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The Role of Technology
Astounding technological strides have helped people who have limited mobility or neurological deficits take greater control of their lives and their environment. By customizing wheelchairs, seating systems, electronic equipment and computer-assisted technology, assistive technology professionals help individuals achieve maximum independence. These technological solutions can range from off-the-shelf universal remote controls and voice-recognition software to specially equipped computers, wheelchairs or vans.
Astounding technological strides have helped people who have limited mobility or neurological deficits take greater control of their lives and their environment. By customizing wheelchairs, seating systems, electronic equipment and computer-assisted technology, assistive technology professionals help individuals achieve maximum independence. These technological solutions can range from off-the-shelf universal remote controls and voice-recognition software to specially equipped computers, wheelchairs or vans.

People with paraplegia and tetraplegia return to the community in very high numbers, and one of the things that makes that possible is today's technology. Technology can't repair a damaged spinal cord, but it allows for many other possibilities.

Technology is especially important for people with tetraplegia. Think about what it would be like to be in this situation, and you can begin to understand why -- without the ability to move your arms or legs, it can be nearly impossible to do anything without help. Here are some of the ways that technology can make a difference:

  • Speech-recognition software has gotten much better in recent years. It is now possible to use a piece of software like Dragon Naturally Speaking to control nearly every aspect of a computer. A person can type, browse the Web, create spreadsheets and so on without ever touching a keyboard.
  • Battery-powered wheelchairs with incredibly sensitive joysticks make it possible to move around independently. There are even wheelchairs that lift the user into a near-standing position, as well as the iBot balancing wheelchair, which increases mobility tremendously.
Wheelchairs are not a "one size fits all" piece of equipment. They must be customized to fit each person's lifestyle and functional ability. To determine which wheelchair works best, seating experts perform medical evaluations, clinical assessments and fitting services.
Wheelchairs are not a "one size fits all" piece of equipment. They must be customized to fit each person's lifestyle and functional ability. To determine which wheelchair works best, seating experts perform medical evaluations, clinical assessments and fitting services.
  • Lifts in cars and buildings make it possible to get in and out easily.
  • Ventilators help people with high-level spinal cord injuries, who no longer have the ability to control the muscles in their diaphragm, to breathe. A portable ventilator provides air in that situation.
  • Sip and puff straws, which are activated by blowing and sucking air, can help control everything from the phone to the TV.
People with high tetraplegia can drive their wheelchairs independently using a sip-and-puff control device.
People with high tetraplegia can drive their wheelchairs independently using a sip-and-puff control device.