Humans love to figure out solutions to problems, and because of this, many engineers, scientists, and everyday people have taken on the task of developing equipment and tools that simplify the lives of people with disabilities. No hands? No problem. That’s the beauty of assistive technology. With all of the new advances in technology, the tools available for people with spinal cord injuries are quite astounding. While there is no cure for a spinal cord injury yet, much of what people cannot do can be overcome thanks to various forms of assistive technology.
For quadriplegics, assistive technology is particularly important. With limited arm or hand movement, getting around in this world can be much more difficult. From communication devices to environmental control, assistive technology for people with higher level spinal cord injuries is indispensable. Assistive technology improves independence, and this improved independence means that people do not have to rely so much on their families or caregivers for help in certain areas of their lives.
Whether you’re a quadriplegic or paraplegic, having a cell phone on you at all times is a must. Additionally, for many people, having an intercom system to see who is at the door is a great way to improve safety in the home, especially if you’re in bed alone. Technology that uses the webcam on your computer can be used to monitor your environment, and this technology can also let people know how you’re doing.
There are also hundreds of phone apps that help people with disabilities become more independent. Here is a great list of some of the best apps for living with paralysis from the Florida Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center.
Assistive technology available for the home is really exciting these days, thanks to new advances in technology. “Environmental control” refers to any device that helps a person manage their living environment. With environmental control technology, people with SCI can control many aspects of their home without lifting a finger:
- Turning lights on and off
- Adjusting the AC
- Controlling the TV
- Opening a window
These systems range in price, giving you plenty of options to control your living environment.
If opening doors in your home is difficult for you, you can have a door opener installed in your own home. Some insurance plans will cover this expense because it is a personal safety issue. You can even put your curtains on an automated system so they can be controlled with a remote control.
One of the most common assistive technologies people with spinal cord injuries use is a voice-dictation system for operating their computer. By speaking into your computer (having a desk-mounted microphone is another good idea for quadriplegics), you can control your entire computer without lifting a finger. An eye-tracking system for the mouse is another exciting piece of technology that is now available. This uses the webcam already on your computer, allowing you to control your mouse by moving your head and eyes.
One of the most popular voice-dictation systems available is called Dragon Dictate. This is a great program, but it is a bit expensive. Try using the built-in voice-dictation system in Windows first. Many people like this program and find that it works quite well, meaning they don’t have to spend money on an additional program.
Watch the video below on assistive technology options and remember to read the Takeaway Points below. Assistive technology for every area of life exists. If you need help doing anything, a piece of assistive tech is out there for you.
- Home Automation can help quadriplegics become more independent in their home
- Home Automation can control anything that uses electricity in the home
- Adapted communication devices—smart phones and monitoring systems—are essential for living safely with a spinal cord injury
- Phone apps can help increase your independence
- Eye-tracking systems that use the webcam help quadriplegics independently use their computer
- Spinal Cord Injury Zone: Assistive Technology (archive of new advancements) – http://www.spinalcordinjuryzone.com/tag/assistive-technology
- Broadened Horizons (marketplace for assistive devices, especially environmental controls) – http://www.broadenedhorizons.com
- National Spinal Cord Injury Association – Assistive Technology links – http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php?pg=kb.printer.friendly&id=32