Assistive Technologies

Written by: Katie Murphy │Last reviewed: June 2022. | Last updated: July 2022

Assistive technologies (AT) help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) improve their quality of life and independence. These tools can help make the everyday tasks of life easier.1,2

AT devices can be used for speech, mobility, self-care, and work tasks. They include small tools like a roller knife and buttonhook, and more complex tools like electric scooters and speech software.1,2

Types of assistive technologies for MS

Your rehabilitation team can assist you in finding the AT devices that will help you the most. These experts will teach you how to use the technologies correctly and safely. There are many types of AT, each meant to help a certain type of physical function.1

Walking and mobility

Some AT devices can help keep you mobile and independent. These include:1,2

  • Wheelchairs (manual or motorized)
  • Walkers
  • Canes
  • Crutches
  • Motorized scooters
  • An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), a brace that helps to stabilize your foot
  • A hip flexion assist device, which helps if you have hip flexor weakness

Arm and hand function

Muscle weakness in your hands and arms from MS can be debilitating. You may have trouble opening jars or writing, for example. These problems can interfere with important daily activities. Some AT devices can help, including:1,2

  • Reachers
  • Long-handled shoehorns
  • Stocking aids
  • Buttonhooks
  • Velcro-closure shoes
  • Wide pens and pencils
  • Digital recorders

Communication

If you have problems speaking or typing, communication AT might help. These technologies include:3

  • Voice-recognition software
  • Alternative keyboards
  • Other communication devices

Chores and daily activities

When you have problems with moving or muscle weakness, everyday chores can be difficult. Some AT devices can help, including:2

  • Wide-handled utensils
  • Cooling vests
  • Wheeled kitchen carts
  • Stabilizing cutting boards

Home access and safety

Movement problems, dizziness, and muscle weakness from MS can lead to falls. Keeping your home safe and accessible might be easier with AT devices like:1,2

  • Ramps
  • Lift chairs
  • Handrails
  • High toilets and sinks
  • Tub transfer benches
  • Grab bars

Navigating your insurance

Most insurance plans will cover prescribed AT. However, you may be rejected the first time you submit a claim. AT devices can be expensive and hard to pay for out of pocket. Persistence is key – keep trying your insurance.4,5

Here are some tips to keep in mind:4,5

  • Check your coverage – Look at what your insurance requires to cover the costs. Things like a prescription and pre-approval are common.
  • Gather related information – You might need to provide info about your income, monthly expenses, or date of disability.
  • Look at state programs – Statewide assistive technology programs are available. These programs might help with the costs of AT devices.
  • File an appeal if needed – Follow your insurance appeal process when needed.

Not all AT devices will be useful for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another. When using a device, ask yourself whether it helps you do a task or reduces your pain. If the answer is no, you might want a different device. Many products are convenient, easy to use, and portable. With help from your doctor and other rehabilitation experts, you can find devices that work for you.1-3

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