2001 Conference Proceedings

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Solutions: Assistive Technology for People with Hidden Disabilities

Michael Bishop and Dud Zimmerman
Interagency Program for Assistive Technology
Valley City, North Dakota

Technology is making a dramatic impact on all of our lives and affects how we work, play, and learn. It helps us throughout our daily activities, alarms get us up in the morning, electronic or paper organizers keep us on task at work or school, and telephones, televisions, and computers keep us connected to each other. For people with hidden disabilities, assistive technology (AT) and proper medical care can provide the support needed to accomplish what was once viewed as difficult at best. AT can assist individuals who have memory-related problems by reducing memory demands, help those with distractibility stay on task, provide immediate information for those who become confused, soothe, comfort, and uplift individuals experiencing anxiety, connect those feeling isolated and depressed, and keep people safe when cognitive abilities are affected.

Within this session, the term ‘hidden disabilities’ refers collectively to diagnosable mental disorders. In general, hidden disabilities are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. For example, Alzheimer’s disease exemplifies a hidden disabilities largely marked by forgetti9ng. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder exemplifies a hidden disability identified by over activity and/or an inability to concentrate. Dementia exemplifies a hidden disability impacting clarity of thinking. Depression exemplifies a hidden disability marked by alterations in mood. Anxiety disorders exemplify hidden disabilities marked by behavior changes, often resulting in companionship and socialization difficulties. Hidden disabilities contribute to a host of problem – patient distress, impaired functioning, or heightened risk of death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

Bibliography

American Psychiatric Association (1988, 1990, 1994). Let’s Talk About… Pamphlets. Rockville, MD.

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