assistive technologyLast updated
Assistive technology (also referred to as “adaptive technology” or an “assistive device”) refers to a device, object, or program used by a person with a disability whose disability is not accommodated by the existing built or social environment. Assistive technology commonly includes mobility devices (for example, canes or walkers), communication technology, screen readers, hearing devices, or prosthetics. Many people with disabilities also develop their own assistive devices and adapt existing objects.
Describing someone as, for instance, “using” a wheelchair rather than being “confined” to it or “dependent on” it avoids defining someone’s experiences with these devices for them. “Assistive technology,” though often used interchangeably with “adaptive technology,” is a more precise term, as “adaptive” could imply a need or desire to adapt to “normal.” Terms like “futuristic,” or “cyborg” can suggest that the devices are a scientific miracle, but many assistive devices are as mundane to the person who uses them as the equivalent object would be to a person without a similar disability.
- Assistive Technology Glossary (Center on Technology and Disability)
- Engineering at Home: Adaptations (Engineering at Home)
- Assistive Technology Glossary Terms (Perkins School for the Blind)
Assistive technology is any device or object used by a person with a disability to navigate an existing built environment that otherwise is not accessible to them, such as a screen reader to read the text on a website. Describing someone as, for instance, “using” a wheelchair rather than being “confined” to it or “dependent on” it avoids defining someone’s experiences with these devices for them.