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What is assistive technology?

The NDIS refers to aids or equipment as ‘assistive technology’ or ‘AT’. AT is any device or system that assists people to:

  • Complete tasks you would otherwise be unable to do
  • Complete tasks more easily
  • Complete tasks more safely.

Assistive technology ranges in complexity, cost and risk, from simple mass-produced consumer products like talking watches through to complex, individually tailored technology like electronic aids to help with navigation.

The NDIS has four AT complexity levels:

Basic (level 1)

Low-cost, low-risk and you will mostly identify and source this yourself. For example: signatures guides, talking watches and large print calendars.

Standard (level 2)

These are typically ‘off the shelf’ AT that you can test and trial before making a final choice. For example: handheld optical magnifiers, optical character recognition systems (OCR), handrails and ramps.

Specialised (level 3)

This is similar to Level 2 AT, however it often requires modification to suit your needs. For example: desktop electronic magnification, DAISY players, Braille displays and home modifications such as bathroom adaptations.

Complex (level 4)

These are typically custom made or ‘off the shelf’, but configured uniquely for you. For example: electronic mobility aids to assist with navigation and complex home modifications that require major structural change.

How can assistive technology help?

It is important that the NDIS are made aware of any current assistive technology or equipment that you use. This will be recorded within your NDIS plan.

A health professional such as an occupational therapist can recommend assistive technology that is fit for purpose – that is it meets your functional need.

The NDIS determines whether the assistive technology is reasonable and necessary for you to achieve your NDIS goals.

Assistive technology such as electronic video magnifiers, computer software, accessibility settings, audio book players etc. can make it easier to read books, access handwriting, use the computer, take notes and much more.

Here are some examples:

Electronic video magnifiers

Electronic video magnifiers use a built in camera to allow you to look at things in an enlarged format. Electronic video magnifiers come in different shapes and forms.

There are handheld battery operated magnifiers which are helpful for ‘spot reading’ like reading a menu at a restaurant or looking at shop prices.

There are also desktop versions which are more suitable for reading books and can be used for drawing.

Computer software

At times it can be difficult to see the writing on a computer screen. There are a variety of computer software/settings which help in making the screen more accessible.

There is magnification software which enlarges the view on the computer.

Text to speech software can help to scan print material and convert it to an audio output. Screen reading software can make it possible to use the computer without having any vision.

Touchscreen devices

Today, more and more mainstream technology is being released with accessibility features. Touchscreen devices such as iPads can assist people with vision impairment.

There are a variety of applications that can assist in a number of ways. Examples of useful apps include magnifier apps, ebook apps, and note taking apps.

Audiobook players

Having a vision impairment can sometimes make it difficult to read books. Audiobook players are available that make it easy to access audio versions of your favourite books.

With an audiobook player you might be able to catch up on reading your favourite books whilst you are on a bus, train or in the comfort of your living room.

Braille technology and more

Braille displays and note takers can be very useful if you can read braille. They can assist you in accessing the print on your computer or even help you in taking notes.

Navigation and mobility

Mainstream and assistive technology are available to assist with orientation and mobility and can include:

  • Mobility aids such as various types of long canes
  • Various GPS and travel-related apps on Android and Apple devices
  • Electronic Travel Aids that can detect the distance between objects or provide support with knowing where you are.

A specialist in assistive technology or orientation and mobility specialist can help in determining suitable technology or equipment to improve your independence and safety with travel.

Where can I find out more?

If you already have an idea of the type of assistive technology you may need you can find out more information via the Independent Living Centre (ILC) of Western Australia’s online equipment database: National Equipment Database.

For more specialised items you may want to speak with a provider.

More general information on assistive technology can be found on the NDIS website: Assistive Technology FAQs.