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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Physical and Mobility Disability: Common Assistive Technology

This guide provides information and resources on physical and/or mobility disabilities.

What are assistive technologies?

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).


People who have physical disabilities may need assistance with mobility. Some mobility aids include:

  1. Wheelchairs
  2. Walkers
  3. Crutches
  4. Canes
  5. Prosthetic Devices

Mobility varies with each person. Some people with a physical disability may be able to walk with the assistance of a cane or a Person in a wheelchair using a mouse stick to use a tabletprosthetic. Some people, like those who are quadriplegic, may control their mobility device with their mouth or their head. Examples of assistive technologies that help their users with limited mobility include:

  1. Mouth stick - a device that allows users to control input (whether that be moving their wheelchair or surfing the web) with a stick they manipulate with their mouth.
  2. Head wand - a device similar to a mouth stick, but users control input with their head instead of their mouth


People with a physical disability may need assistive technology to communicate in person or online. Communication aids can include

Speech Recognition Software: Speech recognition software helps users create text and navigate online by speaking into a microphone. This may be useful for users who have problems with fine motor skills or limited mobility. One example of speech recognition software follows:

Speech generating device: A speech generating device is "a portable that contains one or more panels or switches that when depressed will activate pre-recorded digitized or synthesized speech output." These may be a standalone device, usually very small and light, or it can be software that is installed in a tablet or phone. People with a physical disability may not be able to speak on their own and can use a speech generating device to communicate with the people around them.

Employees with a Physical Disability

Finding Assistive Technologies