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Advantages of Assistive Technology

Advantages of Assistive Technology

By Annette Holden

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes assistive technology as: ‘products to maintain or improve an individual's functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being. They enable people to live healthy, productive, independent and dignified lives, and to participate in education, employment and community life’.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides the more simple explanation: ’physical supports that help us to

  • do something more easily or safely 
  • do something you otherwise cannot do because of your disability’. 

In my view both descriptions are apt. For me, personally, assistive technology is transformative. It helps me access the world with my very limited sight and to actively participate in the community with purpose and meaning.

Assistive technology helps provide me with equity: It enables me to engage with the world and escape the isolation that I face without the support.

As every person is unique and each impairment is different, our needs and uses for assistive technology varies widely. But the overall purpose remains the same.

Over the past decade I have used a multitude of assistive technology in various circumstances – in the office, the kitchen, for personal safety, finding my way around, in almost every aspect of daily life. I find that the various supports complement each other. In my experience there is not a ‘one size fits all’ product – with possibly one exception… my fabulous guide dog.  She’s my left arm – and is the ultimate support. I was shocked when I first learnt that NDIS classifies service dogs as assistive technology. But on reflection, they are the ultimate exemplar.

I often say – and I mean it: the international white cane gave me back my life.  But my guide dog IS my life.

That said, there remains an important role for the white cane.  For times when the guide dog can not work or in situations when both are required such as bush walking or mountain hikes.  It’s just one example of assistive technology working together for a greater result.

Another example of mutuality in assistive technology is my new smart phone with Seeing AI and other special applications specifically for use by people living with impaired – or no – sight. I feel much safer and less anxious when I navigate the world with both my dog as well as the amazing artificial intelligence embedded in my phone.

I am excited and thrilled by recent advances in assistive technology. Each year it seems there are improved and more accessible products to make society more inclusive and accessible to all of us. That said, assistive technology can be expensive and therefore not always accessible to those who may need it most.

I believe that a just and humane society will help provide appropriate assistive technology to those who can benefit, as then we’re on the path to true equity.