Rehabilitative and assistive technology refers to tools, equipment, or products that can help people with disabilities successfully complete activities at school, home, work, and in the community. Disabilities are disorders, diseases, health conditions, or injuries that affect a person’s physical, intellectual, or mental well-being and functioning. Rehabilitative and assistive technologies can help people with disabilities function more easily in their everyday lives and can also make it easier for a caregiver to care for a person with disabilities. The term “rehabilitative technology” refers to aids that help people recover their functioning after injury or illness. “Assistive technologies” may be as simple as a magnifying glass to improve vision or as complex as a digital communication system.
Some of these technologies are made possible through rehabilitative engineering research, which applies engineering and scientific principles to study how people with disabilities function in society. It includes studying barriers and designing solutions so that people with disabilities can interact successfully in their environments.
NICHD houses the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), which is charged with advancing scientific knowledge on disabilities and rehabilitation, while also providing vital support and focus for the field of medical rehabilitation to help ensure the health, independence, productivity, and quality of life of all people. Through the NCMRR, NICHD supports the development and testing of rehabilitative and assistive technologies, with a focus on physical rehabilitation.