Before Assistive Technology
When a person experiences a significant loss of vision, it is essential for that individual to learn alternative techniques for performing old tasks in a different manner to remain safe and efficient .
Sometimes this means learning to do the task in a different manner and sometimes it means that some type of assistive technology is needed to perform the task easily and efficiently.
The question becomes what is assistive technology?
Assistive technology can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.
As people losing vision begin their exploration of skills and assistive technology, many times they become overwhelmed with the availability of specialized devices available to them.
Linda Jones, Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, discusses considering various levels of considerations before deciding if assistive technology is needed. This concept introduces performing skills in the least restrictive environment to the use of devices to complete tasks. Everyone should consider these concepts prior to deciding which type of technique or device is best for them.
“Have You Looked in the Kitchen Drawer?”
Least Restrictive Adaptations
When does independence actually begin–when a person looks through their list of specialty stores and products to solve an adaptive problem, or when the person first looks through the kitchen drawer?
A specialty product may be the best choice for a particular situation, but consumers are sometimes not given the opportunity to make informed choices about adaptive techniques because specialty items are provided or recommended before other types of adaptations are fully explored.
Encouraging consumers to adopt a kitchen drawer philosophy will help dispel the idea that only a professional or a special product is the solution. As a result, consumers will become more self-reliant. They will also soon realize that family members, friends, and neighbors can help with basic tasks, such as marking appliances or making labels.
Adaptations for daily living skills can be divided into three basic categories-behavioral adaptations, environmental adaptations, and specialty products. Each type of adaptation has its place in teaching daily living skills, but too often specialty products are stressed over the two less restrictive methods.
For many tasks no special devices or markings are required. What’s needed is just a new way of thinking and new habits.
Developing and maintaining good organizational skills reduces frustration and saves time’ For example, arranging a pantry in alphabetical order or coordinating file folders by color in a file cabinet helps serve as locator guides.
Shifting from one primary sense to another simplifies many tasks. Familiar examples include:
identifying coins by touch,
· distinguishing food items like cinnamon, garlic, and black pepper by smell or texture,
· locating various items by container shape (for instance, mustard, ketchup, shampoo, aspirin),
· sorting clothes by texture, shape, or style,
using buttons, collars, pockets, or belts as identifiers, or
· taking an item into brighter light.
Identifying and changing behavioral habits that are no longer effective is the least restrictive approach and should be promoted early within the training process.
Like behavioral adaptations, environmental adaptations make tasks easier and do not require the use of specialty products. Examples include:
· marking the end of a long hall with a radio or ticking clock,
· increasing or decreasing the amount of light in an office by changing the light wattage or closing the drapes or blinds.
· reducing glare by covering a table with a cloth or changing the blotter on a desk,
· improving mobility or increasing visual functioning by rearranging furniture in a room at home or office,
· removing or tearing labels on can goods for identification
· marking articles of clothing that are similar except for color or design by notching the manufacturer’s label in different places on the labels or placing a safety pin or sewing a small knot where it can’t be seen
Completing a task becomes more restrictive when some type of tool is used. Threading a needle, for example, is difficult without a threader, but adds steps and increases dependence on the threader. An elaborate labeling system is often recommended for marking clothes, food products, and settings on appliances, when simpler methods could be used. Correlating settings to positions on a clock face with tape or glue, or notching a dial with a file may work just as well, especially if the consumer has been using the appliance for years. The adaptive tools can be bought at the local store, kept in the kitchen drawer, and are less conspicuous.
Introducing a specialty tool into a task, even if it makes the task easier, reduces independence. The individual who totally relies on a special product to do a task becomes dependent upon the product, the vendor, and the manufacturer. If a consumer chooses to use a specialty product, not only must training with the device be provided, but also an alternative method of doing the task is necessary in case the specialty device breaks, the battery dies, or the product is taken off the market.
in partnership with consumers toward independence in daily living skills at home and work. With independence as the priority, focus on teaching consumers the skills to solve their own problems, beginning with the least restrictive methods of adaptation. Consumers who can create their own adaptations and find their own resources will be more independent at home and on the job.
Consumers should be Encouraged to look at their kitchen drawer full of rubber bands, tape, glue, index cards, safety pins, Velcro, sandpaper, and bread ties as valuable adaptive aids/tools.