Electronic & Computer Equipment
Many teenagers have got either their own or access to a smartphone or an iPad / tablet. Though you may not call these or any other electronic equipment you’ve got ‘Assistive Technology' (AT), this is what it’s commonly called by teachers and healthcare professionals. If you’re finding that there are some things that have got harder to do because of your muscle weakness, there may be some AT around that would help. There’s a huge range of things:
- Computer software and hardware, such as voice recognition programmes and screen readers.
- Adaptive switches for playing games.
- Communication aids, for example, an ‘eye-tracking’ device to operate a computer.
- Environmental control systems which can be built into smartphones, laptops and wheelchair control pads. These can enable people to manage all sorts of daily tasks independently such as opening doors, answering their phone, switching lights on and off, programming and changing heating systems, operating lifts, opening and drawing curtains independently.
Many devices and systems are increasingly being developed and marketed generally, which helps reduce costs and improve availability.
If you need specialist computer access for play and learning opportunities at home, you’ll usually need an assessment by a Specialist in Assistive Technology. The way this is organised varies but your OT /physio will be able to tell you about local services and potential funding. If you need specialist computer access at school, this should be assessed through your Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and provided through education services.
You can find more information about AT and examples of specific products by opening up the links below. You may also find it helpful to visit one of the equipment exhibitions held around the country, which is where you’ll be able to talk with a range of providers. There are four ‘kidz’ exhibitions in the UK a year specifically for children and young people (aged up to 25 years) You’ll find details of these and other events and exhibitions that may be useful here: Equipment Exhibitions, Sport and Other Events
If an item can’t be funded by the health or local authority but your OT or other specialist can confirm you’d benefit from having it, you may be able to get help with funding. Most charities won’t fund retrospectively, so it’s important not to place your order or pay any deposit until all funding has been secured or pledged.
If your parents want to apply for help with funding, Support Services at SMA UK can suggest charities that may provide a grant. Most charities will need:
- a letter from your OT/specialist to say that the devices you’ve chosen are suitable and meet your needs and that the NHS is unable to provide funding.
- your quote from the supplier detailing costs, including any extra accessories and delivery. You shouldn’t pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on any items that have been ‘designed solely for disabled people’ (the general rule for whether an item is VAT exempt). Ask the supplier to check for you.
You can find related information in the Living With SMA section:
Funding for Equipment.
Useful Home Tech
"Apart from a wheelchair, probably the thing I use the most around my house is my network of Intelligent Personal Assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices."
Julian who has SMA Type 3
Page last updated: July 2019
Communication Aids & Environmental Controls
Eye gaze, or eye tracking, is a way of accessing your computer or communication aid using a mouse that you control with your eyes. The eye gaze system follows your eyes to see where you are looking on the screen. You can then select the item you’re looking at by ‘dwelling’ or staring at the screen for a length of time, blinking or clicking with a switch.
Eye gaze systems work by having lights and cameras that are constantly sending and receiving information. The camera picks up light reflections from your pupils and translates the movement of your eyes into mouse cursor movements. They’re ideal systems for anyone who has limited hand and arm movement and / or communication difficulties that make it difficult to operate a computer otherwise.
These links take you to a whole range of information and products:
ACE Centre: www.acecentre.org.uk
Cogain Network (COGAIN - Communication by Gaze Interaction): www.cogain.org
Communication Matters: www.communicationmatters.org.uk
Eyegaze Systems (LC Technologies): www.eyegaze.com
Inclusive Technology: www.inclusive.co.uk
Sensory Guru: www.sensoryguru.com
Smartbox Assistive Technology: www.thinksmartbox.com
Tobii Dynavox: www.tobiidynavox.com
Specialist Computers & Gaming Equipment
AbilityNet - offer advice and training on computer technology for disabled people: www.abilitynet.org.uk
Everyone Can - helps disabled people to make the best use of information and communication technology by providing information and support on all aspects of disability computing: www.everyonecan.org.uk
Special Effect - adapted gaming controls: www.specialeffect.org.uk