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Assistive technology devices can be considered any of a variety of instruments used by individuals with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or altogether impossible (i). This is a broad and somewhat conceptual definition that has many applications. For example, mobility devices including manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, power scooters, and walking aids are all consider assistive technology. In this example, the technology is somewhat primitive compared to digital gadgetry but nonetheless enables the mobility of an individual who would otherwise have some degree of difficulty moving about.
Assistive technology goes beyond mobility devices to also include hardware, software, and other information technologies. For example, consider that individuals with physically impaired hands or fingers can utilize custom designed keyboards and computer mice to operate computers. Individuals with moderate to severe visual impairments can likewise overcome their unique sensory deprivation with software that reads digitally displayed messages aloud, like emails and other lines of text on a computer. In both of these examples, individuals are able to overcome their unique disabilities and perform work specific tasks.
Without these kinds of enabling technologies, these individuals would be hard pressed to find work environments in which they could actively pursue objectives, contribute as team members, and develop into working professionals. The expanding application of assistive technology, however, provides the groundwork for individuals with disabilities to do just the opposite. Indeed, the proliferation of assistive technology establishes the opportunity for businesses to diversify their workforce and cultivate the talents of a range of individuals. Moreover, employers are better able to retain valuable human capital; individuals who spend years learning, training, and contributing within a specific company can more easily retain their position should unexpected, devastating accidents occur. This adds a tremendous value for businesses rich in human capital; unexpectedly losing capital for any period of time can be costly, derail growth strategies, and undermine core business objectives.