Assistive Technology for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A man reads braille to a woman from a book

The World Health Organization defines assistive products and technology as those that “maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being.”

Understanding what assistive technology is, what it looks like, and how you can access it unlocks the door to more confidence, independence, and empowerment. Read on to learn more about these topics and more.


Why Assistive Technology Matters

The umbrella term “assistive technology” can include a dynamic range of services and resources. 

Its value goes far beyond making daily life easier, though; it helps people with disabilities more readily and confidently navigate the world around them through means like:

  • Empowerment. Assistive technology fills gaps that might limit a person’s ability to thrive. In doing so, it empowers individuals with disabilities to tackle new challenges, set goals, and feel able to do anything they set their minds to.
  • Equity. These tools ensure that every person has what they need to succeed. No one is left behind by limitations or needs outside of their control.
  • Inclusion. Assistive devices make it easier for individuals with disabilities to engage in their community. They can have their needs met without being physically or socially isolated from others.
  • Independence. With tools that provide support, people with disabilities can manage their own needs more readily and consistently. More independence often translates to more confidence.

Types of Assistive Technologies & How They Work

While there are too many examples of assistive technology to list at a time, most fall into distinct categories based on their purpose. 

No matter what, it can be important to consult with professionals (such as doctors, teachers, etc.) to find the solutions that fit your needs.

Accessible Educational Materials

Many resources involving cognitive function can be inaccessible or challenging to use for people with disabilities. 

Technologies like those below adapt materials to meet a person’s needs so they can engage with them independently.

  • Educational software guided by a user’s pace
  • Software that reads text aloud or simplifies complex concepts
  • Large-print books
  • Audiobooks
  • Screen enlargement programs
  • Closed captioning and Braille resources

Communication Aids

A communication aid can be any tool that helps people communicate effectively. They’re most often used for those who have difficulty understanding or using speech to express themselves. 

Common examples include:

  • Picture boards and picture-based instructions
  • Apps for tablets, smartphones, etc.
  • Speech-generating software or devices
  • Eye-tracking speech and visual output devices
  • Augmentative and alternative communication devices (AACs)
  • Communication cards

Mobility Aids

Anything that can assist with movement, body alignment, balance, and coordination can be considered a mobility aid. These tools help support independence and empowerment by making it possible to move comfortably, safely, and effectively.

Examples of mobility aids include:

  • Wheelchairs
  • Canes, walking sticks, or walkers
  • Modified vehicles
  • Gait trainers/belts
  • Adaptive equipment, including modified eating utensils, writing tools, etc.
  • Orthopedic shoes and devices

Sensory Tools

Technology that either regulates or makes up for a lack of sensory input is popular among individuals and families with developmental disorders. The power to take charge of sensory stimuli can be both freeing and essential.

Some popular sensory assistive devices include:

  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Black-out curtains
  • Sensory or stim toys

Smart Technology and Computer Tools

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can often benefit from tools that help them utilize other resources. 

These technologies might simplify using computers, phones, or items in a person’s environment. The goal is to remove barriers that limit how much an individual can control or interact with their surroundings. 

Some examples include:

  • Smartwatches
  • Voice-activated lights, thermostats, phone dialers, etc.
  • Adaptive keyboards
  • Touchscreen devices
  • Voice recognition software
  • Automated home technology
  • Medical monitoring and tracking devices

How You Can Access Assistive Technology

Many forms of assistive technology can be found at local or regional service providers and organizations. They’re sometimes funded by government programs, school districts, and dedicated programs. 

However, exploring these resources can be confusing, especially if you’re new to using assistive devices.
At NeuroNav, our collective experience helping individuals and families with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disorders find the resources they need can benefit you, too. 

We aim to support those in need of assistance in areas like assistive technology as well as self-determination program participants in California.

Our services can help connect you with the tools you or a loved one may need to thrive. Book a free consultation today to learn more. 

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