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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Limb Difference: Common Assistive Technology

This guide provides information and resources on limb difference.

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 lower limb differences may need assistance with mobility. Some mobility aids include:

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

Mobility varies with each person. Some people with a lower limb difference may be able to walk with the assistance of crutches or a prosthetic, while some may use a wheelchair.


There are many types of prosthetic limbs. They vary based on what limb the prosthetic is for, what the person using it's needs are, and what kind of limb difference they have. Some prosthetics are built for specific physical activities, such as running, walking, biking, grasping, or hooking. Some are powered by the bodies movement and some may have an extra power source. Some prosthetics may be purely cosmetic. Some common types of prosthetic include:

Leg Prosthesis

Leg prostheses are categorized as transtibial or transfemoral.

  • Transtibial prosthetics are prosthetic lower legs attached to intact upper legs and are used to replace parts missing below the knee, also known as "Below the knee" or "BK"
  • Transfemoral prosthetics are prosthetic lower and upper legs, including a prosthetic knee joint, and attach to the thigh, also known as "Above the knee" or "AK"

Arm Prosthesis

Arm prostheses are categorized as transradial or transhumeral.

  • Transradial prosthetics are prosthetic forearms that attach below the elbow, and so are also referred to as "Below the elbow" or "BE" 
  • Transhumeral prosthetics are prosthetic lower and upper arms, which include a prosthetic elbow, that attach to the upper arm when the elbow joint is missing, and are also referred to as "above the elbow" or "AE"

Specialized One Handed Tools

There are a wide variety of tools and devices adapted to be used by people who have use of one hand. This includes devices for buttoning shirts, putting on shoes, opening jars, preparing food, holding books, turning keys, cutting nails, brushing teeth, and typing, among many other. In addition to devices made specifically for people with use of one hand or arm, many people may repurpose or create their own devices to perform tasks.

Employees with a Limb Difference

Finding Assistive Technology