If you’re finding some things are getting harder for you to do because of your muscle weakness, there may be some Assistive Technology (AT) around that would help. There’s a huge range:
- Computer software and hardware, such as voice recognition programmes and screen readers.
- Adaptive switches for computer gaming
- Communication aids, for example, an ‘eye-tracking’ device to operate a computer (see below).
- 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.
Julian Fiorentini discusses all things tech related with Emma Vogelmann below, including how to get your home set up right and sharing some useful tips:
You can find more information about AT and examples of specific products by opening up the tabs 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, for example at the Naidex exhibition. You’ll find details of this and other events and exhibitions that may be useful here: Equipment Exhibitions, Sport and Other Events.
You may want to consider an assessment by a specialist in Assistive Technology. If an item can’t be funded by the health or local authority but your OT or other specialist can confirm it's suitable and beneficial for you, 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.
To apply for help with funding, Support Services at SMA UK may be able to suggest charities that might provide a grant. Most charities will need:
- a letter from your OT / specialist to say that the device(s) 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.
Page last reviewed / updated: April 2021
Next review due: April 2022
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."
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’re 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:
- Abilia: www.abilia.com
- 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
- The Sequal Trust: www.thesequaltrust.org.uk
- 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