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How assistive technology can help individuals with disabilities

People with disabilities can benefit greatly from assistive technology (AT). There are a number of different options available, depending on the individual’s specific needs. Assistive technology can improve accessibility in the home or workplace, and help make daily activities easier.

Last year, California State University, Northridge held its annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference dedicated to exploring innovative new assistive technologies. The event aimed to provide people with disabilities an opportunity to have direct input on the creation and modification of assistive technologies such as interactive software, smartphone apps and wheelchairs.

Sandy Plotin, managing director of CSUN’s Center on Disabilities, said, “Our conference brings together thousands of people from around the world . . . all committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness for people with disabilities.”

There are many companies that are developing ways to take assistive technology to the next level. Next year, IBM and Local Motors are hoping to launch a self-driving, electric shuttle bus. Dubbed “Olli,” the bus will use a combination of smartphone apps, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to transport people with a range of physical and mental disabilities around neighborhoods.

Susan Henderson, executive director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said the bus offers a way to address the limitations of current transportation systems. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, only certain subway and train stations are required to be accessible. As a result, individuals with walkers or wheelchairs often have to travel several stops out of their way to reach a destination.