how to cover some or all of the cost of vehicle modifications.
The Center for Assistive Technology (CAT) provides information and referral services on assistive technology to people in the Western New York Region including an equipment lending center for families in early intervention programs, child care centers, family child care homes, and early intervention service providers. It was established within the School of Health Related Professions in 1988. CAT conducts research, education and service programs in assistive technology for persons with disabilities and the elderly, in four related areas: research, development, and commercialization, education programs, client assessment and training services and dissemination.
Part of the College of Design at North Carolina State University, CUD strives to provide research, education and services related to accessible design across all environments including housing, buildings, and outdoors. Here you’ll find information on the most useful design solutions, as well as technical assistance in constructing accessibility improvements to your home. You’ll also learn about universal design, the core principle of which lies in constructing environments in a way that is accessible to all people without standing out as altered or customized for people with disabilities. From the menu on the left, selectPublications. This gives you a list of helpful fact sheets about universal design, construction, legal accessibility standards, and housing.
This website was created by Jim Lubin, a man with transverse myelitis who is dependant on a ventilator. He uses a sip-and-puff device to enter Morse-Code patterns that translate to keyboard and mouse functions to operate his computer. Aside from the impressive personal story behind it, Lubin’s site offers an extensive catalogue of online resources on disability. Here you’ll find links to information on spinal cord injury, assistive technology, medical newsgroups, disability organizations etc.
This website from the Illinois Secretary of State Office lists several publications and forms for persons with disabilities who live in Illinois: Application for Illinois Disabled Person Identification Card, Application for a replacement parking placard, Parking program for persons with disabilities, Certification for disability license plate, Certification for parking placard, and What you should know about Accessible Parking. If you do not live in the state of Illinois, check your state specific Secretary of State Office or Department of Transportation website to identify similar information.
One may be able to continue driving safely again, depending on how serious the injury is and how much function has been regained. The amount of time after an injury is a major factor in deciding whether and how one can return to driving. With time, one may regain some functions that could make driving possible. With time, the amount and cost of any needed special equipment may be reduced.
For many people, being able to drive provides a sense of independence and freedom. This consumer education sheet from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will help you and your family understand how a disability or injury can affect driving and the process for participating in a driver’s rehabilitation program.
Designed by a C6-7 quadriplegic, the EasyStand standing frame enables people with mobility related disabilities to sit and stand. Standing and weight bearing are associated with many health benefits. With this in mind, EasyStand’s goal is to improve the quality of life for children and adults using wheelchairs worldwide. Explore their Funding Guide to identify opportunities to support the cost of an easy stand.
FODAC’s mission is to provide durable medical equipment (DME) such as wheelchairs and hospital beds at little or no cost to the disabled and their families. We seek to enhance the quality of life for people of all ages who have any type of illness or physical disability. Since 1986, FODAC has collected and distributed more than 25,000 wheelchairs and other durable equipment to create a better quality of life for adults and children. Services include durable medical equipment, home modifications, vehicle modifications, and assistive technology.
Handihelp.net is a website that contains simple ideas and tools that are either inexpensive to purchase or cost little to make. Hopefully, these suggestions will help persons with physical challenges in overcoming some of the frustrations they face and enable them to live a more active life. Explore Handi Products for a select group of commercially available products that may be of help to you.
HomeMods.org, based at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, is dedicated to promoting independent living for persons of all ages and abilities. It offers training and education opportunities for professionals who wish to respond to the increasing demand for home modification services. It also serves as an information clearinghouse on home modification to equip professionals and consumers with a comprehensive inventory of resources such as a National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources.
Infinitec provides information about assistive technology as well as training, equipment, and access to specialists and resources. The program leverages the power of technology to advance independence and promote inclusion opportunities for children and adults with disabilities. Explore this website to discover how technology can support individuals at play and work.
This website offers some of the most extensive information on wheelchairs. There are detailed descriptions of different types of wheelchairs and accessories so you are able to learn what types of equipment you require for your situation, right down to the attributes to look for in a wheelchair cushion.
MobilityWorks is a national chain of wheelchair accessible van providers. Like a traditional auto dealership, MobilityWorks offers financing, extended service contracts, rental vans, a 24-hour emergency helpline, and mechanical services.
This website was developed by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. It offers useful information on available adaptive vehicles, adaptive features, such as hand controls as well as funding options for purchasing vehicles. You also can find a local dealer, learn about the nationally recognized accreditation program for dealers, called the “Quality Assurance Program,” and find manufacturers that offer rebates and discounts.
The shower / commode chairs and tub slider systems from NUPRODX are concepted and designed by the company’s founder, a C6-7 quadriplegic. All products are built for durability and portability, with a modular design that allows for adaptability to nearly any living situation, be it at home or on the road. NUPRODX is dedicated to creating innovative products to improve the lives of people who face new challenges. Click on Store Locator on the top toolbar to identify a list of product companies across the United States of America.
This national organization is working to create reuse programs to provide second-hand assistive technology to persons with disabilities. The website has an extensive list of exchange centers where assistive technology can be donated, bought, and sold so that unused technology can be passed on to someone else who needs it. This program also offers online seminars (or webinars) on various topics related to the reutilization of AT.
Paws With a Cause enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities across the national through custom-trained Assistance Dogs. In addition, PAWS increases awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog Teams through education and advocacy. Learn more about assistance dogs, customized training, lifetime team support, and how to request an application for a PAWS dog by clicking on I WANT A DOG.
RESNA promotes research and advocacy for assistive technology through membership and programs focused on the exchange of ideas and information about technological advancements for individuals with disabilities. The Consumer and Public Information section of this professional websites provides a catalogue of state programs designed to assist you as well as conferences and assistive technology news.Some of the most useful tools on this website are the lists of state programs which can help you find financial help for assistive technology.
Transferring in and out of a wheelchair puts higher stress on arms and shoulders than anything else one may do on a regular basis. Learning the correct way to transfer is extremely important in order to keep arms functioning and pain-free. This fact sheet from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center is also available in Spanish.
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia is an international resource that promotes independence, and continues today with a proud history of providing consumer based support and rehabilitation services to people with physical disabilities. They aim to create a society without barriers for people with spinal cord injuries. SCI resources include information on Access and Public Toilets, Clothing and Fashion, Employment and Education, Equipment, Technology, and Wheelchairs, Financial and Legal matters, Health and SCI facts, Housing and Home Modification, and Transport and Travel.
Spinal Cord Injury PILOT’s main purpose is to document consumer experiences acquiring and using assistive devices of all kinds following spinal cord injury. This site is the result of a collaboration between a group of spinal cord injury stakeholders, including consumers, researchers, therapists, rehabilitation engineers, technology consultants and community activists. Work on Spinal Cord Injury PILOT began in 1998, with the idea that consumers are under-represented in discussions about assistive technology designed for individuals with a spinal cord injury. The website includes personal stories about life with assistive devices, articles on what works, product reviews on particular produces, and an idea exchange to provide an open discussion on assistive technology.
Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Project is an exercise and integrative recovery center, based in Denver, Colorado. The center specializes in providing exercise based recovery programs for individuals who have had a spinal cord injury, stroke, or similar trauma. Customized adaptive exercise programs are designed to help clients maintain health and wellness while providing optimal functional return. The program’s therapies include: neuromuscular reeducation, weight bearing activities, Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) with the RTI 300 bike, strength training, flexibility, and gait training. In addition, our facility provides client and family support and networking. In addition to fee based adaptive exercise training, functional electrical stimulation, and home training programs, the Center provides Open Gym memberships enable access adaptive exercise equipment at their own pace.
“Spinal Cord Injury: The First 90 Days,” by Sam Maddox, is a guide to acute SCI. It details the first hours, days and weeks after traumatic injury; it defines the injury and outlines basic medical care now and in the future. In easy-to-understand language, the book offers detail on the complex medical and psychological issues that define SCI. It is available three editions: Southern California, Rocky Mountain Region and Arizona.
The wheelchair is a complex piece of equipment that has been extensively engineered and studied. Becoming a wheelchair expert increases your ability to get a wheelchair that truly meets your needs. While it is not possible or a single handout to teach all there is to know, topics covered by the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Getting the Right Wheelchair, The Manual Wheelchair and The Power Wheelchair include key information that can support your ongoing development of wheelchair knowledge.
The Woody Pack was created by The Woody Foundation, founded in 2011 to raise funds for the recovery of people with spinal cord injuries. The namesake of the Foundation, James “Woody” Beckham, came up with the Woody Pack after discovering the confidence adaptive technology gave him. The backpack contains a collection of assistive devices for people with limited hand function and is free of charge.
From the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Engineering, the Trace Center focuses on the latest technological developments geared toward helping the disabled community. The website provides updates on ongoing developments, programs and current research regarding adaptive technology. This site is an excellent source for finding new ways to communicate, such as the experimental system that uses a brain-computer interface to allow individuals with severe disabilities, such as high spinal cord injury, to communicate online.
Uber’s WAV ride-sharing service provides affordable rides in wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAV), where available. It lets riders who use non-folding, motorized wheelchairs connect with drivers in wheelchair accessible vehicles that are equipped with ramps or lifts. WAV driver-partners are certified by a third party in safely driving and assisting people with disabilities.
The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization leading an international effort to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities, to promote the joy of giving, create global friendship, and to deliver a wheelchair to every child, teen and adult in the world who needs one, but cannot afford one. For these people, the Wheelchair Foundation delivers Hope, Mobility and Independence. The Country Distribution List illustrates the scope of this remarkable project and lives touched. For more information about bulk requests for wheelchairs, contact the the Wheelchair Foundation World Headquarters.
The Wheelchair Site is an independent website designed to help you understand the challenges faced by people with physical limitations. It also includes helpful information for people who rely on mobility aids – including tips on choosing the right wheelchair. We also discuss the different product options – including manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, pediatric wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, wheelchair lifts, wheelchair vans and various wheelchair accessories
Will2Walk Foundation is an organization that promotes staying active, fit and independent after a spinal cord injury. Through their scholarship program, they provide funding for items and services such as fitness memberships, team dues, everyday living supplies, work related equipment, educational expenses or participation in a special event related to spinal cord injuries.