No matter if it really is finishing the day’s homework or accessing the pc lab at the college he attends, the very simple but effectively-made device is utilized by 14-year-old Madhav*, a student with muscular dystrophy. Unable to move his hands, Madhav accesses computer systems and other sensible devices hands-cost-free with the aid of a “mouse outfit” strapped to his head.

From electric wheelchairs and hearing aids to devices such as ‘Mousewear’, there has been continual innovation and evolution in assistive technologies to aid youngsters with a variety of disabilities with a concentrate on understanding, communication, mobility and most importantly – leisure .

The Planet Well being Organization (WHO) defines “Assistive Technologies” as an umbrella term that covers systems and solutions associated to the delivery of assistive merchandise and solutions aimed at sustaining or enhancing the functioning or independence of an person.

According to WHO estimates, two.five billion men and women worldwide require 1 or far more assistive devices. These numbers are anticipated to rise to more than three.five billion by 2050 due to international population aging and the rise of non-communicable illnesses.

Immediately after operating extensively with young adults who are on the autism spectrum, Kavitha Krishnamurthi, co-founder of CanBridge Academy, says technologies-primarily based assistive devices that help in communication have “changed the game.”

A game changer for communication

“For youngsters and young adults with autism who do not speak, or even these who have restricted language capabilities, an app like Avaz AAC is a large assistance. Young children can interact far better with this, and in turn we get an insight into how a great deal they know and understand,” she stated.

An image- and text-primarily based AAC app that empowers youngsters and adults with complicated communication demands to express themselves and understand, Avaz was designed by Invention Labs, a start off-up from IIT Madras. In the course of the pandemic when the use of electronic devices elevated, parents whose youngsters and young adults study at CanBridge went by way of in depth sessions with Akila Vaidyanathan, Founder and Director, Amaze Charitable Trust, Coimbatore, on how they can facilitate the use of Avaz far better.

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“Compared to years ago, we are now capable to do a great deal far more thanks to the technologies readily available.” The concentrate is on producing understanding, communication and leisure for youngsters with disabilities simple and intuitive – a thing in which technologies has played a large part,” adds Ms Kavita.

When it comes to communication in distinct, there is a lot of emphasis on independence and what assistive technologies can do for the identical. Not too long ago, as element of Worldwide Accessibility Awareness Day, Alexa, the artificial intelligence service created by Amazon and Avaz, came with each other to highlight how youngsters on the autism spectrum can use their technologies.

A non-verbal kid on the autism spectrum, Rudransh, a six-year-old boy, communicates with his household by way of non-verbal gestures and prompts them to use the Alexa device to play a song. When he began working with Avaz, his parents utilized an audio recording app and pre-programmed Alexa commands to play his favored songs – enabling him to access the device independently.

Assistive technologies: domestic and far more

A pay a visit to to Chennai’s quite personal Museum of Possibilities tends to make it clear how far assistive technologies has come more than the years and the sheer quantity of devices readily available in the industry – in particular homegrown ones.

Vidyasagar, an organization operating with and for men and women with disabilities, which collaborated with the Tamil Nadu government to set up the museum, has lengthy been a pioneer when it comes to assistive technologies – specifically in their function with youngsters who have a variety of disabilities. .

“As a parent or as a specialist, we function with the purpose of producing youngsters and young adults as independent as doable. We’re in an era with large access to assistive technologies – and at Vidyasagar, we’re bringing it as early as doable. “With the aid of a battery or even a compact switch, the toys that youngsters start off playing with can be accessible, and we then function to aid them use technologies to access rhymes and songs on the internet,” stated Kalpana Rao, Director of Daycare Center , Vidyasagar.

In his function more than the years, Vidyasagar has not stopped at just making sure the availability of accessible and cost-effective technologies and devices for youngsters. The organization designed its personal switch – the WINNER VBosS – a plug and play USB device, programmed to allow left mouse clicks. This is intended to aid men and women with restricted motor capabilities who have problems accessing a keyboard or mouse, and can be attached to a pc, tablet or any sensible device.

For youngsters, apps such as Avaz and Study Please Plus that facilitate text-to-speech communication are becoming introduced by means of laptops or bigger sensible devices in schools. As they get older, smartphones come into play.

In schools that serve exclusively youngsters with unique demands, this type of technologies is not lacking. An early innovation in assistive technologies and a thing that continues to be of utmost value – screen readers as effectively as audio tracks, tactile pictures and far more are favored by students at Nethrodaia Absolutely free Residential Larger College for Visually Impaired Students.

The founder of the college C. Govindakrishnan says there is a entire dimension of assistive technologies for the visually impaired that is frequently ignored. “There is a specific ‘traditional’ label provided to the visually impaired and we are nevertheless anticipated to stick to Braille only.” When the planet has sophisticated technologically by leaps and bounds, it is only fair that we are provided a opportunity to discover the identical by way of the assistive technologies readily available to us,” he says.

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Students at college are introduced to computer systems from elementary college with Braille, and as they develop up, they are introduced to screen reading applications. “More than the previous couple of years, I’ve observed students choose audio recordings of lectures or even their books, study and recorded by volunteers, to working with a screen reader.” Tamil Nadu government’s video lessons primarily based on their textbooks which are also readily available on the internet are quite valuable,” explains Mr. Govindakrishnan.

It is accurate that students have embraced technologies more rapidly than ever, in particular right after the pandemic exactly where the use of electronic devices has elevated due to college closures.

“Though we insist on working with computer systems or laptops more than smartphones for young students, as they get older, smartphones turn into incredibly helpful for accessing this type of technologies,” he adds. A employees member at his college says there is no shortage of possibilities for students when it comes to screen reader apps. “There are more than one hundred applications that students can use – the most common of these are JAVS (Speech Access) and NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)”


Innovations might abound, but are they simple to access, in particular in mainstream schools?

With ‘Mouseware’, Pravin Kumar, CEO, Dektroware, a start off-up at IIT Madras, emphasizes the value of each the parent and college neighborhood becoming conscious of such assistive devices and making sure youngsters have access to them. A head-worn device, Mouseware has a compact sensor box mounted on the user’s head that will then be capable to manage a pc or smartphone with head movements. Clicks can be created by means of a foot switch or other switches that can be adjusted based on the user’s physical capability.

“The presence of such a device in the pc laboratory of a normal college, for instance, will be of terrific aid to students with disabilities studying there.” We require to go beyond ramps and make understanding spaces accessible for all youngsters,” he adds.

Though there is a large concentrate on understanding and communication for youngsters with physical and intellectual disabilities, assistive technologies that facilitates leisure time is equally, if not far more, critical, specialists say.

Assistive technologies for cost-free time

For neurodivergent youngsters and young adults who are resistant to going out into public spaces that contain parks, film theaters, or the beach, VR and AR devices have verified incredibly helpful. They are encouraged to repeatedly encounter the stimulation of these spaces, till they are comfy with the concept of ​​visiting the actual space.

“Virtual and augmented reality assists us resolve quite a few sensory challenges that youngsters might face.” What we perceive as incredibly regular and standard could bother them and in this predicament, these simulations come in handy,” stated Durga Priya, Head of Therapy, Mirra Charitable Trust.

From working with XBox 360 which has games that youngsters with restricted mobility can participate in and take pleasure in, to working with songs and games specially made for youngsters in her sessions, Ms Durga stated youngsters take into account the visual element that these technologies present. they have which tends to make it simple for them to adhere to and fully grasp. Functioning with neurodiverse folks, Ms. Durga stated there are a quantity of assistive technologies that aid address distinctive places – physical therapy, movement, social navigation and far more.

“For youngsters who have mobility issues or weakness in 1 limb, we use sensible gloves — a wearable device that assists them use a virtual keyboard. Vests are helpful for youngsters who have gravity insecurities,” she says.

Challenges and the way forward

As with any new technologies, reluctance and even some degree of resistance are not far away when it comes to assistive technologies. This is in particular accurate for technologies or devices that concentrate on understanding and communication.

“Though some parents are instantaneously enthusiastic, there is a element that desires to prevent gadgets or communication apps and is hesitant to introduce them to their youngsters for worry that they could turn into attached to them.” Parents think this could additional lower social interaction,” stated Radha Nandhakumar, founder and managing director of Gurukulam, an integrated center for youngsters with unique demands.

Though she says assistive technologies apps like Avaz can make communication less complicated, she stresses the require for their successful use and the value of higher awareness. “Any assistive technologies in particular for communication should really be utilized judiciously and only facilitate and not replace the organic developmental method,” adds Ms. Radha.

Senior Occupational Therapist and President of the Tamil Nadu Occupational Therapist Association, V. Vanchinathan points out a further critical aspect of assistive devices and adapting technologies. “Any adaptive device ought to very first be adapted to the demands of the person.” Each and every individual’s physical and mental skills will be distinctive – ​​and no 1-size-fits-all method can be taken to any device or technologies across a variety of disabilities,” he says.

He additional emphasizes the value of going by way of an occupational therapist’s evaluation and suggestions. “They play a very important part in assessing the person and the atmosphere in which they come across themselves.” “People should really seek the advice of with certified occupational therapists, who will be capable to guide them on how to adapt assistive devices or technologies to their specifications in terms of style and supplies utilized,” he added.

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