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Written By: Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, Creator of Ramp Your Voice!

As someone who is proudly disabled as a wheelchair user, little woman, and who is hard of hearing (HoH), assistive technology (AT) allows me to exist and be a part of my community with fewer barriers.  To not have the AT I depend on means that my life in many ways would be incomplete; I am grateful to live in the times when such innovations are available.

1) Claw Gripper/Grabber

An aluminum grabber with black grips.

As a wheelchair user and someone who is under 4 feet, I am grateful that claw grippers exists.  I use mine to turn the kitchen sink knobs on and off, place lightweight items on the top shelves in the freezer, and press the oven settings.  Of course, I have found extra uses for the gripper since the “grips” are rubberized, but it has been a very convenient addition to my ability to be independent in a home that is not completely accessible. (Click to find this item in the AT Exchange.)

2) Captions

A screenshot of an Ability Tools recorded webinar that has burned in captions on the bottom of the screen.

As someone who is hard of hearing (HoH) and wears digital hearing aids, I am thankful that captions exists.  I will let you in on a small secret:  I only wear my hearing aids when I am out of the house.  Since my hearing loss is mild/moderate, I can get away with not wearing them inside the house.  However, if captions did not exist, it would be a pain to not be able to fully engage with the TV programming and videos I watch online.  Captions fill in the blanks of what I may miss with dialogues and allows me to be free without my aids while home.

3) Earbuds


A grey pocket talker with black earbuds attached.Earbuds are a lifesaver for someone who is always on a conference call or talking on the phone with friends.  Just as captions assist me engaging with programming content, earbuds allows me to hear whoever I am speaking with clearly.  It’s frustrating to have to ask someone to repeat themselves over and over again. Having good quality earbuds (and the volume turned way up) helps to ameliorate me asking “what did you say?”  (Image Source) (Click to find this item in the AT Exchange.)

4) Ride Sharing Apps

There is a white iPhone. The screen is black and has a pink logo. The logo is round and has a car in the circle.

As someone who travels and does not drive, ride sharing apps have been a major game-changer in my confidence in venturing out in the world by myself.  Being a manual wheelchair user, I am able to get drivers to put my chair in the trunk and take me to my destination in whatever city I am leaving tire tracks in.  I really don’t know how I would get around in an unfamiliar city without these apps – it makes navigating new territory less stressful and I have had some interesting conversations with drivers as well.

5) Manual Wheelchair

A manual wheelchair with a red frame and black cushions.

Of course, I cannot end this list without mentioning my manual wheelchair.  It is my road to independence, freedom, and is a great substitute to my legs not being quite fast enough to keep up with how fast I want to move.  I have had a wheelchair since I was 5 years old, and there is no way my quality of life would be complete without it.  My wheelchair is an extension of my body – it is truly a part of who I am as a person and should be regarded with respect as such. (Image Source) (Click to find this item in the AT Exchange.)

There is a circle photo of Vilissa Thompson smiling and sitting in her wheelchair. The background is purple and has the Ability Tools, CFILC, and Ramp Your Voice logos. The text reads "Vilissa Thompson Social Worker, Disability Advocate, Creator of Ramp Your Voice!" #HERstory #disabledandpowerful


Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, a macro-minded social worker and prominent leader and expert in addressing and educating the public and political figures about the plight of disabled people, especially disabled women of color. Vilissa is also the creator of her own blog and website, Ramp Your Voice! which spotlights the issues and barriers of disabled people. Please visit to learn more.

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