Assistive devices, Ergonomics and assistive technologies

CCMC  Related Terms

Assistive Device: Any tool that is designed, made, or adapted to assist a person to perform a particular task.

Assistive Technology: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples are listening devices, speech production equipment and low vision devices.

Assistive Technology Services: Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Ergonomics (or human factors): The scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system. It is the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to environmental design (including work environments) in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

Ergonomist: An individual who has (1) a mastery of ergonomics knowledge; (2) a command of the methodologies used by ergonomists in applying that knowledge to the design of a product, process, or environment; and (3) has applied his or her knowledge to the analysis, design, test, and evaluation of products, processes, and environments.

Types of Assistive Devices and Technologies

Assistive devices and assistive technology devices are tangible items or pieces of equipment that aide a person with a disability in carrying out a task. They can be high-tech such as computers and hearing aids. They can also be as simple as a cane or reacher. The purpose of the device is to improve function and independence. They are frequently used as job accommodations. 

For physical disabilities that affect movement, mobility aids include:

  • canes
  • crutches
  • walkers
  • scooters
  • wheelchairs

Computer software and hardware can allow use of computers to people with sensory or motor impairments. This would include:

  • alternate keyboard
  • voice recognition programs
  • screen readers
  • screen enlargement applications

Other types of assistive devices include:

  • Hearing Aids
  • Page-turners
  • Book-holders
  • Adapted pencil grips
  • Closed Captioning
  • Reacher



Ergonomics originates from the Greek words “ergon”, meaning work, and “nomoi”, meaning natural laws. The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as the the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system. According to the CDC, the goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee’s physical capabilities and limitations. An ergonomic adjustment can be as simple as adjusting the position of lighting to avoid eye strain. It can also be complex involving engineering to redesign a factory to allow for better ergonomics for workers.