Adaptive Living: How COVID-19 Changed Technology

COVID-19 was a disruptor. The quarantine regulations dictated what and where people could work and live. As more people were forced to work from home, an age of innovation and creativity was born.


Assistive Technology

Assistive technology comes in several forms. From Braille readers, computer-assisted technology (personalized keyboards, screen readers, voice recognition programs), motorized wheelchairs, and systems that assist with breathing. Assistive technology can positively impact those with disabilities. Finding the right assistive technology is vital to anyone with paralysis.

Developing technology that meets the needs of those with a spinal cord injury (SCI), paralysis, or a disability was relevant before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the need heightened once COVID-19 shut down the main healthcare channels.

Before COVID-19

The country was rapidly moving towards a new future defined by assistive and digital technology. The internet could bring people closer to artificial intelligence (AI) and make resources accessible to more people. Technology that could redefine life as many knew it was on the way -- but not as fast as some might want.

COVID-19 changed everything. People were forced to change how they lived, and daily routines were disrupted. The economy, work, education, and social patterns shifted from in-person to virtual. The world needed innovative technology.

COVID-19: The Pandemic

Transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic was inevitable. COVID-19 catalyzed many organizations to speed up plans for technology-driven devices. The urgency to create technology that would advance social, educational, work, and quality of life was evident during the pandemic.

Some technology has improved lives and is here to stay. For example, telehealth increased access to vital care and mental health services. Telehealth made meeting with a medical or mental health professional possible for many. Even after the quarantine regulations were lifted, people and medical professionals continued to use telehealth.

Telehealth served another purpose: the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) research. Remote healthcare expanded the possibilities of healthcare and assistive technology. Open data-sharing and collaboration widened AI research.

Another promising area of innovation was AI and assistive technology. Researchers were able to use their time in quarantine to focus on developing technology that could assist those with disabilities such as paralysis.

   Join Our Movement

What started as an idea has become a national movement. With your support, we can influence policy and inspire lasting change.

Become an Advocate

Reality Reimagined

People with disabilities witnessed an increase in original or reimagined technology. Fundamental discoveries sparked possibility. As research was revolutionized and collaborations increased, so did the capabilities of assistive technology.

Artificial Intelligence

AI has sparked a genesis of accessible technology for those with disabilities.


People will no longer rely on computer keyboards to communicate with others. Researchers continue improving technology while there are different forms of hands-free communication devices. For example, a new mouth retainer-like trackpad chip helps people use their smartphones, computers, or tablets with their tongue—the device pairs with a person’s device through Bluetooth. The inventors of this device designed it specifically for those with paralysis. Another device similar to the retainer-like device also uses technology that works with a smartphone, computer, tablet, and wheelchair.

Brain to Spine Technology

A promising technology was further developed during the pandemic. Technology that connects the brain with the spinal cord is a reality. A native of the Netherlands was diagnosed with paralysis from his hips down and partial paralysis in his arms after he was in a motorcycle crash. He received groundbreaking technology that allowed his brain to speak to his spinal cord. He can now walk again. The man received this brain-to-spine technology in Switzerland. However, researchers in the United States are working on cutting-edge brain-to-spine technology.


COVID-19 disrupted people’s lives. However, from the disruption came assistive technology that advances the possibilities for those with disabilities. These advances continue to be built on with no end in sight.

Christina Sisti, DPS, MPH, MS, is a bioethicist and health care policy advocate. She works to create awareness and improve healthcare policy for those with long-term health issues.

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

This publication was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of a financial assistance award totaling $160,000 with 100% funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS or the U.S. government