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How to get assistive technology right and avoid the pitfalls

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology, sometimes referred to as personalised technology is used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might be difficult otherwise. These include technologies from simple automatic medicine dispensers and big button remote controls to internet connectivity, artificial intelligence, wearable health trackers and smart homes.

It is a key part of support planning and plays a vital role in offering people ‘Just Enough Support’ to achieve a full life.

At its best, assistive technology can make a difference to people’s independence, increase privacy and dignity, and help the people we support to gain more control over their lives.

Assistive tech may lead to less need for regular staff checks, more autonomy at home, and greater mobility for people with physical disabilities. It helps to deliver value for money for commissioners, supporting the sustainability of services as well as improving individual outcomes.

Read our family factsheet or easy read guide to assistive technology.

Improving communication with assistive technology

Much assistive technology is about improving communication – from objects of reference to eye gaze technology.

Read our detailed guide to great communication or view this video to explore some communications technologies:

What are the benefits of assistive technology?

Assistive technology helps to safeguard the people we support, increasing people’s independence, privacy and dignity by enabling care to be delivered only when needed. It also helps people to make their own choices and decisions about their lives.

Sometimes assistive tech saves money. If so, a person’s personal budget can be reallocated to help them get more from life.

Colleagues report they can spend more time engaged in meaningful activities when the people we support are able to take more control over their own care. Assistive technology can also help colleagues feel safer when supporting individuals with behaviours of distress.


Our Guiding Principles

  • Minimising digital isolation: Many of the people we support do not have much access to technology and the internet. We want every person we support to be seen and treated as an equal citizen, with the same opportunities and right to safety as everyone else. This includes reliable access to the internet and devices.
  • We do not want technology to replace great support: Assistive technology, alongside great active support, may enable people to live better lives.
  • We want people to have ‘Just Enough Support’ (there’s a family factsheet about Just Enough Support, too) and to be following our ‘Activate’ support model.
  • We will focus on the support plan: The right assistive technology for any person will be identified by looking at their particular needs and whether any of the Assistive Technology products could help them live a better life. This is captured within the ‘My Technology’ section of a support plan.
  • We will use products to help keep people safe – for example having epilepsy or falls sensors in place. Using assistive technology helps safeguard the people we support, increasing people’s independence, privacy and dignity by enabling care to be delivered only when needed. It also helps people to make more choices and decisions about their lives.
  • We will try new ideas – If your loved one might benefit from something different – either to keep them safe or to support them to be more independent or happy – we’ll think it through and give it a go, alongside our huge range of innovative suppliers.
  • Sometimes assistive tech saves money. This may allow funds to go further, and individuals to get more out of life.

Our aims:

  • Provide support for all the technology in place – for example, to ensure a person we support can stay safe online.
  • Provide support in using products to increase communication skills and build friendships.
  • Support people to use products that improve communication, health or lifelong learning, or which help someone be part of their community.
  • Get specialist advice to help find new ways to improve the quality of a person’s care and support.
  • Support people to have the right internet connection and speed for them.
  • Help people explore how to get online, thinking about both devices and broadband. This all starts with the ‘My Technology’ part of ‘My Support Plan’ and may vary depending on a person’s support arrangements

Click the question to show the answer for these additional FAQs:

What effects have the pandemic had?

Many people have asked whether the pandemic made a major difference to the connectedness of the people we support. The answer to that, without question, is yes. To find out just how big the change has been, watch this short animation: