Timeline: The Evolution of Assistive Technologies

How devices to help people with disabilities have advanced over 40 years

15 June 2017

In celebration of The Institute’s 40th anniversary year, we’re presenting a series of timelines highlighting topics and technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades.

For almost a century and a half, engineers have applied electronics to help people overcome physical limitations. After Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 [above], some hearing-impaired people found it easier to listen to someone on Bell’s device than in person. Thomas Edison’s phonograph led to the production in 1935 of talking books for the blind.

In recent years, IEEE members have been working to develop cochlear implants, electric wheelchairs, and bionic body parts.

This is article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

This article is part of our June 2017 special issue on assistive tech.

Learn More