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Assistive technologies are applications of modern technology to make it easier for people with disabilities to live their lives independently and with confidence. The first law specifically advocating the development of assistive technology is the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988. Since then numerous laws have been passed to expand the use of assistive technologies and support their development.

Many of the earliest applications of assistive technology were for people with hearing difficulty. For decades now, telecommunications companies have been required to provide systems that convert between text and speech for the hard of hearing, including teletext and closed captioning. These systems were implemented before the development of effective computer-based text-to-speech, so they were carried out by people trained to listen and type in real time.

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