Health & Wellness

Innovations in Assistive Technology: Budget-Friendly Assistive Technology Products for Individuals with MS

By Marissa A. Barrera, MS, MPhil, MSCS, CCC-SLP, Teresa Biber LoMonte, MS, CCC-SLP and Michaela Medved, MA, CCC-SLP
Assistive technology products are designed to provide additional accessibility to individuals who have physical, speech, hearing or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities. The term assistive technology or adaptive technology is a broad term that encompasses numerous assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices. The use of AT in the home, education, and work environment is protected under Sections 504 and 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If you or your loved one has difficulty walking, speaking, communicating, or swallowing then here are several AT products I recommend in my practice; similar products are available on the market. 

Assistive Technology for Walking
Your Problem: Foot drop, reduced confidence while walking, reduced walking speed, risk of falling while walking.
AT Solution: STEP 400 (
Approximate Cost: $2,400
Description: The Step 400 is a battery-operated, functional electrical stimulator that helps reduce foot drop. Central nervous system injuries often cause a gait disorder called ‘Foot Drop,’ which is the inability to raise the foot while walking, therefore resulting in dragging of the foot, instability and increased effort during gait. Electrical stimulation has been used safely in rehabilitation for decades. There is an abundant amount of research supporting the use of FES as a treatment option for foot drop. Unfortunately, it has been inaccessible because of the bulkiness of the equipment and the grave costs. The Step 400 is a modern FES device that delivers safe, low-level electrical pulses to the peroneal nerve which controls foot drop. The Step 400 intelligently raises the foot at the appropriate phase of walking, therefore, increasing patient safety, speed and confidence when walking.
Assistive Technology for Voice
Your Problem: Low vocal volume, fatigue when communicating over time, vocal projection.
AT Solution: ChatterVox (
Approximate Cost: $200-$300
Description: The ChatterVox is an affordable and easy-to-use personal portable voice amplifier. With the ability to boost your volume by as much as 18 decibels, this small amplifier and speaker uses a rechargeable battery and comes in a stylish black fanny pack. With the choice of a traditional headset microphone, light weight collar microphone or a small pencil microphone, the ChatterVox can be used daily or just as needed (i.e., when giving a lecture or speech, when speaking in an noisy restaurant or store, or only during times of high fatigue.)
Assistive Technology for Cognition 
Assistive technology for cognition is an increasingly popular area of technology that supplements and assists cognitive processes such as focus, attention, memory, organization, management, planning, and sequencing of events/activities.
Your Problem: Difficulty remembering to take medications, events, birthdays, and appointments. Limited fine motor skills; unable to use pen and paper to generate and organize to-do lists and errands.
AT Solution: Asana (, WorkBoard (
Approximate Cost: Website is free; iPhone/iPad App is free
Description: Asana is a free website and Apple app that centrally organizes all aspects of your life. Known as the most versatile project management program on the market, Asana is essentially a highly customizable to-do list with features that can easily organize projects, events and tasks big or small.
Workboard is used by many of my patients who are in school, and the workforce, and have difficulty remembering events and/or being organized. Some of the helpful features of Workboard functions include minimizing typing by using keyboard shortcuts, the ability to follow tasks or projects in a colored coded fashion, makes it easy to share to-do lists with others, assign/delegate tasks to individuals in your support network, and automatically receive email notifications politely reminding you of upcoming events and tasks. Visit their website to watch one of their excellent short educational videos.  
Assistive Technology for Swallowing
Assistive and adaptive technology for swallowing is an often under-recognized area of specialty products that can significantly improve safety when eating, promote mealtime independence and improve nutritional status.
Problem: Difficulty swallowing, coughing or choking on food or liquids, slow eating, wet vocal quality during or after a meal.
AT Solution: Guardian NMES Therapy by Spectramed (
Approximate Cost: $827
Description: Since the development of a pill for MS, individuals with MS now more than ever need to monitor the safety of their swallowing. Dysphagia is the medical term used to describe difficulty swallowing and is believed to occur in 50 to 55 percent of individuals with MS. If you or a loved one experiences food going “down the wrong pipe,” difficulty controlling food or saliva in your mouth, or find food in your cheeks after you’re done eating, then Guardian Therapy by Spectramed may be your solution.

A fundamentally different approach for the treatment of dysphagia, Guardian Therapy uses neuromuscular electrical stimulation to promote improved strength, timing, and re-education of swallowing musculature. Guardian Therapy is a noninvasive treatment administered by a certified speech-language pathologist that utilizes a small portable stimulator that generates customizable electrical pulses. These pulses flow through a wire to a pair of small electrodes placed under your chin. The electrical current passes into the body and causes an electrical reaction in the motor nerves, resulting in a muscle contraction.

Treatment sessions last only 30 minutes and use of Guardian Therapy can prevent muscle disuse atrophy, promote muscle re-education, strengthen weak swallowing muscles, reduce the occurrence of aspiration, and increase the speed of swallowing. This highly effective treatment technique is safe, affordable, and can prevent the occurrence of deadly pneumonia.  Call 800-643-1917 to learn more about availability of Guardian Therapy in your area.
Have questions?
Remember, AT should always promote greater independence by providing technological enhancement and support.

If you have questions about the role of assistive technology in walking, speech, language and swallowing as it relates to MS or would like to know more about the featured products contact Marissa at 212-453-0036 or email at You can visit or
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are solely that of the authors. The MSF does not advocate or endorse any particular product. For specific advice, consult your healthcare professional.