Assistive technology

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Universal (or broadened) accessibility, or universal design means greater usability, particularly for people with disabilities.

Universally accessible technology yields great rewards to the typical user as well; good accessible design is universal design. One example is the "curb cuts" (or dropped curbs) in the sidewalk at street crossings. While these curb cuts enable pedestrians with mobility impairments to cross the street, they also aid parents with carriages and strollers, shoppers with carts, and travelers and workers with pull-type bags.

As an example, the modern telephone is inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Combined with a text telephone (also known as a TDD Telecommunications device for the deaf and in the USA generally called a TeleTYpewriter or TTY), which converts typed characters into tones that may be sent over the telephone line, a deaf person is able to communicate immediately at a distance. Together with "relay" services, in which an operator reads what the deaf person types and types what a hearing person says, the deaf person is then given access to everyone's telephone, not just those of people who possess text telephones. Many telephones now have volume controls, which are primarily intended for the benefit of people who are hard of hearing, but can be useful for all users at times and places where there is significant background noise. Some have larger keys well-spaced to facilitate accurate dialing.

Also, a person with a mobility impairment can have difficulty using calculators. Speech recognition software recognizes short commands and makes use of calculators easier.

People with learning disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia are using text-to-speech (TTS) software for reading and spelling programs for assistance in writing texts.

Computers, with their hardware extensibility, editing, spellchecking and speech synthesis software are becoming the cornerstone of assistive technologies, improving quality of life for those with learning disabilities and visual impairments. Spell assist programs and voice-recognition facilities are also bringing the text reading and writing experience to the wider public.

Toys that have been adapted to be used by children with disabilities might have advantages for non-disabled children as well. The Lekotek movement assists parents by lending assistive technology toys and expertise to families.

Many health professionals may be certified by RESNA (RESNA.org) to serve assistive technology needs: occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists/audiologists, orthotists and prosthetists, educators, and rehabilitation and health professionals.

Assistive technology products

Personal Emergency Response Systems

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), or Telecare (UK term), are a particular sort of assistive technology that use electronic sensors connected to an alarm system to help caregivers manage risk and help vulnerable people stay independent at home longer. An example would be the systems being put in place for senior people such as fall detectors, thermometers (for hypothermia risk), flooding and unlit gas sensors (for people with mild dementia). Notably, these alerts can be customized to the particular person's risks. When the alert is triggered, a message is sent to a caregiver or contact center who can respond appropriately.

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