Finding the right equipment and assistive technology

There are many things to consider before buying equipment or assistive technology. Having a clear idea of your needs will help you find the right product for you.

If you need the equipment, you normally can get funding for it.

Paying for disability equipment and assistive technology

What do you find difficult

Think about tasks you struggle with and which part of the task is difficult. This will help you work out what you need.

For example

If you struggle to read, what do you find difficult? It might be holding the book and turning pages or seeing the words clearly. Depending on this, you might consider products such as:

  • book stands to make reading physically easier
  • reading lamps to ease eye strain
  • e-readers that allow you to adjust text size and screen brightness
  • audiobooks to listen to instead of read

You might find mixing products helps. For example, you could try an e-reader on a book stand. There may also be accessories to help, like an e-reader case with a built-in stand.

Choosing the right equipment for you

List activities under categories like:

  • cooking and eating meals
  • getting in and out of the bath
  • remembering to take medication
  • controlling your home environment
  • getting out and about
  • communicating

Consider how your needs may change too.

Make a list of criteria

What must a product help you with? List these by priority, keeping in mind what things are essential and what are nice to have. This will help you assess product features.

Healthcare professionals can help you assess larger, more expensive products and home adaptations such as:

Think about your home

For larger equipment, consider these questions:

  • Do you have the space at home to use and store it?
  • Will you need permission from your landlord to install something like a sensor or speaker?
  • Do you plan to move house soon? If so, try to get something that’s easy to move.

Getting home adaptations

Home adaptations and occupational therapist assessments

Things you’ve used before

Think about any equipment or assistive technology that has worked for you at work or other places you go, such as a community centre or somebody else’s house.

Custom-made equipment

Some products can be custom-made or adapted to your needs. For example, some specialist chairs can be adapted to your body shape. In some cases, they can also be made to match your furniture. An occupational therapist (OT) can help you work out what you need.

Some charities can adapt, modify or design equipment to meet your needs:

Search for product reviews

Researching products online can help you work out what things might work for you. Use your criteria and price range to narrow down the options and search for reviews.

Reviews can help you learn more about a product and its features. They can also tell you about how others have used it and whether it will meet your needs. You could try looking at:

  • tech reviews and assistive tech reviews
  • customer reviews
  • blogger reviews
  • reviews on YouTube

Warning Reviews are not professional advice

Reviews and advice about equipment and technology are based on people’s personal experiences. What works for someone else may not work for you.

Reviews are not professional advice unless from the company or qualified expert. Only follow advice you feel comfortable with.

Talk to other people

Asking other people about disability equipment, assistive technology and phone apps they use can help you find out what’s out there.

Talking to healthcare professionals about equipment and assistive technology

You could try:

  • asking disabled friends or colleagues what they recommend
  • reading conversations about equipment, assistive technology and apps on online communities or forums
  • talking to other people or asking for advice on online communities or forums

Ask our online community about technology and equipment 

Search on social media

Social media can be a great place to find information or connect with others in a similar situation. You could try:

  • using searches like 'accessibility apps', 'A11y apps' or 'a11y tech' ('A11y' is short for accessibility)
  • disability blogs or blogs by people with the same condition or impairment as you
  • Facebook groups, such as general accessible tech groups or groups for your condition or impairment
  • podcasts like Tech Talk (RNIB) and TechShare (AbilityNet)

Help with apps and technology online

Searching online and on app stores can be overwhelming with so many products on offer.

Apps that make life more accessible

Learning to use new assistive technology or equipment

Smart home technology for disabled people

These websites are a good place to start:

Check disability websites supporting your needs for specific app and tech suggestions.

Questions to ask suppliers

Ask these questions before you buy:

  • Does the manufacturer or company offer short-term hire?
  • Can you try the product before buying it?
  • What’s the warranty if the product breaks?
  • Will the company service your equipment?
  • Are spare parts easy to find?
  • What’s the returns policy? You may not be able to return some items like toilet seats for hygiene reasons.
  • Can you claim VAT relief? You may be entitled to tax relief for equipment like wheelchairs or adapted keyboards.

VAT relief for disabled people (GOV.UK)

Know your rights when you buy goods or services (Money Saving Expert)

Try before you buy

There are many ways to try equipment and assistive technology before you buy.

In store or at home

Most specialist suppliers let you try disability equipment and assistive technology. For example, you can test drive adapted cars with Motability.

Some stores will let you try out products. Contact them to find out if they do.

Other shops, like Apple stores, have disability specialists to talk you through your options.

Go with a list of questions. If they do not have the answers, ask for the manufacturer’s contact details.

Some online retailers like Mobility Solutions offer free home demonstrations too.

Short-term loans

Some suppliers offer short-term loans for you to try products before buying. Ask who covers the cost of delivery and returns before committing to this.

Demonstration days with local groups

You may find that local disability groups and charities hold demonstration days. These are a good way to try equipment and technology as there are usually experts there to answer your questions.

Equipment Demonstration Centres

There are many centres across England and Wales where trained staff can show you a range of equipment and technology for your needs.

Call Living Made Easy on 0300 999 0004 to find your nearest centre.

Workshops and training

Some specialist charities offer workshops and training on assistive technology.

Learning to use new assistive technology or equipment

Trade shows

There are many trade shows you can attend across England and Wales. Suppliers showcase their latest technology, products and support services.

Contact your local disability charity to see if they run day trips.

Trade shows include:

Buying and returning products

Before buying equipment or assistive technology, check the returns policy. Some retailers allow 14 days for you to change your mind and return the product. Others allow 30 days.

If you buy online, by mail order or phone, you can change your mind within 14 days of buying.

Warning Some products cannot be returned

You cannot return a product that has been customised for you or a product that cannot be resold for hygiene reasons.

Sources of equipment, technology and advice

Daily living aids information

Try the following organisations to research and buy assistive equipment that can help you with daily living:

Independent Living gives advice about mobility aids and disability products.

Living Made Easy is a directory of assistive products which you can buy, such as equipment to help with eating, drinking, bathing and dressing.

Research Institute for Disabled Consumers researches products and services used by disabled people. It publishes free research reports covering many aspects of everyday life, from central heating controls to mobility.

Equipment advice and support

Get free advice and support for assistive technology from the following organisations:

AbilityNet has volunteers who can provide advice and support on assistive technology to help you achieve your goals.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) offers advice on accessible computers, laptops and tablets. Volunteers can offer advice over the phone on setting up and maintaining equipment.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 18/03/2024

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