Adaptive vs. Assistive Technology

The term adaptive technology is often used as the synonym for assistive technology; however, they are different terms. Assistive technology refers to “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”, while adaptive technology covers items that are specifically designed for persons with disabilities and would seldom be used by non-disabled persons. Assistive technology is any service or tool that helps the elderly or disabled do the activities they have always done but must now do differently. In other words, “assistive technology is any object or system that increases or maintains the capabilities of people with disabilities,” while adaptive technology is “any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities.” Consequently, adaptive technology is a subset of assistive technology. Adaptive technology often refers specifically to electronic and information technology access.

Here are some samples of Adaptive Technology:

Screen readers allow the visually impaired to easily access electronic information. These software programs connect to a computer to read the text displayed out loud. There is a variety of platforms and applications available for a variety of costs.

Braille and Braille Embossers. Braille is a system of raised dots formed into units called braille cells. A full braille cell is made up of six dots, with two parallel rows of three dots, but other combinations and quantities of dots represent other letters, numbers, punctuation marks, or words. People can then use their fingers to read the code of raised dots.

A braille embosser is, simply put, a printer for braille. Instead of a standard printer adding ink onto a page, the braille embosser imprints the raised dots of braille onto a page. Some braille embossers combine both braille and ink so the documents can be read with either sight or touch.

Large-print and tactile keyboards. A large-print keyboard has large letters printed on the keys. On the keyboard shown, the round buttons at the top control software which can magnify the screen (zoom in), change the background color of the screen, or make the mouse cursor on the screen larger. The “bump dots” on the keys, installed in this case by the organization using the keyboards, help the user find the right keys in a tactile way.

Amplified telephone equipment. This type of assistive technology allows users to amplify the volume and clarity of their phone calls so that they can easily partake in this medium of communication. There are also options to adjust the frequency and tone of a call to suit their individual hearing needs. Additionally, there is a wide variety of amplified telephones to choose from, with different degrees of amplification. For example, a phone with 26 to 40 decibel is generally sufficient for mild hearing loss, while a phone with 71 to 90 decibel is better for more severe hearing loss.

Impacts of assistive technology. Overall, assistive technology aims to allow people with disabilities to “participate more fully in all aspects of life (home, school, and community)” and increases their opportunities for “education, social interactions, and potential for meaningful employment.” It creates greater independence and control for disabled individuals. For example, in one study of 1,342 infants, toddlers and preschoolers, all with some kind of developmental, physical, sensory, or cognitive disability, the use of assistive technology created improvements in child development. These included improvements in “cognitive, social, communication, literacy, motor, adaptive, and increases in engagement in learning activities.”

Here are some samples of Assistive Technology:

Adaptive Cutting Equipment

Cutting aids help make working in the kitchen much easier for one-handed people. Cutting boards are ideal for cutting fruits, vegetables and even buttering a piece of bread. Four rubber suction feet hold the board in place while working with only one hand. Two food guards prevent food from sliding off edges and two spikes hold food secure while cutting. Also ideal for people with the use of only one hand are rocker knives. Simply apply gentle pressure to the handle with your whole hand and rock back and forth and the blade cuts food easily. Specialized cutting equipment will allow one-handed individuals to work more efficiently and independently in the kitchen.

Holders

Peeling potatoes, apples or cucumbers is certainly an impossible task for one-handed individuals, but there are products now available to make that task easy. The peeling plate holds the fruit or vegetable with its two sharp prongs and all you have to do is peel! Additionally, pot and pan holders are a must for cooking on a stovetop. Suction feet secure the Pan Holder to the stove and the wire frame holds the Pot handle while you stir your food, keeping the pan from accidentally turning and causing spills. These adaptive holders make it easier to prepare and cook food with only one hand.

Non Slip Mats

The dual non-slip surface of these mats provides a secure grip to your kitchen counter, table or desk. Whether you are using a mixer, eating or writing a letter, these mats are invaluable to one-handed individuals. They prevent paper from slipping while writing, and anchor bowls and plates while either preparing food or eating with one hand.

Dinnerware

Suction dinnerware was designed for one-handed people in mind. These non-skid plates and bowls stick securely to the table allowing people with only one hand to scoop food without the assistance of an aid or caregiver.

Openers

Opening jars, unscrewing lids and removing bottle tops can sometimes be difficult for even a two-handed person! The revolutionary design of one-handed bottle and jar openers relieve this troublesome task for the single handed person.

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Celebrating 53 Years of the Developmental Disabilities Act

Fifty three years ago today, President John F. Kennedy signed a historic piece of legislation that we now know as the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act).

At the time, people with developmental disabilities (DD) faced exclusion from many spheres of public and private life, including most schools and community spaces. Many spent nearly their entire lives in large, state-run institutions that were often grossly underfunded and where reports of systemic abuse and neglect were common.

Speaking in Montgomery, Ala. this summer, Administration on Disabilities Commissioner Aaron Bishop explained how he came to see the parallels between the segregation and discrimination faced by people with DD and his family’s experiences of racial segregation and discrimination.

Bishop also describes the evolution of DD Act programs and their impact in Alabama and across the country over the last 53 years.

In that time, as the DD Act has grown to provide a broader range of programs that aim to improve integration and inclusion of people with DD, so too have the opportunities for people with DD to live and thrive in the community.

Today, DD Act programs, funded by ACL, in every state and territory empower individuals with DD and their families to help shape the policies that impact them. DD Act programs conduct important research and test innovative new service delivery models. They work to break down barriers and bring the latest knowledge and resources to those who can put it to the best use—including self-advocates families, service providers, and policymakers. And DD Act programs investigate cases of alleged abuse and serve as advocates for individuals with DD and their families.

Social Security Announces 0.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2017

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2017. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2016. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $127,200 from $118,500. Of the estimated 173 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2017, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2017, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS: Attached is a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments.

All Votes Matter

Voting is often seen as the cornerstone of American democracy, but so few people vote leading to a lack of voices being heard. The voting process used in the United States is described in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution. Basically, the process works with a two-part system. On the first Tuesday of November, millions of American citizens go out to cast their vote. This is known as the popular vote, and what few people realize is that this vote doesn’t actually elect the president.

Do you understand what the Electoral College is? I didn’t have a clear understanding of it, so I thought I would take a minute to try to help you to understand how it works.

After the American citizens go out and vote, the Electoral College casts their vote. These electors are people of different states, and the number of electors for each state is the number of U.S. Senators plus the number of U.S. Representatives for that state. Some states have laws requiring the electors of the college to vote for the member that won the popular vote in that state, but others are bound by pledges they made to certain political parties.

The Electoral College is seen as a controversial mechanism within elections. It was designed by the framers of the Constitution because of fears regarding presidential elections. Some politicians at that time believed selecting the winner just on the popular election was too reckless, but other politicians were concerned with giving the power to Congress to select the president. Thus, they created the Electoral College to balance the popular vote and the electoral vote. Most of the presidents of the United States have been winners of the popular vote as well as the electoral vote. However, there have been rare situations in which the winner of the election was one who had more electoral votes than popular votes.

Is the system safe or perfect? Well, it can be ‘safe’ to say that NO system is completely ‘perfect’. These government systems were designed by humans, and humans themselves are flawed. So, how can you expect perfection from a system designed by imperfect beings? The best you can do is to do your part to try and salvage the system.

After learning about the Electoral College, there are a large number of voters who end up discouraged. After all, if the electoral vote is really the only vote that matters, what would be the point of voting at all? However, the popular vote is what helps the Electoral College make their decision. Deciding not to vote because you believe your vote doesn’t matter is basically like handing off the win to the candidate you don’t like. Every vote counts because, again, many states have laws requiring the Electoral College to follow the popular vote of that state. Plus, your vote also puts those electors in the Electoral College.

The system might seem corrupt, but it won’t get any better if you sit on the sidelines complaining about how horrible it is. Voting is your right and your responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America. The democracy of this country was founded upon free and fair elections where every eligible citizen casts a vote.

Withdrawing your vote breaks down the electoral process at its most basic element – the people. The rules set down to guide the voting process were not designed to harm us but rather to help us. The winner might not always be the one we hoped for, but we can move on with hopes that the next vote will lead to our pick being the one to win.

When we vote, it’s not just for those individuals that will go to Washington to lead us. We will also be voting for local representatives, state and city, along with local issues that will affect our local community. These decisions will affect money, education, public safety, roads and many other day to day issues of our lives.

Don’t be one of those individuals that have thrown in the towel with our system. You still have the right and the responsibility to vote. Please do it!

Finding Employment with a Disability

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and what better topic to write about than what it feels like to look for employment when you have a disability. All the steps you take even before you decide to take that first step and get that application, the emotions you go through trying to decide if you can even handle all the stares and questions and the possible rejections because of the disabilities you have. When businesses decide that your abilities greatly outweigh your disabilities and see that you can contribute so much to their company it is a win for both of you.

People always say the first step is always the hardest and that is very true. Trying to find a job when you have no disabilities can be a difficult process but when you are faced with physical limitations or mental health issues it can be even more challenging. Businesses may have to accommodate the work area for you just for you to have that job. That can mean they need to invest some money into making their space work for you. As an employee you may need more time off for doctor appointments or other special appointments that other employees would not need. You may need a few breaks or other special equipment that others do not need. Schedules may need to be more flexible or adaptable than others. Even just trying to get through an interview can be terrifying. What do you say or what can they ask? How much do you need to tell them? It can be difficult to know how to navigate through all the questions just right and show them that you are the right person for the job if just given the chance.

Even though you may be nervous and anxious if you let your abilities shine through the employers who are looking to hire are going to see that. They see that you are not letting these disabilities define you. Those are the people they want on their team. Those are the people who will inspire others. It is your abilities that will get you the job you want and will inspire those business to invest the money to make the changes needed if necessary, to accommodate you. There are already quite a few businesses that do a great job in employing people with disabilities. We just need to keep reaching out and showing other businesses to not look at us like we are a disability but to look at our abilities and see how much we can help their business.

By being employed it not only helps us socially but also economically. We do not feel so isolated and do not have to live on the government alone. We can start earning our own paychecks and feel more empowered. That makes for a great employee.