Assistive technology can often be the difference between an accessible world and an inaccessible one.

But knowing what is out there isn’t always easy.

So Inform spoke with Dr Kate Anderson of Deakin University to find out how you can learn more about AT.

On a cool afternoon in her home in regional Victoria, Judi Potts explains how she makes a cup of tea.

‘When I’m making a cup of tea. I can’t see the water. If it’s a white cup, I can’t see the water. If it’s a dark cup, I can’t see the water,’ she says.

Her vision impairment poses challenges for Judi in the kitchen, but assistive technology (AT) has made a big difference.   

‘I’ve got what’s called a liquid level indicator.’

Judi holds up a little red box. It’s about the size of a matchbox. Three metal prongs extend out the top and down the side, two long and one short. She sits the box on the edge of the cup. And as she pours hot water into the cup she explains how the prongs work.

‘That first beep that goes that tells me when the water is at a high enough level for milk to be put in the cup. When it’s a steady beep, that means that the water has reached the top of the cup and you’re to stop. So, I can’t over pour the cup and burn myself which is terrific,’ she says.

Assistive technology can play an important role in making the world more accessible. From powered wheelchairs to specially designed kettles and liquid level indicators, AT comes in all shapes and sizes.

But knowing what’s out there is not always easy.

Finding information about AT

Dr Kate Anderson is a senior lecturer at Deakin University. Her research focuses on communication assistive technology. Dr Anderson spoke with Inform about AT and the different ways to learn about what is available and how it might help you.

‘There’s a whole heap of resources out there for people who are interested in assistive technology,’ Dr Anderson said.

Dr Anderson points to podcasts like Easter Seals and Inform as well as organisations like ISAAC, the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, as being valuable sources of information. She also cites health professionals as important resources.

‘The professional that you need to get in touch with is your occupational therapist. Because occupational therapists have probably the best knowledge about assistive technology. Combined with rehabilitation engineers, and also other assistive technology specialists like speech pathologists who know a lot about argumentative and alternative communication.’

Image is of a woman with dark curly hair, wearing glasses. She is looking up with her finger placed on her lip in a manner that suggests she is thinking. Above her, lights bulbs have been drawn on the image and one is lit up. Inform Online. Assistive technology.

Social media and online discussion forums are another place that Dr Anderson highlights as being worth investigating.

‘We find that people are using social media a lot. And they’re using discussion forums a lot to share really valuable information about assistive technology,’ she said.

‘For instance, asking people for reviews of products before you actually try it yourself or before you outlay a lot of money. What worked for them, whether they had any complaints with it, what kind of supports or services they received from the company.’

‘Some of that information that can be quite difficult to access from a provider. But can be really important when it comes to how you’re going to use that piece of technology in your life.’

Where to find more information about assistive technology:

Podcasts:

Easter Seals:

https://www.eastersealstech.com/category/assistive-tech-update/

The Disability Visibility Project:

https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2017/10/01/ep-3-assistive-technology/

The Inform Podcast:

https://www.informonline.org.au/series-2-episode-2-assistive-technology/

Organisations:

ISAAC

Australian Rehabilitation & Assistive Technology Association

Assistive Technology Australia

Allied health professionals:

  • Occupational Therapists
  • Rehabilitation Engineers
  • AT Assessors
  • AT Mentors
  • Speech Pathologists

Other resources:

  • Social media
  • Online discussion forums

Ready to read more? Try these Inform links:

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