What Is Assistive Technology?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover how assistive technology enhances the capabilities of people with disabilities and improves their well-being.

[Featured image] A UX designer is researching on a desktop the types of assistive technology she'll need to incorporate into a product.

Assistive technology is any hardware, software, or system that might help improve the capabilities of someone with disabilities. Assistive technology can be low-tech, high-tech, or no-tech solutions ranging from simple communication boards to complex prosthetics or computer programs. Because user experience (UX) design focuses on making user-friendly products, it often involves creating and perfecting assistive technology and making products more accessible. Implementing assistive technology increases the number of people who can use it. 

Read more: User Experience (UX) Terms: A to Z Glossary

Who needs assistive technology? 

Assistive technology benefits people with physical disabilities, such as individuals with mobility problems, visual impairment, speech impairment, and hearing impairment. People with mental disabilities, such as cognitive and developmental delays or learning disorders, can also benefit from assistive technology. Older people or people of any age who have functional decline, as well as people with conditions like autism, dementia, or stroke, can benefit as well. 

What are some examples of assistive technology?

Assistive technology can range from a wheelchair to help someone with mobility issues to software that reads out loud for people with impaired vision. Some common examples include: 

  • Screen readers and magnifiers: Screen readers and magnifiers help people with visual impairments by increasing the size of digital text or reading digital text out loud.

  • Ergonomic keyboard: Ergonomic keyboards can help people with various physical ailments, but these devices can also help prevent physical problems from arising, making them a prime example of preventative technology.

  • Switch devices: Switch devices help people who can’t move or change positions easily perform multiple tasks in one place. 

  • Braille keyboards: Braille keyboards allow people with visual impairments to communicate via writing.  

  • Portable closed caption systems: People with hearing impairments can use mobile closed caption systems to participate in everyday activities.  

  • Speech output software: Speech output software allows people who cannot communicate verbally to talk to those around them.   

What are some benefits of creating more assistive technology?  

The main benefit of creating more assistive technology is increasing access for a more significant number of people, however there are also more specific benefits. For example, an older person who has access to assistive technology may remain independent for a longer period of time. Certain types of assistive technology may help prevent the advancement of conditions or diseases. Other examples may help increase employment or education access for people with disabilities. 

Get started with UX design and Google 

If you’re interested in a career helping others and creating new assistive technology, UX design might be for you. Get started on Coursera by earning a Google UX Design Professional Certificate. You'll learn the fundamentals of UX design, sharpen your skill set, and create a professional portfolio. Upon completion, you’ll have exclusive access to a job platform with over 150 employees hiring for entry-level UX roles and other resources that will support you in your job search.

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