Assistive technologies

Assistive technologies (AT) refers to any device or system that helps people be safer and more independent. AT enables people to perform everyday tasks they would otherwise find difficult.

AT items can be basic, such as a grab rail or adapted cutlery, through to complex computerised equipment.

AT devices can be best understood by the function they enhance or enable, such as personal safety, self-care, communication, memory cuing, mobility, environmental access, leisure participation, and work tasks.

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The better you understand the types of AT that are available, the better choice you are likely to make.

Firstly, it’s important to understand your situation and needs.

Before choosing an AT device, consider the possible interaction of the device in your environment. Listen to your preferences and your carers' if relevant.

Other things to consider before purchasing an assistive device or devices include:

  • Potential changes in the person’s needs and the capacity of the technologies to be modified or adapted as needs change.
  • How the proposed item will be funded and what funding sources are available to the person. The cheapest or simplest aid is not always the most cost-effective over time.
  • Potential devices need to be trialled before purchase both to ensure best fit and also as a requirement of some funding sources. A trial may be brief or take several days depending on the item being proposed. It’s important the trial is long enough for the person and therapist to know if it is suitable in a variety of situations – for instance the person may have fluctuating fatigue and weakness.
Assistive technologies can promote participation and improve quality of life.

MSWA health professionals can play a valuable role in helping you receive the best AT devices for your needs.

Occupational therapists: for information, assessment and training for people who require AT.

Physiotherapists: for some mobility aids.

Speech pathologists: for communication devices.

Some examples of Assistive Technologies

Eating and drinking

Specially designed cutlery, cups and mugs can help people who have compromised upper limb strength and coordination.

Robotic and counter balance arms can assist a person to independently feed when their independent function is severely compromised

Communication aids

The need for these items is assessed by MSWA speech pathologists. These devices are available to help generate or amplify speech or communicate through written messages.

There have been significant advances in these as computer technology develops.

Mobility aids

Mobility aids include walkers, sticks and crutches as well as wheelchairs and powered scooters.

At MSWA physiotherapists assess and prescribe walkers, walking sticks and crutches.

MSWA occupational therapists assess and prescribe manual and power wheelchairs and powered scooters.

Bathing, showering and toiletting

Again, these can range from basic to more complex. They may be as simple as non-slip mats and hand rails and raised toilet seats to more involved adaptations such as bidets and modified taps, through to major bathroom modifications to improve accessibility and safety.

Sitting, sleeping and lying down

Adapted seating, cushions, positioning belts and braces and foam wedges can all be used to improve symmetrical body position and comfort.

In addition, specialised mattresses and cushions can be used to improve comfort and reduce the risk of pressure injuries when seated or lying down.

Home environment/workplace modifications

These may include simple adaptations such as ramps and rails to enhance access and safety to more involved modifications such as widening doorways, automatic doors and changing the height of benches and desks.

Recreational aids

These can include adaptive controls/items for computers and video games and enhanced grip on items such as fishing rods. Other activities can be reviewed to assess if it is possible with modification for an individual to be able to continue enjoying an activity that they enjoy.

These can be simple such as a larger mouse for computer use or a holder for playing cards through to complex systems to operate computers/systems with minimal voluntary movement required or using pressure, sound, voice or breath controls instead.

The NDIS and AT

If you have a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan and select MSWA as your provider, we can help you choose and source your AT supports. Alternatively, if you are self-managing your NDIS plan you can purchase your funded AT supports from an independent living centre.

For more information about NDIS funding for AT:

Visit the NDIS website