Many people live with disabilities that affect their ability to perform daily living tasks. Fortunately, those suffering from physical and mental limitations can benefit greatly by incorporating adaptive equipment and assistive devices into their everyday lives. In this article, we will explore the differences between assistive and adaptive devices and how different devices can be used to better the everyday lives of the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Assistive vs. Adaptive Equipment

Assistive equipment includes devices and technology that allow people with disabilities to participate in daily life with greater ease. Assistive equipment is specifically designed to meet the needs of a disabled person. Adaptive equipment and technology is a subcategory of assistive equipment and technology. Adaptive equipment has been modified or enhanced from its original purpose to specifically meet the needs of a person with a disability. Adaptive equipment is more specialized. Both assistive and adaptive equipment refer to devices and technology that help people live more independently. Both assistive and adaptive equipment help improve people’s mobility, communication, and sensory abilities. Some equipment is relatively low tech, such as crutches, canes, and basic wheelchairs. Other equipment is very sophisticated, specialized, and technologically advanced.

Examples of Assistive Devices & Adaptive Equipment

There are many examples of adaptive devices and assistive technology benefiting people with disabilities. These categories are broken down as follows:

Daily Living Devices The largest category of assistive devices for people with disabilities, these items allow individuals to safely live at home for as long as possible. They’re specifically designed to help complete activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Here are some of the most common assistive and adaptive daily living devices:

  • Clothing: Dressing sticks, long-handled shoe horns, button hooks, sock aids, elastic shoelaces
  • Bathing: Tub/shower chairs, handheld shower heads, grab bars, commodes, toilet risers, tub mats
  • Hygiene: Protective undergarments, mattress/floor protectors, catheters
  • Mobility: Transfer boards, mechanical lifts, bed bars, hip pads
  • Eating & Food Preparation: Adaptive utensils, non-skid bowls, plate guards, scoop dishes, long straws, smart appliances
  • Organization: Reach extenders, specialized handles and grips, self-opening scissors, bedside organizers
  • Reading & Learning: Automatic page turners, book holders, adapted pen/pencil grips
  • Medication: Medication organizers, dosage timers, pill crushers/splitters
  • Safety: Personal emergency response systems (pendant, bracelet, or belt)

Mobility Devices This category includes a wide variety of items that make it easier to navigate one’s physical environment. Along with reducing healthcare costs, these products can improve access to social, educational and recreational opportunities. Below is a list of assistive devices specifically designed to improve mobility:

  • Wheelchairs (manual or electric)
  • Three-wheeled scooters
  • Walkers/walking frames
  • Canes/walking sticks
  • Crutches
  • Prosthetic and orthotic devices
  • Orthopedic shoes
  • Mounting systems
  • Braces
  • Gait belts

Positioning Devices Positioning products and equipment are among the most common assistive technology devices for physical disabilities. People with physical disabilities may have difficulty maintaining good posture, leaving them more at risk of developing deformities and other health problems. Positioning devices include wedges, standing frames, cushions, splints and corner chairs to name a few.

 Hearing Devices Along with making it easier to hear, these assistive devices can improve language skills, thereby increasing social engagement and access to learning and employment. Examples of assistive technology for hearing include:

  • Hearing aids and loops
  • Cochlear implants
  • Coupling accessories
  • Frequency modulation (FM) systems
  • Headphones for listening to audiovisual content
  • Closed captioning
  • Visual alert systems
  • Real-time transcription
  • Teletype phones (TTYs)
  • Telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs)

Vision Devices This category of assistive devices contains products designed for individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Examples include:

  • Large-print books
  • Braille systems
  • Audiobooks
  • Screen readers
  • Screen enlargement applications
  • Voice recognition programs
  • Traditional phones with large buttons or visual keyboard displays
  • Smart devices with voice-to-text and voice-operated commands

Communication Devices These assistive technology items are intended to help people who have difficulty producing or understanding speech. Depending on their functionalities, these devices may be referred to as augmentative (supporting speech) or alternative (compensating for speech). Examples include:

  • Communication boards (with pictures, symbols, and/or letters)
  • Request cards
  • Electronic speech output devices
  • Eye gaze and head trackers
  • Picture-based instructions
  • Augmentative & assistive communication systems (AACs)

Cognitive Devices Cognitive devices are specifically designed to help people with brain injuries, dementia, mental illness, and intellectual disabilities. Adaptive cognitive devices include diaries, calendars, lists, schedules, and personal organizers. There are also a variety of assistive devices intended specifically for people with dementia, including:

  • “Talking” wristwatches
  • Voice-activated phone dialers
  • Automated pill dispensers
  • Beeping devices on small items
  • Warning signs on dangerous appliances
  • Mobility monitors/tracking systems
  • Medical ID bracelets

Technology in Assistive and Adaptive Devices

The life of Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) provides us with an inspiring example of advanced technology in assistive and adaptive devices. This debilitating disease left Hawking completely paralyzed, unable to move, speak, eat, or breathe on his own; however, he lived with it for 55 years. Hawking was able to communicate through a computerized speech synthesizer, which he activated initially through touch, then later, through a switch he activated with his cheek. He was able to operate his motorized wheelchair with a similar switch. Later, a special switch was integrated into his glasses, which allowed him to operate his computer more easily. Assistive technology allowed Hawking to continue his physics research throughout his life. Much of the technology that assisted Hawking was adapted from its original assistive format, to help compensate for his extremely limited mobility.

Choosing the Right Adaptive Equipment & Assistive Devices

The wide variety of assistive and adaptive devices for persons with disabilities can make choosing the right product very overwhelming. It’s important to consult with a doctor and any other relevant professionals who can help find the best device to meet the need. Depending on the situation, this may include teachers, physical or occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and representatives from companies that manufacture assistive technologies.

Solving the Need for Long Distance Transportation

When it comes to transporting individuals with disabilities, it requires specialized vehicles and crews specifically trained for the task. TransMedCare provides safe and secure state-to-state non-emergency medical transport for distances over 300 miles. Trips are typically to and from hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private residences. New state-of-the-art transport vans feature all the comforts of home, including TV, Wi-Fi, Netflix, memory foam mattress and the convenience of an on-board toilet so there is never a need to leave the vehicle. Highly skilled caregivers provide companionship and patient care as directed throughout the trip. Meals are provided, and the family is updated regularly on patient status and time of arrival. Family members and pets are welcome to ride along. If you have a loved one with a disability or medical condition that needs to relocate, TransMedCare is here to help. CLICK HERE or call 888-984-3722 and a booking specialist will respond promptly.

Sources: UDS Foundation / Study.com / Wikipedia