Assistive Technology and Devices

High tech and low tech solutions for life with dysautonomia

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Assistive technology and assistive devices are broadly called "AT". AT refers to items, pieces of equipment, or computer programs/applications that are used by individuals to increase, maintain, or improve their functional capabilities. For example, using a computer program that reads text out loud can be helpful for people who have difficulty looking at or reading text on a screen. 

 

AT can be high tech, like a smart phone app; or low tech, like a rollator or a shower chair.  AT solutions can be as simple and low cost as changing a setting on your computer or purchasing a long-handled shoe horn. However, some AT solutions may involve purchasing a piece of more expensive equipment or software. 

On this page you will find both high tech and low tech AT which our DSN leaders and members have found helpful for people with dysautonomia and related conditions. Because some AT items can be expensive, we have also included information on community resources in the United States where you can try out AT, borrow AT, obtain used AT, or receive assistance with a private purchase of a product.

Please note that this information is provided as a consumer review, not as endorsement of a specific product. 

Community Resources
 

Assistive Technology Resources

Easter Seals: Specific programs and offerings vary by location. Get your region’s Easter Seals information here. Easter Seals' AT resources may include free or low cost:

  • Assistive technology or augmentative and alternative communication evaluation

  • Assistive technology training

  • Assistive technology demo and loan programs

  • Funding assistance for private purchase of assistive technology

State AT Program InformationFrom The Center for Assistive Technology Act Data Assistance. Get information on your state's assistive technology resources and programs here.  

Vocational Rehabilitation Resources

State vocational rehabilitation agencies: Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) provide quality individualized services to enhance and support people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, or retain employment. Some examples of services include assistive technology, training, placement assistance, and restoration services. A list of state vocational rehab agencies from the Job Accommodation Network is available here. Available in PDF format here.

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High Tech AT Solutions

Operating System Accessibility Features

All computers and mobile devices have operating systems, software that allows users to interact with their devices' hardware and programs. Most modern operating systems have built in accessibility features, which can be adjusted so that users with disabilities can use their devices more easily. Some examples of operating system accessibility features include:

  • Dictation/Speech recognition; Text-to-speech

  • Display customization such as adjustable display contrast, font size, size of icons, and other characteristics

  • Multimode alerts, which provides visual notifications for users who can't hear auditory alerts

  • Keyboard customization, such as changing the length of time a key must be pressed in order to be registered

  • And more

Please refer to the website of your device's operating system for more information on built in Accessibility features:

iPhone, iPad. One of our reviewers who has worked as an assistive technology specialist in post-secondary institutions believes that between iOS and Android, iOS accessibility features are more robust; easier to find, set, and use; and offer greater integration across apps.

Android has accessibility features built in. There are also third party apps you can get in the Google Play store which promise to enhance access. One caveat on accessibility in Android: not all apps will work with all accessibility features, even those built into the operating system.

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Screenreaders & Magnifiers

These programs are often used by individuals with low vision or blindness. These programs modify the visual interface of the computer, sometimes by magnifying everything with mouse or keyboard focus (some editions of ZoomText); sometimes by providing for an entirely non-visual interface for the user (NVDA, JAWS). Some of these programs are expensive. Funding or assistance may be available for qualifying individuals through state vocational rehab or assistive technology resources, please review the Community Resources section for links.

Less powerful magnification options are available through some operating system accessibility features.

Windows donation-ware (free installation but users are encouraged to donate). NVDA is a free “screen reader” which enables blind and vision impaired people to use computers. It reads the text on the screen in a computerised voice. You can control what is read by moving the cursor to the relevant area of text with a mouse or the arrows on your keyboard.

A popular screen reader for Windows. Costs for a standalone license range from $895 to $1095. JAWS was developed for computer users whose low vision or blindness prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides synthetic speech and Braille output for many Windows computer applications.

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Reading, Writing & Web Browsing

Apple and Mac

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Mac: Apple's built-in screen reader VoiceOver

 

Mac: Apple’s apps for the hearing impaired

 

Mac: Talk to Text and Dictation

 

Mac: Learning and Neurodiversity

Freemium browser extension. Allows text to speech for files accessed through Google Drive. Access to premium features for 30 days for free, then users get a reduced set of features or they can choose to pay to continue the premium features. The trial version does text to speech for Google Docs, and reads text on webpages. The premium version does text to speech for other file types in Google Docs as well, and has some other cool functions.

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Memory & Executive Function

Free app for iOS for “lite” version, full version is $.99. Allows you to set calendars, alarms, and voice (and song) reminders to keep everything straight.

A pen with an audio recorder. When used to take notes on special paper, the pen records and syncs the audio it is recording with what you write. You can tap the pen on the notes to hear audio from that specific point. Recorded audio and synched written notes can be uploaded to a computer or sent to a mobile device. These audio augmented notes can help if you struggle to write everything down. The pens do require special notebooks and special ink cartridges. New pen + accessory bundles prices range from $129 to $229.  

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Health Apps
 

Symptom Trackers

Freemium. Free for lite version but you can pay $2.99 for full version. IOS. Allows you to input your BP and provides data visualization, statistics reporting, medication correlation, email import/export, built-in reminders and more.

Free. Android app. Allows you to input BP data and provides reminders, data visualization, statistics reporting, export to email, google drive, and dropbox.

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Diet and Weight Trackers

Although the documentation for many of these apps is clearly biased towards weight loss goals, these apps can be used for tracking nutritional status (calories, protein, carbs, and fat intake) for people who are trying to gain or maintain weight as well. This can be helpful for people with gastroparesis and other functional GI problems that go with dysautonomia.

Free online calorie counter, weight tracker, food journal, exercise tracker all in one. Online and has a free app for IOS/Andriod.

Free Largest online free community of people tracking their food/fitness to lose weight together. Provides free recipes, articles from experts, and a community of other like-minded people to chat with. iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/calorie-counter-weight-loss/id568471693?mt=8 

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Medication Information & Tracking

Free. Online or in an app for IOS/android. GoodRx will show prices, coupons, discounts and savings tips for your prescription at pharmacies near you. GoodRx guarantees prices that are typically 60% less than the “normal” price, and may be less than some copays.

Free for lite version and $1.99 for full version in IOS app. Has voiceover accessibility support, recurring reminders, alerts to refill, swipe from right left to mark a med as “taken”, and ability to add PRN meds.

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