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Finding the right equipment and assistive technology

There are many things to consider before getting equipment or assistive technology. Having a clear idea of your needs will help you find the right product for you. Use this guide to work out your needs and research what products may help you.

Apply for a needs assessment through your local authority (GOV.UK)

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 you can tap to turn the page and adjust text size and screen brightness
  • audiobooks to listen to instead of read

You might find a mix of products helps, such as 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

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 stairlifts, home control systems or mobility scooters.

What’s your budget?

This will help you filter out products outside your price range. More expensive products are not always better for your needs. You may find more affordable products work the same for you. Depending on your needs, you may be able to get products for free through your local authority or NHS.

Personal health budget (NHS)

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, you may want something portable that’s easy to move.

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.

Working with an OT

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

Search for 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.

Product reviews

See what others are saying about the products you’re interested in. Search for customer reviews on manufacturer websites, blogs and tech guides that review similar products.

Forums and social media

Check forums and social media groups to find out what people with similar needs use. You can usually search posts, read conversations and ask for advice. You may need to register first to access the forum or group.

Ask Scope’s online community

Youreable online community

Video reviews

YouTube is a useful platform for finding video reviews of products. These include equipment company videos showing how products work, customer reviews from disability bloggers and guides from technology experts. Topics are broad and can include everything from wheelchair reviews to software guides.

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.

Always check if the company paid for or sponsored the product review as it may be more positive.

Before you buy

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)

Sources of equipment, technology and advice

Short-term loans of electronic aids

Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) provides guides for daily living. You can borrow electronic aids like adapted phones and magnifiers for 2 weeks to see if the device works for you before buying it. You only pay return postage and a refundable deposit.

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.

Aidas Trust provides free and impartial advice and support on technology for disabled people.

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: 16/04/2020

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