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Assistive Devices And Technologies – What Do They Mean For Physically Challenged People?

Assistive Devices, wheelchairs, access to mobility, independent life, motorized scooters

People with disabilities lose their natural ability to perform their activities and are unable to maintain their body movements, for which they must take the help of some disability assistive health devices. Most of these devices, better known as mobility aids, assist in walking and consist of canes, crutch walkers, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters. Devices like crutches, canes, and walkers suit people who can stand on their feet but unable to move around while wheelchairs and motorized scooters are for people who are unable to support their bodies and remain seated always. They can use wheelchairs and motorized scooters to move around. All such devices make use of assistive technology, which has many other applications besides assisting mobility. The hearing impaired can use hearing aids, which are amplification devices for making it easy to hear normal sounds. A magnifying glass is a device that helps people with poor vision.

Mobility devices help disabled persons to overcome their disabilities and be treated as equal as any average person by being able to move around independently. It gives them opportunities for work, access to education and social life, and enhances participation in their communities. Facilitating access to mobility is a humanitarian requirement stated in Article 20 of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the onus is on the states to take adequate measures by facilitating access to mobility aids and devices.

Liberating people from long term care

Assistive technology allows many disabled persons to lead an independent life and makes them confident of enjoying life in the same way as others. It keeps them fit and eliminates dependence on home health care or nursing home care in the long term.  Assisted technology is critical for some people who are unable to perform the simple tasks of daily living, such as bathing.  From aids for daily living to devices that aid blind people and those with low vision and devices that help those with hearing impairment, a lot of many other devices are available in the market.  Prosthetics help amputees to replace lost limbs and orthotics like braces and other items support limbs or joints.

What constitutes assistive devices?

With 40,000 assistive devices available in the market, it is not easy to name each one of them. Instead, it is easier to understand which devices qualify as assistive devices by understanding its role to overcome the limitations faced by disabled people. Any device or technology whose primary purpose is to maintain or improve the functioning and independence of individuals to facilitate participation and enhance their overall well-being can qualify as assisted devices. These devices can also prevent secondary health conditions and impairment.

Assistive technology is for people of all ages

Assistive devices serve people of all ages, from children to senior citizens.   School going children can attend classes regularly and reduce their dependence on school-related services. Working-age individuals can reduce their reliance on paid assistants and family members and even able to improve their earnings. Elderly individuals can lead an independent life by reducing their dependence on others or paid assistance and can avoid going to nursing homes. 

It is interesting that despite the widespread use of assisted devices, almost 50% gets abandoned that shows its effectiveness because as people get better by using the devices, they prefer to live without it. However, poor choice of devices is also a reason for people not being able to make proper use and give it up.  Lack of information about appropriate maintenance ends up in people stopping to use the device, and lack of access to repairing facilities is also a reason for abandoning the devices.

How to reduce device abandonment

Since most of the device abandonment happens due to the wrong choice, it is essential to pay attention to the process of device selection that must match with the needs of users. Determining the needs of individuals as much correctly as possible can ensure that people make the right choices to serve their purpose and benefit from using the device. The kind of activities you want to perform and the type of assistance you need should help to identify the right device. Moreover, knowledge about the capabilities of the device in aiding disability is also necessary to ascertain its suitability. To be sure that the choice is right, you can obtain some referrals from a specialist in assistive technology or medical practitioner for durable medical equipment who can endorse your selection. 

Involve many people in the selection

Older adults may not be able to identify their needs on their own, and the caregivers who attend and assist them are best placed to assess the requirements correctly. Working collaboratively by seeking inputs from all persons concerned with taking care of the affected individual is the best way to identify the precise challenges and select the most useful devices at an affordable cost. For example, someone who has difficulties in hearing or communicating might consult the doctor, a speech-language therapist, or an audiology specialist as well as family members and friends to arrive at a conclusion about which device would be most effective for the person.

Safety matters most

During the selection of assistive devices, one must keep safety in mind so that it does not harm the individual and pay attention to the user-friendliness aspect of the device.  The health condition of the individual that has a link to the activities that he or she can perform must be topmost in mind to ensure safe and efficient use of the device. For mobility devices, you must understand the extent and type of mobility that one wants to achieve by using the device that influences the choice. If you are thinking about canes and crutches, you must evaluate the kind of support that it provides and how best you can make use of it in a safe manner.

If there is even the slightest feeling of discomfort in using the device, it is a sign that the device is not suitable, and you must look for some other alternatives. Safety and comfort of use are non-negotiable when selecting assisted devices.


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