Assistive Technologies Give People with Disabilities Opportunities for Independence

October 28, 2016 by dccinc

Today, none of us could imagine living without the help of technology.  Assistive technology is having a positive impact on the lives of people with single or multiple disabilities because it promotes independence by enabling them to perform tasks that have been a struggle to accomplish. Technological innovations focused on solving disability issues aren’t something new; it has been around for centuries. For example, Thomas Edison invented phonographs to record books for the blind. Devices such as audiobooks and door handles were created to assist people with disabilities. Apple’s iPhone is another example of a technological advancement that assists people with disabilities. The voice tool (Siri) on the iPhone as well as other applications makes the iPhone more accessible and user-friendly so people with disabilities can easily perform tasks.

Several of the technological devices people use today were created with disabilities in mind. In Canada, there are “more than 1.2 billion people with some type of disability. Currently, there are more than 4,000 assistive technologies that have been designed for people with disabilities.” “For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible”

Definition of Assistive Technology (AT): There are several definitions of assistive technology. “The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines assistive technologies as any product produced or available and is used by or for persons with disabilities: for participation; to protect, support, train, measure or substitute for body functions/structures and activities; or to prevent impairments and activity limitations. This includes devices, equipment, instruments, and software”

Benefits of Assistive Technology: Assistive technology provides people with disabilities with the support they need to accomplish their daily activities. This can be achieved with tools that help them be more mobile, communicate more effectively, see and hear better, and increases their participation in all areas of their lives. Instead of ‘fixing’ people’s disabilities, assistive technology provides the opportunity to live independently and gives them access to and the ability to participate in social, educational, and recreational activities.

Canadian Assistive Technology Funding & Financial Aid: There are several programs across Canada that provide funding for people with disabilities who need assistive technology devices. Here are some examples of programs that provide funding for this purpose:

  • Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP): “the RDSP is long-term savings plan to assist Canadians with disabilities and their families. This plan allows them to save for the future. For people with disabilities who already have an RDSP, they may also be eligible for grants and bonds. People with disabilities should consider opening an RDSP if they have a long-term disability and are:
    • Eligible for the Disability Tax Credit
    • Under the age of 60
    • A Canadian resident with a Social Insurance Number; and
    • Looking for a long-term savings plan”

For more information about the RDSP, visit: (Government of Canada: Registered Disability Savings Plan).

  • Disability Tax Credit (DTC): “the disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities or supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. An individual may claim the disability amount once they are eligible for the DTC. This amount includes a supplement for persons less than 18 years of age at the end of the year. The purpose of the DTC is to provide for greater tax equity by allowing some relief for disability costs since these are unavoidable additional expenses”.
  • Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP): “the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care runs ADP to help people who have long-term physical disabilities get needed equipment and supplies. ADP pays 75% of an approved price. If you receive social assistance benefits under Ontario Works (OW), Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Assistance to Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD), you may be eligible to receive more money. Any Ontario resident who has a long-term disability and has a valid Health Card issued in his or her name can apply to ADP”.
  • March of Dimes Canada— Assistive Devices Program: the “March of Dimes Assistive Devices Program assists adults with physical disabilities who are in financial need to purchase assistive devices that increase their mobility and functional independence. The program can help to buy, repair, and maintain a wide variety of mobility or assistive devices. Some devices that may qualify for funding include”:
  • Manual and Power Wheelchairs
  • Scooters
  • Replacement Batteries
  • Walkers
  • Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis (KAFO)
  • Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO)
  • Home and Bath Aids
  • Floor Patient Lifts
  • Basic Aids for Daily Living
  • Repairs to Existing Devices
  • Easter Seals Society: “the Easter Seals Society provides programs, services, and financial assistance to children and youth with physical disabilities to help them achieve independence, accessibility and integration. Easter Seals provides financial assistance of up to $3,000 per year, per child to help purchase essential mobility equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, ramps or lifts”
  • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP): “the Ministry of Community and Social Services, ODSP provides income and employment supports to eligible Ontario residents who have disabilities. To qualify for ODSP income support, you must:
    • Be at least 18 years old
    • Be an Ontario resident
    • Be in financial need and
    • Meet the program’s definition of a person with a disability”

Examples of Assistive Technology

Category Product Examples
Mobility ·        Cane, Scooter, Walker, Manual and Powered Wheelchair


·        Artificial leg or hand, hand or leg splints and orthotics

·        Adaptive cutlery and cooking utensils and electrical kitchen appliances, button hooks and other dressing aids, shower chair, toilet seat, toilet frame, assistive feeding devices

Vision ·        Glasses, magnifiers, magnifying computer software


·         White cane, navigation device

·        Braille systems for reading and writing, screen reader for computer, talking book devices/programs, audio recorder and player

·        Braille chess, balls that emit sound

Hearing ·        Headphones, hearing aids


·        Amplified telephone, TTY, hearing loop

Communication ·        Communication cards with text, communication board with letters, symbols or pictures


·        Electronic communication device with recorded or synthetic speech

·        Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil, LiveScribe Recordable Pen

Cognition ·        Task lists, picture schedule and calendar, picture based instructions


·        Timer, manual or automatic reminder, smart phone with adapted tasks lists, schedules, calendars and audio recorder

·        Adapted toys and games

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