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Adaptive technology is the name for products which help people who cannot use regular versions of products, primarily people with physical disabilities such as limitations to vision, hearing, and mobility.
Adaptive technology promotes greater effectiveness for persons with functional limitations or disabilities by enabling them to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing. Adaptive technology provides changed methods of interacting with or enhancements to the technology.
Persons who are blind or have a visual impairment
Blind or visual impairment: unable to see or difficulty seeing
Blind people use many products that are speech enabled such as talking watches, talking calculators and talking computers. Talking scales, talking compasses and talking thermometers are also available. Talking computers use screenreading software to have the machine read to blind people. They also use products with Braille feedback, such as Braille watches and Braille writing devices.
Visually impaired people, who have eye problems but still have some sight, have computers which have enlarged screens so that images and text are much clearer to read.
Persons who are deaf or have a hearing impairment
Deaf or hearing impairment: unable to hear or difficulty hearing
Technologies to assist the Deaf and hearing impaired include closed captions on television and the TTY/TDD phone service. Also, blinking lights and vibration devices also help to enhance hearing impaired functioning in a predominantly hearing world.
Some technologies not specifically designed as adaptive have become popular with the Deaf: for example, devices such as text-messaging-equipped cellular phones and BlackBerry e-mail devices are almost ubiquitous among young Deaf people.
Persons with a speech impairment
Speech impairment: unable to speak, or difficulty speaking and being understood
Speaking impaired people, those who have lost the ability to speak but can still hear, include but are not limited to people who have had strokes, other brain injury, or injury to the vocal cords through surgery or other insult. Computers may provide speech through speech synthesis, and text-messaging-equipped mobile phones are also popular.
Persons with a co-ordination, dexterity, or mobility impairment
Co-ordination or dexterity impairment: difficulty using hands or arms; for example, grasping or handling a stapler or using a keyboard/mouse
Mobility impairment: difficulty moving around; for example, from one office to another or up and down stairs
People with limited manual mobility have software which enables non-manual methods of computer use, such as eye-driven keyboarding or speech recognition software. Robotic arms are also in development and a number of low-fi assistive devices are available such as jelly buttons, head wands and sip-and-puff devices.
Persons with other disabilities
Other disability: including learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and all other types of disabilities
Dyslexia is perhaps the most common example of an "other disability" found in the workplace in schools. A variety of software is available to enable persons with dyslexia deal more effectively with reading and writing tasks. Scan and read software (ex: Kurzweil or E-Text Reader)allows people/students with reading disabilities to view the text on the computer screen as it "reads" aloud and highlights the word/sentence as it moves along. This allows students who cannot read efficiently to tackle reading assignments with speed and confidence. The software program Kurzweil can be very expensive, but for a student who has serious difficulty decoding the words on a page, it can be a great asset. Speech recognition software (such as Dragon Naturally Speaking)can be used to help students with writing disabilities write text to the computer without the worry of spelling phonetically. It can record just the way the person speaks the sentence. However, several hours of training are needed for the user, and the computer program must "learn" to recognize the speech patterns of the user.