Developmental Milestones of Assistive Technology: From Wood Walking Sticks to Virtual Reality
CPS ePoster Library. Schiariti V. Jun 25, 2015; 99232; 171
Dr. Veronica Schiariti
Dr. Veronica Schiariti
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Background: Assistive technology (also known as adaptive technology) refers to any product, device, or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional abilities of individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they had great difficulty accomplishing. The evolution of assistive products has relied on state-of-the art materials and technologies. Improving functional outcomes has been always the main purpose of assistive technologies. Some of the important developmental milestones of assistive technology are worth describing.

The objective of this paper is to describe the fascinating developmental trajectory of assistive technology over time.

Method: historical review
Assistive products and devices, like the cane, have been around since the Stone Age. During the Renaissance, prosthetics developed with the use of iron, steel, copper, and wood. Functional prosthetics began to make an appearance in the 1500s. In the 1800s modern prostheses, especially for the lower limbs, were developed to restore mobility to war combats. Hearing aids were first patented in 1890s, followed by the first Braille typewrite in 1892 and the first speech in 1936. The first electric wheelchair was developed in 1950. But a major milestone of assistive technology occurred with the development of the microprocessor electronic circuit the “chip” in 1958. Microcomputer advances have been used for the design and manufacture of several assistive technologies such as speech recognition programs, robotic aids, seating and positioning, vision adaptation softwares and mobility devices.

Legislation promoting the development and application of assistive technologies in 1970s, and the publication of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in 2001, were major contributions. The ICF highlights the role of environmental factors, like assistive technologies, as facilitators of functional abilities. Consequently, professionals are encouraged to systematically consider environmental interventions and/or modifications when planning interventions for individuals with functional limitations, for example the introduction of virtual reality in pediatric neurorehabilitation interventions.

In conclusion, assistive technologies provide significant enhancement to inclusive education, social participation and employment. History shows that technology has revolutionized rehabilitation interventions and the care of individuals with chronic conditions, and promises to delivery even more innovative products for years to come.
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