Wednesday, January 23, 2008

unconventional assistive devices

When most people think of assistance devices for people with disabilities they tend to think of things like wheelchairs and blind canes. There are however devices that can be useful to people with disabilities which aren't generally associated with disabilities.

A great example in my life is my PDA (personal digital assistant, palm pilot). These are very handy gadgets for people with Asperger's. We have a tendency to have difficulties with self structuring and dealing with time. The appointment book feature is quite handy for these things. I can put in my appointments along with an alarm to remind me. This can be taken a step further and used to structure your whole day. You can be sitting around playing on the computer when your PDA alarm goes off telling you it's time to do X. Unfortunately I am not to good about this last part. I aought to have alarms for things like brushing my teeth, taking out the garbage, doing my laundry ETC.

Another quite handy feature is the list feature. Sometimes tasks can be overwhelming for people with Asperger's. The solution is to break the task down into it's parts and pieces and do each one individually in sequence. With the list function I can have all the steps of a task and check them off as I do them. This way I can be sure not to forget anything. I use this when I am packing a suitcase to make sure I have packed everything.

Another device I use is my ipod. It didn't really occur to me until recently that I have been using my ipod as a disability aid. Although my social anxiety has improved quite a bit, I still have to deal with it sometimes. Particularly on a long bus rid when the bus is packed. Listening to music helps out with the anxiety. Another issue I have is auditory sensitivities. Using my ipod helps cancel out the all the background noise that bothers me.

Another device which could be useful for autistics and other people with disabilities is the XO laptop This is the laptop that is being given to children in 3rd world countries. A friend of mine has one. Seeing his XO and thinking of getting one for my self got me thinking about possible disability uses for it.

Text to speech (TTS) software could allow it to function like the keyboard used by people with verbal communications difficulties. TTS can also be useful for people with a reading disability. Instead of having to struggle through some article online, you could simply have the computer read it to you.

The XO also has a chat feature where you can chat with other people using an XO. It's basically the same as instant messaging or a chat room. That could be quite useful to autistic people. I know for me interacting with text on a screen can be easier at times than face to face.

It's use as a laptop can also be quite useful. I have some fine motor control difficulties, so handwriting for me is a chore and my handwriting is sloppy as a result. A couple years back I took a writing class where we did writing assignments in class. I explained my situation to the teacher and asked if I could use my laptop and email her the assignments. She said that was fine. Had I not had a laptop I would have struggled though that class.

I am sure there are other disability application for the XO, but these are the ones that came to mind

Unconventional disability aids like those above have some advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that since they aren't sold as disability aids they are widely available, one exception being the XO. Additionally you wont have to worry about having to pay way to much at a medical supply house. The downside is that because they aren't intended as disability aids, it would be very had to get insurance to pay for the. A friend of mine had to go through hell and high water to get medicaid to pay for his wheelchair. I can only imagine how hard it would be to get medicaid to pay for a PDA or ipod.

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