I do not believe that we should live in the past. I do, however, think there is a lot we can learn from the past decades of Assistive Technology developments and events that can help us in the future. Last year, I put together an Assistive Technology Timeline and buried it at the end of a very long blog. Recently, a very smart person told me to dig it up and put it front and center, hence this post, with updated links and pictures.
The timeline below is not inclusive and was compiled in 2020 with only the vast offering of the internet and my memory…and yes, I even used Wikipedia in some instances. The dates of these events are approximate. The credit given to some of the inventors is a best guess because conflicting information was found during my searches. So rather than using the following timeline as 100% fact or all-encompassing, please just think of it as a starting place or a guide to see how far we have come in the past 40 years of assistive technology and maybe as an inspiration for the future. Here’s to even more decades of amazing developments!
Assistive Technology Timeline 1980-2020
-The Don Johnston company started developing its first assistive technology products for reading and writing such as Co:Writer and Write:OutLoud
–Abledata, an assistive technology database, begins the planning stages
-The Office of Technology Assessment publishes a Case Study on Assistive Devices for Severe Speech Impairments
-The Touch Talker, the first portable augmentative communication device from Prentke-Romich debuts
-The Pocketalker Personal Listening device debuts
-Steve Mendelsohn, attorney, and advocate publishes “Financing Adaptive Technology”
-The Assistive Technology Act began as the Technology-Related Assistance Act with the first round of states receiving the grant in 1988 and the final states receiving their grants in 1995
-The terms Assistive Technology Devices and Assistive Technology Services are defined for the first time in this federal legislation
–Jaws Screen reader for DOS debuts
-The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law
-AT is first mentioned in The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 after the fact
-The first DynaVox, an augmentative communication device, was released
-US Department of Health and Human Services publishes, “AssistiveTechnology for the Frail Elderly: An Introduction and Overview”, which coincidently makes a prediction for the year 2020.
-The Assistive Technology Act came to North Dakota and ND Assistive (formerly known as IPAT) began in state government under the Department of Human Services, Vocational Rehabilitation
–Built-in accessibility features were added to the Microsoft operating system for the first time with Windows 95.
–JAWS screen reader for Windows 1.0 debuts
–RESNA certification begins for Assistive Technology Professionals
-The Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) is established
–Dragon Naturally Speaking 1.0 debuted as their first continuous dictation product although the concept was developed in 1975
-The Section 508 Rehabilitation Act Amendments were signed into law. This law required that all electronic and information technology be accessible for all federal agencies.
–ATIA-The Assistive Technology Industry Association begins
-The American Paralysis Foundation and the Reeve Foundation joined forces and would later start the High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology Awards with funding from the Administration on Community Living
-The Complete Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault becomes the first digital talking-book master produced in the National Library Services or Talking Books recording studio
-ND Assistive opens the first-ever Assistive Technology Center in North Dakota
-the first CapTel phone debuts
-The Assistive Technology Expo started in Fargo, North Dakota
-The Assistive Technology Act was reauthorized
-First hand-held, text-to-speech electronic reading system-from Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind
-The prototype of the Obi Self Feeder developed
–National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard became effective
-First LiveScribe SmartPen debuted
–Proloquo2Go -the very first full-featured Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) App debuts
–iPhone Accessibility Debuts for 36 seconds
-ND Assistive becomes a non-profit.
-The iPad is hatched and changes life as we know it in the area of assistive technology-even without a camera
-Siri launches on the iPhone for the first time
-ND Assistive’s Possibilities Fund debuts
-The ND Assistive Blog begins
–ND Assistive opened the Home First Demonstration Center in Fargo-a simulated home filled with Assistive Technology
–Steve Gleason Act Passes and reverses Medicares decision to decrease funding for Speech Generating Devices
-Google Home launches
-ND Assistive opens the first Home First Demonstration Center in Mandan
-Microsoft debuts the app for the platform of its competitor, Apple, with Seeing AI, and it’s FREE!
-The 21st Century Assistive Technology Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Casey and CoSponsored by our own ND US Senator Kevin Cramer, and Senators Collins, Hassan, and King
-$6 App for Text to Speech with OCR-Voice Dream Scanner Debuts
-Live Transcribe by Google launches-free amazing speech to text translation to help people who are deaf
-COVID-19 debuts and ND Assistive keeps its doors open and continues to serve with a new grant to prevent social isolation for those in nursing homes
-Video communication becomes a great way to social distance especially for seniors
-First North Dakota Assistive Technology Awareness Day Celebrated