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Supportive Technology

Terms and Definitions


There are many different terms that are used when talking about assistive technology which can make it confusing to tell the difference between different services and supports. This guide provides an overview of some common terms and examples related to assistive technology.

Picture with multiple cell phones with apps open on them.

    • Assistive Technology: The term ‘assistive technology’ is the umbrella term for all technological devices that help a person with
      a disability do the things they want to do. These devices improve an individual’s functioning, independence, and overall well-being. Assistive technology is also sometimes referred to as “supportive technology” or“ enabling technology.”


John uses a stove sensor that sends a text alert to his phone when the stove has been turned on for longer than 30 consecutive minutes.

    • Remote Supports: Remote supports involve the use of high-tech devices that use two-way real time communication
      in the individual’s home or community that allows someone offsite to monitor and respond to the individual’s needs. Remote supports involves the use of assistive technology devices.


John uses a stove sensor that is monitored by a direct support professional who is offsite. The direct support professional calls John when the stove has been on for longer than 30 consecutive minutes and checks to see if he needs help.

    • Independent Living Technology: Independent living technology is meant to help those with disabilities live independent and safe lives while decreasing their need for assistance from others. These tools and devices help make everyday life easier for individuals on their own.


TV (audio/video) Remote Control, Smartphone/Tablet Access, Landline Phone Control, Lamp/Fan/Light Remote Control, Attendant Call Access, Door Opener, Video Door bell.

    • Home Accessibility Modifications: Home adaptations are changes made to a home to become more accessible for a person with a disability and meets their specific needs. This allows them to live more independently and safely.


Widened doorways, swing-clear and expandable offset door hinges, barrier-free (roll-in) showers, permanent ramps into and out of a home, outside railings, and porch lifts.

    • Vehicle Modifications: Vehicle modifications are changes made to a car or van that make it possible for a person with a disability to be a passenger and/or a driver.


Lowered floor, ramp, wheelchair or scooter tie-downs and docking systems, swivel chairs, driver control devices, hand controls, and pedal adjusters.

    • Electronic Devices: Electronic devices are tools used for audio, video, or text communication These devices can be used to help someone control lights, doors, telephone, and security systems in a room or home.


Computers, smart phones, smart watches, and tablets.

    • Smart Home Technology: Smart home technology means one or more internet-connected devices that can help someone control their environment and navigate everyday life activities by voice, movement, apps, or switches. Many of these devices can be automated and remotely controlled.


Speakers, light bulbs, thermostats, plugs, TVs, home appliances, doorbells, door locks, security systems, health monitoring systems.

    • Adapted Technology: Adapted technology, or adaptive technology, falls under the umbrella of assistive technology. It is equipment or software that has been modified (or customized) to meet the needs of a specific person who has a disability.


Keyboard filters/modifications, word prediction software, large print books, or wheelchair modifications such as specialized cushions, wheels, or attached screens and controls.

    • Customization: Customization is when something is changed or specifically made to meet the needs of a task or a person with a disability. Customization allows individuals to have the tools that work, help, or fit the best for them, making everyday life easier and improving their functional capabilities.


Changing the size of wheels on a wheelchair for different activities, changing the size of an individual’s prosthetic as they grow, or changing the default font size and color on devices for someone who is colorblind or has difficulty seeing.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.