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A physical disability can be any disabling condition or other health impairment that requires adaptive or assistive technology. For example: elderly folks with arthritis or limited mobility, children and teens with birth defects or debilitating diseases, somebody recovering from a serious injury, a veteran with a permanent disability, or anyone with restricted movement.
If a person’s mobility or manual dexterity is restricted, it may affect their activities of daily living. Due to their special needs, these individuals may find the normal operation of household appliances or computers difficult, maybe even impossible. This can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to hold them back. Thanks to modern technology, they can still lead productive and fulfilling lives.
There are many types of assistive devices, adaptive equipment, and accessibility aids available to consumers. Assistive technology enables people to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to accomplish, or that they would have great difficulty accomplishing. Assistive technology can help people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and participate in the classroom, in the workplace, and in their communities.For daily living, kids and adults who have a physical disability or restricted movement can use specially engineered high-tech electronic aids to make life easier. Environmental Control Units (ECU) enable them to manipulate basic household objects such as the TV, radio, CD player, lights, fan, appliances, and even toys. These items can be activated by voice activation, pressure, computer interface, radio frequency, control panels and switches.Computer users who have difficulty using a standard keyboard and mouse can choose from a variety of assistive devices. Mouse alternatives include a foot-controlled mouse, a head-controlled mouse, joysticks, trackballs, touch pads, touch screens, and electronic devices that track eye movements to control the on-screen cursor. Keyboard alternatives include one-handed keyboards, on-screen keyboards, ergonomic keyboards, large-print and large-key keyboards, keyboards with customized overlays, and voice recognition for entering data without a keyboard.
The internet has the power to revolutionize the day-to-day lives of millions of disabled persons by increasing their ability to independently access information, communication, entertainment, shopping, and other online resources that most people take for granted. So it’s important for web developers to consider a site’s ease of use by people who use adaptive devices – especially if it’s a business or organization that claims to provide equal access for people with disabilities. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has an informative “Introduction to Web Accessibility” page.
Millions of individuals worldwide accomplish much in their lives despite having a disability. There are barriers to overcome, but technology is helping to lower many of these barriers. Whether in the home, classroom, or workplace, assistive technology can increase, maintain, or improve the capabilities of people with disabilities.