Assistive technology is a key player in enabling individuals with disabilities to achieve more in the workplace. By helping them to complete tasks more quickly or easily, AT can boost productivity and allow employees with disabilities to focus on their strengths.
But what is assistive technology? What does assistive technology do?
Our experts have put together this guide to assistive technology, explaining what it is and how exactly it can support people with disabilities in the workplace.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is any type of technology that can be used to enhance the functional abilities of individuals with disabilities. It includes devices and equipment that can be used to improve communication, mobility, and daily living activities.
There are many different types of assistive technology devices, and they can be used in a variety of ways to support people with disabilities. Assistive technologies in the workplace can include:
- Computer hardware and software, such as screen readers that convert text to speech or Braille displays that convert text to raised dots that can be read by touch
- Telecommunications devices, such as amplified telephones or text telephones (TTYs)
- Office equipment, such as electric staplers or ergonomic computer keyboards
- Job-specific equipment, such as assembly line conveyor belts or factory robotics
- Environmental control devices, such as door openers or switches can be operated by people with limited use of their hands.
What Does Assistive Technology Do?
Some assistive technologies use sensors to detect environmental stimuli and convert them into a form that can be used by the individual with a disability. For example, a deaf person may wear cochlear implants or hearing aids, which have a microphone that picks up sound waves and converts them into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound.
Similarly, someone with low vision ability may use a refreshable Braille display, which has an array of small metal or plastic pins that raise and lower to form Braille characters that can be read by touch. Assistive technology also often includes electronic systems that can help people with disabilities to communicate and receive information clearly.
Medical devices such as high tech prosthetic devices can also be considered assistive technologies. The right medical device could help someone with impaired mobility in the workplace, but this will be dependent on your industry and the type of job you have.
The Key Benefits of Assistive Technology
There are many benefits to assistive technology. The right assistive technology can be used to improve:
Assistive technology aims to improve communication by providing alternative ways to receive and convey information. Workplace communication is essential for collaboration, task completion, and overall job satisfaction, and communication aids can provide a vital solution for employees with hearing, speech, or vision impairments.
By investing in new assistive technology and electronic devices, employers can provide employees with disabilities with the tools they need to communicate effectively.
Assistive technologies can be used to increase productivity by providing people with disabilities with alternative ways to perform tasks. By providing employees with the right assistive technology, employers can improve worker productivity and reduce workplace injuries. Plus, improving job satisfaction and productivity can lead to a more efficient workplace, boosting your bottom line.
Assistive technologies can promote employee independence by enabling people with disabilities to perform tasks that they may not be able to do without assistance. Providing employees with the right assistive technology can ultimately lead to a more independent and self-sufficient workforce, aiding the functional capabilities of all employees.
Assistive technology helps people with disabilities perform functions that they may otherwise be much more difficult to do. By improving communication, mobility, and daily living activities, assistive technology and mobility devices can help people with disabilities foster independence in the workplace and beyond.
Culture of Diversity and Inclusion
Assistive technologies can be used to create a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By investing in assistive technologies, employers can send the message that they are committed to providing employees with disabilities the tools they need to be successful. This can ultimately lead to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Other ways to ensure workplace diversity and inclusion include:
- Investing in Mental Health First Aid for the workplace: By offering Mental Health First Aid in the workplace, employers can send the message that they are committed to promoting a culture of mental health awareness and inclusion.
- Ensuring Workplace Needs Assessments: By conducting workplace needs assessments, employers can identify potential barriers to inclusion and develop solutions to address them.
- Providing Disability Awareness Training: Disability awareness training can help employers and employees learn more about disabilities and how to create a more inclusive workplace. Offering this training to your employees is a vital step in promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion.
- Implementing Supportive Policies and Practices: By implementing supportive policies and practices, employers can create a workplace that is more inclusive for all.
Who Pays For Assistive Technologies?
The cost of assistive technologies can vary depending on the type of technology and the vendor. It will usually be the responsibility of the employer to pay for the assistive technology, however, there are a number of funding sources that can help offset the cost of assistive technologies.
When considering the purchase of assistive technologies, employers should consider:
- The needs of the employees: Employers should consult with employees to identify their specific needs and determine which types of assistive devices would be most beneficial.
- The cost of the technology: Assistive technology products can range in cost from a few hundred pounds to several thousand pounds. Employers should consider the upfront cost of the technology when making a purchase decision.
- The return on investment: When investing in assistive technologies, employers should consider the potential return on investment. Assistive technologies can lead to increased productivity, reduced workplace injuries, and improved job satisfaction, meaning that the initial investment can ultimately lead to savings for the employer.
Key Examples of Assistive Technology Devices For the Workplace
Speech Recognition Devices
Speech recognition devices can help employees with communication disabilities thrive in the workplace. These devices can be used to type out documents, send emails, and even surf the web.
Other communication devices such as augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) can be used by employees who have difficulty communicating. Alternative communication systems can range in complexity from simple picture boards to sophisticated speech-generating devices.
Key speech recognition devices for the workplace include:
- Voice Recorders
- Visual Aids
- Video Relay Service (VRS)
- Text telephones (TTYs)
Computer Access Devices
Computer access devices and ergonomic devices such as keyboards, mice, and trackballs can be used by employees who have difficulty using a standard keyboard or mouse. These devices can help employees interact with computers and perform work tasks. Some common computer access devices include:
Mind Mapping Devices
Mind mapping devices can be used by employees who have difficulty remembering information or concentrating for long periods of time. Mind mapping devices can help employees organize information and improve their memory and concentration. Some common mind mapping devices include:
- Memory Aids
- Organizational Tools
- Information Management Systems.
Literacy technology can be used by employees who have difficulty reading or writing. These devices can help employees read documents, write emails, and even surf the web. Some common literacy technologies include:
- Reading Aids
- Writing Aids
- Specialist Web Browsers.
Visual Impairment Technology
Visual impairment technology can be used by employees who are blind or have low vision. These devices can help employees interact with computers and perform work tasks. Some common visual impairment technologies include:
- Screen Magnifiers
- Screen Readers
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software
- Braille Embossers/Printers.
Looking For Expert Support With Your Assistive Technologies?
At Thriiver, we offer a range of workplace assistive technologies to help employees with disabilities participate in work activities. We can also provide assistive technology training to employees and employers, ensuring that everyone has the knowledge and skills they need to use the technology effectively.
Contact us today to learn more about our services!