Assistive Devices In Rehabilitation- A Historical Perspective & Recent Advances

Published on: 2018/05/01

Dr. MG. Mokashi,  B.Sc, DPT; FIAP; Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Physiotherapy


I have a great pleasure to part with my experiences on Assistive Devices, with many I am closely related since 1960. Till 1980s definition spelled that appliances could be worn on the body like orthosis or prosthesis. Later, they became walking devices. Aids are ambulatory like wheelchair, tricycle etc.; a walker is a mini movable version of parallel bars. A Seat-lift chair underlines a device in transfer activities and so a sliding board.

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Assistive devices for people with disability

Assistive technology is any device that helps people with disability performs tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. It is generally a term used for devices that help people with issues like mobility, vision, and dexterity or hearing loss. These devices help with basic functions like moving around, seeing, communication, eating, or even getting dressed. Today, there are thousands of solutions available for people with disabilities that give them the independence they need. Some are hi-tech in nature and some are simple devices.

Wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches, prosthetic devices that help with mobility are assistive devices used by people with physical disabilities. People with hearing impairment use hearing aids. People affected by brain injury use cognitive assistance from a computer or electrical devices.

Voice recognition, screen readers, and screen enlargement applications greatly help people who facing mobility or sensory impairments. Learners with disabilities benefit from assistive devices like automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips. People interested in sports like basketball, tennis, racing can use lightweight, high-performance wheelchairs. Some wheelchairs also have extended reaching devices that help them reach objects on shelves in their day to day lives.

Technological advances and assistive devices

There are more than a billion people living with disabilities as estimated by the WHO. Industries today are recognizing the needs to provide services to this segment as well. For example, Apple has developed its technology keeping in mind overall accessibility and has a strong market share among people with disability. Speech input interfaces like Siri, Google Now and Amazon Echo have made placing requests and receiving information easy using speech recognition and speech output. Since they are both hands-free and eyes-free, they provide greater accessibility.

People affected by disability, disorders, health conditions, or injuries that inhibit physical movement benefit greatly from assistive devices. The rehabilitation of people affected with a disability is made easier with the use of assistive devices. It helps them function more easily and also helps the caregivers a lot. ‘Rehabilitative technology’ is aids used by people in convalescence.


Rehabilitative technology to be used is decided upon by the disabled person or the caregivers in consultation with a team of professionals. The team is able to identify which assistive device will help the person function independently. Using the appropriate technology helps people with disabilities overcome or compensate their limitations to some extent. Rehabilitative technology is used in case of people who have lost function arising from disability due to disease, injury or aging.

Rehabilitative technology helps people care for themselves and their families. It gives them the freedom to work, study, and access information freely, enjoy music, sports, arts or travel and live life to the fullest possible. This increased participation provides them with more opportunities which benefits the society at large.

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