Assistive Devices for Neuro-developmental disabilities especially Locomotor variety

Dr. Shovan Saha
Assoc. Prof, Dept. of Occupational Therapy, Manipal Medical College , India


In the past several years there has been a great increase in the use of assistive technologies by persons with disabilities so that they can pursue self care, educational, vocational, and recreational activities.

Assistive technology is an important concept and refers to a broad range of devices, services, strategies, and practices that are conceived and applied to ameliorate the problems faced by individuals who have disabilities. It is defined as per the Public Law 100-407, the Technical Assistance to the States Act in the United States as ‘any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities’.

Despite the growth in interest, application, and training, there has been a lack of carefully articulated principles in the emerging assistive technology field. The common approach has been to focus on currently available devices with little synthesis of principles and practices.

For years, professionals have used different types of low – tech devices, such as reachers, button hooks, pencil grips, and other pieces of equipment, to promote functional independence in patients. Assistive technology is an extremely dynamic approach for patients with permanent disability and contributes as an adjunct to various conditions with relatively temporary disabling conditions. However, within the past 10 to 15 years, with the technologic advances in the society, professionals have increasingly used a wide range of electronic devices, from simple switches to complex robotics, to promote functional independence. This expansion in the use of assistive technology opens new doors, create opportunities, and enables individuals with disabilities to realize functional goals that were previously unattainable.

Searchable database on ABLEDATA lists about 19000 assistive technology products that is in circulation in USA and has grown over the years to a multi billion dollar market today.

According to the Census of India, 2001 estimates of people with locomotor disability is at 6,105, 477 and is the largest in the world.  The circumstances of the disabled persons, along with poverty, ignorance and a general apathy, force them to a position where it becomes virtually impossible for them to participate in even the most routine activities. Assistive technology is a relatively new concept in Indian context, it is loosely structured, and no sufficient legislations to monitor the process of circulation and outcomes. The Govt. of India PWD Act, 1995 (Section 28, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48) although spells out initiative in regards to assistive technology, but ground realities are very different.

Through the presentation, an attempt would be made to generate awareness among professionals about the various facets of assistive technology and the recent trends, and sensitize them about the potential of assistive technology in alleviating the cause of people with locomotor disability in our country. 


Shovan Saha

Associate Professor & Head, Department of Occupational Therapy, Manipal College of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal University