Clever new “assistive technologies” now reaching the market can help you or a loved one better use a computer if it is difficult…enjoy the outdoors if you need extra support to walk…navigate better if you have low vision or blindness…and much more. Also, some of these devices are useful for people who are not disabled but would just like to make things easier.


Wheelchairs and conventional walkers are not the only devices that can help you get around…

More comfortable crutch: Ergobaum distributes users’ body weight over the length of their forearms instead of in the armpits. Many people find this less stressful for the arms, particularly when crutches are needed for more than a few days. ($169 for a pair,* ­


“Walker” you can use for jogging: ­Afari Mobility Aid (shown above) has three large wheels plus bicycle-like steering controls and brakes. It lets people who need extra stability when walking move at faster speeds than with a traditional walker. It also works on unpaved surfaces. It is currently being produced in small quantities, so availability is limited. ($1,650 to $1,850,

Alternative: Trionic Veloped is another walker capable of traveling off-road. There are versions for golfing…hiking…and hunting—the golfing model can carry golf clubs, for example. ($1,250 to $1,550,

Strong, portable lift: Molift Smart 150 is a hoist capable of picking up a person who weighs as much as 330 pounds to transfer him/her from a bed to a wheelchair or vice versa. Yet this hoist folds down into two sections weighing less than 30 pounds apiece (including rechargeable battery) that can easily fit into the trunk of a car. It gives you the freedom to travel even if you can’t get yourself up out of bed and your partner can’t lift you. ($3,955.50,­en-us/products)

Clothing tailored for wheelchair users: Chairmelotte designs mostly women’s garments specifically for wheelchair users. (The company also has a small selection for men.) The clothing is cut to be comfortable, stylish and flattering while seated, not while standing…there are extra zippers where people who use wheelchairs are likely to need them, such as up the side seam of skirts and pants…and the sleeves are cut to allow the full arm motions needed to propel a hand-operated wheelchair. (­

Hand Use

Many conditions can lead to hand tremors or hand-strength problems. Among the tech that can help…

Gadget that controls tech with head movements: GlassOuse lets you control the cursor on a PC or Mac computer screen using small movements of your head rather than with a traditional computer mouse. It can control ­Bluetooth-enabled Android phones, tablets and smart TVs, too. GlassOuse is worn on the face like eyeglasses, only with no lenses. (If you wear actual eyeglasses, it can sit just above them.) Users can operate its “mouse button” by tapping a finger pad…biting a specially designed switch…or blowing a puff of air—these button units are sold separately. ($499 for GlassOuse plus $29 to $129 for the attachments,

Software that takes dictation: ­Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not the only software program that converts spoken words into typed text on a screen, but it is the most accurate. While most apps and programs that attempt this are prone to misunderstandings, ­NaturallySpeaking learns your accent and speech patterns so that the more you use it, the more accurate it becomes. The company that makes this software has been improving its speech-recognition software for decades, so its products are some of the most sophisticated. ($42,

Spill-avoiding spoon: S’up Spoon has an easy-to-grip handle and a very deep head (almost like a pipe) to cut down on spills. ($24.34, with shipping from the UK,

Alternative: Liftware Steady is a high-tech spoon that has sensors and motors hidden in its handle to counteract hand tremors. The head of the spoon remains largely steady even if your hand does not. Fork and spork attachments also are available. ($195,

Pour hot liquids without spills: “Kettle tippers” such as Maxi Aids’ The Tipper are not new or high-tech, but they are quite useful. They support the weight of a kettle as you pour, reducing the odds of spills and burns. ($37.95,

Limited Eyesight or Blindness

Useful items for people who have vision problems…

Glasses that use sound to paint a picture of your surroundings: Eyesynth smartglasses scan the area in front of the wearer and convert the visual environment into a tonal soundscape. With practice, users can learn to interpret its sounds so that they can navigate indoor and outdoor areas—it’s a little like having sonar. ­Eyesynth creates its soundscape using only tones, not words, and it does so through small vibrations in the user’s facial bones rather than with an earpiece, so it is not overly distracting. The company is getting ready to release the product, but you can reserve one for a deposit of about $600. (Final price expected to be about $2,800.

Cane that warns of obstacles: UltraCane uses ultrasonic waves (people can’t hear them) to identify upcoming obstacles. It then silently warns its user about these obstacles via vibrations in its handle. Unlike conventional canes, it identifies obstacles at head or chest height, such as low tree branches, in addition to those at or near ground level. ($1,295,, sold in the US through

Easy way to access the Internet via voice: Amazon Echo speakers weren’t designed for the blind, but devices such as this that offer access to a “virtual assistant” can be tremendously useful for people who cannot see (and for people who have limited use of their hands, too). You can ask Echo’s virtual assistant, Alexa, to check your messages, place a phone call, look up information online, play music and more—all with your voice. ($99.99,

Alternative: The Amazon Echo Plus does everything the Echo does and serves as a smarthome hub. Together with compatible smarthome devices, you could tell Alexa to lock or unlock your doors…adjust your thermostat…or turn on or off any device that plugs into a power outlet. ($149.99 plus ­chosen smarthome devices)


A pair of products for people who suffer from hearing loss or who communicate via sign language…

Headphones that let you hear even if your eardrums cannot: AfterShokz headphones convey sound through small vibrations in the cheekbones, bypassing the eardrums. They’re a way for people who have eardrum damage or certain other ear problems to hear again. These headphones can be used to listen to music or podcasts, but if you combine ­AfterShokz with a smartphone and the Petralex sound-amplification app (, free for iOS or Android), it could improve your ability to hear ambient sounds around you, too. Note that although AfterShokz headphones bypass the eardrums, a functioning inner ear still is needed for them to successfully convey sound. ($49.95 to $179.95 depending on model selected—higher-end models are lighter and offer wireless Bluetooth connectivity, among other advantages,

*Prices are from online retailers and may be below the manufacturers’ retail prices.