Assistive technology refers to any computer-controlled product, gadget, device, application, or service that assists, maintains, or improves the abilities of individuals with motor disabilities. The devices or services are mainly intended to improve quality of life so that patients are able to live independently.

The list of assistive devices is ever-growing with the advancement of technology, and includes special-purpose computers, mobile devices, mobile apps, special switches, keyboards, pointing devices, screen readers, and communication programs.

Assistive technology for MD patients

Many assistive devices and home adaptations can be used by muscular dystrophy patients to make their life easier. These are summarized below.

Mouth sticks

Individuals with a hand disability can use a mouth stick, which is placed in the mouth and used to type or manipulate a trackball mouse.

Head wands

A head wand is a stick that is strapped to the head and functions in a similar way to a mouth stick. A head wand can be used to type or navigate the internet.

Single-switch access

Single-switch access is a switch that can be operated using the hands, mouth, or legs according to an individual’s ability. Special software is used to interpret its clicking action, which allows the user to perform different actions on a computer.

Auto-type software

Auto-type software can facilitate typing by suggesting words and allowing the user to choose between the words. Voice-to-text software can help convert users’ speech into text on the computer.

Sip-and-puff switch

A sip-and-puff switch is functionally similar to the single-access switch. It is able to read an individual’s breathing action and convert that into on-off signals, which can be used for different purposes, such as controlling a wheelchair.

Oversized trackball mouse

An oversized trackball mouse is one that is easier to operate for individuals with motor disabilities, and can be operated with the hands or feet.

Adaptive keyboard

An adaptive keyboard is specially designed with raised areas between the keys to allow easier typing by individuals with unreliable hand movements such as tremors or spastic movements. This type of keyboard may also include word-completion software that allows the user to type with fewer clicks.

Eye-tracking device

Eye-tracking devices are useful for individuals with limited or no control over their hand movements. The devices sense and convert eye movements into signals, allowing users to operate their computers.

Smart eyeglasses

Smart eyeglasses allow users to control Bluetooth-enabled devices without using their hands. The user’s head movements control the cursor on the device screen while the mouse is activated by biting or pressing the ‘click’ button.

Voice recognition software

Voice recognition software recognizes and interprets a user’s voice, allowing them to control a computer. In this way, the individual can connect to appliances, keep shopping lists, play music, or shop online.

Doorbell cameras

Doorbell cameras are useful for people to view their doorsteps from the inside and communicate audio-visually with visitors at the door. Features can include motion detectors, door-and-window sensors, auto locks, and 24/7 live surveillance.

Automated thermostats

Automated thermostats can be used to monitor and regulate room temperature.

Smart switches and bulbs

Smart switches and bulbs are often used to turn lights on and off, or to dim them.

WiFi-enabled control switches can manage home appliances and electronics, such as air conditioning, from any smart device.

High-tech kitchen appliances

Several kitchen appliances are available to help individuals with disabilities. For example, a floor sensor can trigger doors to open when it senses weight above it. Other examples include refrigerators with doors that become see-through when knocked on, and small devices that can be attached to any oven to detect dangerously high temperatures.

 

Last updated: August 7, 2019

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