Some disabilities are quite visible, and others are “hidden.” Most disabilities can be grouped into four major categories 1:
- Cognitive disability: intellectual and learning disabilities/disorder, distractibility, reading disorders, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information
- Hearing disability: hearing loss or impaired hearing
- Physical disability: paralysis, difficulties with walking or other movement, inability to use a computer mouse, slow response time, limited fine or gross motor control
- Visual disability: blindness, low vision, color blindness
Mental illness, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, and psychosis, for example, is also a disability.
Hidden disabilities can include some people with visual impairments and those with dexterity difficulties, such as repetitive strain injury. People who are hard of hearing or have mental health difficulties also may be included in this category.1
Some people have disabling medical conditions that may be regarded as hidden disabilities—for example, epilepsy; diabetes; sickle cell conditions; HIV/AIDS; cystic fibrosis; cancer; and heart, liver or kidney problems. The conditions may be short term or long term, stable or progressive, constant or unpredictable and fluctuating, controlled by medication or another treatment, or untreatable. Many people with hidden disabilities can benefit from assistive technologies for certain activities or during certain stages of their diseases or conditions.1
People who have spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, osteogenesis imperfecta, multiple sclerosis, demyelinating diseases, myelopathy, progressive muscular atrophy, amputations, or paralysis often benefit from complex rehabilitative technology. This means that the assistive devices these people use are individually configured to help each person with his or her own unique disability.2
For more information about conditions that can often be helped with assistive technology:
- MedLine Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine, provides information about assistive devices for various conditions.
- The Paralysis Resource Center provided by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation explains some of the different paralytic conditions that can benefit from assistive technology.
- The public television station WETA offers information on the use of assistive technologies for children with learning disabilities.
- CANnect. (2012). Assistive technologies and what they do. Retrieved August 12, 2012, from http://www.perkinselearning.org/topics/assistive-technology
- National Center for Assistive and Rehab Technology. (2009). What is complex rehab technology? Retrieved August 11, 2012, from http://www.ncart.us/advocacy/what-is-complex-rehab-technology