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What Is Computer Assistive Technology?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Computer assistive technology helps people with disabilities perform basic tasks, ranging from assignments for work to calling family members. It includes hardware, like refreshable braille displays for deaf-blind computer users, as well as software programs such as voice recognition. Manufacturers of assistive technology may focus on a particular demographic, or could make a range of software and hardware products aimed at a variety of disabilities. People with disabilities themselves are also involved in the development of computer assistive technology.

This technology includes a range of products, including alternative input devices, specialized displays, handheld communication tools, and a variety of other forms of technology. One large area in the computer assistive technology market is alternative input devices. Voice recognition technology, on-screen keyboards, head-mounted displays, and braille styluses are all examples of these devices. This technology allows people to communicate with tools other than a traditional keyboard. They can enable the generation of documents as well as participation in chats and other social events.

People may also need assistance with retrieving information. Screen readers and braille displays enable access for blind and deaf-blind users who cannot read text. Voice recognition can automatically caption videos for deaf users. Adapters can enable communication between deaf and hearing people and vice versa, with the use of various telecommunications devices. Technology not specifically designed for disability purposes, like videophones, can also be used as a form of computer assistive technology.

Computers can magnify text, convert it to more readable fonts, provide information like the alt tags associated with images, and so forth to enable Internet users to access websites more easily. Such technology can also be used for activities like managing medications, generating schedules, and planning activities. People with brain injuries, for example, may rely on computer assistive technology to keep them on-task so they can retain independence. Instead of having to be reminded to complete tasks by a caregiver, they can be prompted by a computer or mobile device, for example.

Some insurance plans and government programs cover computer assistive technology for people with disabilities. Grants and community assistance programs may also be available. Sometimes, alternatives not specifically designed for disability purposes are less expensive, for people who have trouble accessing the tools they need. A tablet computer, for example, may have a text to speech application that could be used to communicate with friends, family, and caregivers even though it was not designed with that use in mind.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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