Adaptive vs. Assistive Technology | Dakota Center for Independent Living (2024)

The term adaptive technology is often used as the synonym for assistive technology; however, they are different terms. Assistive technology refers to “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”, while adaptive technology covers items that are specifically designed for persons with disabilities and would seldom be used by non-disabled persons. Assistive technology is any service or tool that helps the elderly or disabled do the activities they have always done but must now do differently. In other words, “assistive technology is any object or system that increases or maintains the capabilities of people with disabilities,” while adaptive technology is “any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities.” Consequently, adaptive technology is a subset of assistive technology. Adaptive technology often refers specifically to electronic and information technology access.

Here are some samples of Adaptive Technology:

Screen readers allow the visually impaired to easily access electronic information. These software programs connect to a computer to read the text displayed out loud. There is a variety of platforms and applications available for a variety of costs.

Braille and Braille Embossers. Braille is a system of raised dots formed into units called braille cells. A full braille cell is made up of six dots, with two parallel rows of three dots, but other combinations and quantities of dots represent other letters, numbers, punctuation marks, or words. People can then use their fingers to read the code of raised dots.

A braille embosser is, simply put, a printer for braille. Instead of a standard printer adding ink onto a page, the braille embosser imprints the raised dots of braille onto a page. Some braille embossers combine both braille and ink so the documents can be read with either sight or touch.

Large-print and tactile keyboards. A large-print keyboard has large letters printed on the keys. On the keyboard shown, the round buttons at the top control software which can magnify the screen (zoom in), change the background color of the screen, or make the mouse cursor on the screen larger. The “bump dots” on the keys, installed in this case by the organization using the keyboards, help the user find the right keys in a tactile way.

Amplified telephone equipment. This type of assistive technology allows users to amplify the volume and clarity of their phone calls so that they can easily partake in this medium of communication. There are also options to adjust the frequency and tone of a call to suit their individual hearing needs. Additionally, there is a wide variety of amplified telephones to choose from, with different degrees of amplification. For example, a phone with 26 to 40 decibel is generally sufficient for mild hearing loss, while a phone with 71 to 90 decibel is better for more severe hearing loss.

Impacts of assistive technology. Overall, assistive technology aims to allow people with disabilities to “participate more fully in all aspects of life (home, school, and community)” and increases their opportunities for “education, social interactions, and potential for meaningful employment.” It creates greater independence and control for disabled individuals. For example, in one study of 1,342 infants, toddlers and preschoolers, all with some kind of developmental, physical, sensory, or cognitive disability, the use of assistive technology created improvements in child development. These included improvements in “cognitive, social, communication, literacy, motor, adaptive, and increases in engagement in learning activities.”

Here are some samples of Assistive Technology:

Adaptive Cutting Equipment

Cutting aids help make working in the kitchen much easier for one-handed people. Cutting boards are ideal for cutting fruits, vegetables and even buttering a piece of bread. Four rubber suction feet hold the board in place while working with only one hand. Two food guards prevent food from sliding off edges and two spikes hold food secure while cutting. Also ideal for people with the use of only one hand are rocker knives. Simply apply gentle pressure to the handle with your whole hand and rock back and forth and the blade cuts food easily. Specialized cutting equipment will allow one-handed individuals to work more efficiently and independently in the kitchen.


Peeling potatoes, apples or cucumbers is certainly an impossible task for one-handed individuals, but there are products now available to make that task easy. The peeling plate holds the fruit or vegetable with its two sharp prongs and all you have to do is peel! Additionally, pot and pan holders are a must for cooking on a stovetop. Suction feet secure the Pan Holder to the stove and the wire frame holds the Pot handle while you stir your food, keeping the pan from accidentally turning and causing spills. These adaptive holders make it easier to prepare and cook food with only one hand.

Non Slip Mats

The dual non-slip surface of these mats provides a secure grip to your kitchen counter, table or desk. Whether you are using a mixer, eating or writing a letter, these mats are invaluable to one-handed individuals. They prevent paper from slipping while writing, and anchor bowls and plates while either preparing food or eating with one hand.


Suction dinnerware was designed for one-handed people in mind. These non-skid plates and bowls stick securely to the table allowing people with only one hand to scoop food without the assistance of an aid or caregiver.


Opening jars, unscrewing lids and removing bottle tops can sometimes be difficult for even a two-handed person! The revolutionary design of one-handed bottle and jar openers relieve this troublesome task for the single handed person.

Adaptive vs. Assistive Technology | Dakota Center for Independent Living (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 5784

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.