The Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 described an assistive technology device as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."
Assistive technologies can be "high tech" and "low tech:" from canes and lever doorknobs to voice recognition software and augmentative communication devices (speech generating devices).
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices help those who have trouble with communication. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may need AAC devices if they, for example, are non-verbal, only use American Sign Language, or have trouble speaking. AAC devices can be as simple as a pen and paper to electronic communication devices. Some examples of AAC devices include:
1. Picture Boards - Can be carried to aid communication with those who are hearing. Users can point to images or words in order to communication their message
2. Digitized Speech AAC Devices - Smartphone applications and communication boards can produce digitized speech when the user either types a message or presses on images and words.
Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing may choose to wear assistive listening devices, which are amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear. Assistive listening devices can be designed for large facilities, such as the movies or classrooms, or for small facilities and one-on-one interactions. Assistive listening devices use the following three technologies to amplify sound:
Captions are words displayed on television or videos that describe the audio or sound portion of a program. Captions allow viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow the dialogue and the action of a program simultaneously with hearing viewers.