Barriers to Independent Living: Assistive Technology

Published June 11, 2022

It might seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but assistive technology can actually pose a barrier to independent living. Read on to find out why.

Using assistive technology

Although assistive technology is designed to promote independent living, it comes with a range of barriers too. For instance, technology is only useful so long as you know how to use it or have the capacity to use it. People living with severe developmental, physical, or sensory disabilities may never be able to utilize technology, so it is not even an option for them.

Technology is the ideal starting point for anyone looking into independent living, but it still remains inaccessible to thousands of Americans. However, some options exist that help people living with disabilities access the technology they need to gain further independence, and technology and the accessibility of technology are improving every day.

For older people, technology can still be a barrier, and learning to use brand new devices or tools can come with challenges too significant to overcome easily. Many people are put off by the learning curve, whether it’s for themselves or a relative. Carers may also have difficulty using or learning to use assistive technology, which can, unfortunately, be a reason why someone living with disabilities does not have access to the technology they might have.

Prohibitive cost of assistive technology

Another way assistive technology becomes a barrier to independent living is due to the prohibitive cost of equipment. Prices will rise further if training is required for carers, or if the person with a disability themself requires training on how to use it. This might take a long time, and if it simply doesn’t work out in the end, families will have spent an awful lot of money for no reason.

However, there are ways to fund assistive technology, such as grants, loans, or buying equipment secondhand. You can also loan the equipment itself. Usually, with any assistive technology purchase, you can return the device within a set number of days, no matter the reason, and receive your money back in full. It’s a fantastic way of testing out if the technology is right for you, or if it just doesn’t work, and it provides an opportunity to live with the equipment for a while, at essentially no cost, to figure out whether it’s worth staking real money on, or not.

Assistive technology in the workplace

As an employer, you may have to provide some assistive technology for your employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, and it is an employer's legal obligation to do so. However, grants and loans are available for employers too, and organizations are not expected to provide anything an employee needs for personal use, merely what they require to do their job. For instance, employers do not have to provide hearing aids, as these constitute a general medical need. However, employers may be required to provide speech-to-text software for Deaf employees to complete their work tasks.

Assistive technology is the last thing that should prove a barrier to independent living, but unfortunately, this is often the case.

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