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Assistive technology for the disabled makes use of technological advances to aid those with certain disabilities in performing day-to-day tasks that they would otherwise have significant difficulty performing. The most common types are those that assist people with impaired hearing or vision. Schools and other learning facilities also use assistive technology to help children with learning or developmental disorders.
For those who are hard of hearing or completely deaf, assistive technology for the disabled allows them to communicate with others over the phone, or enjoy a television show without sound. In the past, phones for the hearing impaired involved a relay person who would listen to the person speaking and type up their words, which would then appear on the screen of the person with the hearing impairment. With the invention of speech-to-text technology, the system no longer requires a relay person, as the phones themselves can translate the speech into text through a software program. Closed caption television allows those who have difficulty hearing to watch a show and read what the characters are saying, allowing them to keep up with the plot.
While those with hearing impairments rely on speech-to-text technology to stay connected to the auditory world, the blind or severely visually impaired rely on text-to-speech to assist them in tasks that typically require visual acuity. These assistive technologies for the disabled devices typically have software programs in them that look at the text and translate it into speech. While some systems sound very robotic, advances in the technology are creating more human-sounding voices. Those with vision impairments also use speech-to-text to allow them to create word documents.
Schools and other facilities use assistive technology for the disabled to help students with different learning or developmental disorders or delays. Students with hearing and vision impairments use similar technology in the classroom as those used in the home. Keyboards and computer mice can also be altered to make them more useful to those with learning disabilities. Students with autism spectrum disorders may benefit from visual representations of standard items such as schedules and classroom instructions.
Advances in assistive technology for the disabled continue to be made on a regular basis, allowing those with disabilities to perform more tasks with greater ease than they could in the past. Although assistive technology devices can be expensive, in many cases medical insurance covers part or all of the cost. Those with disabilities should speak to their doctor to find out which devices are available for their needs and how to obtain those devices.