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Technology and Disability communicates knowledge about the field of assistive technology devices and services, within the context of the lives of end users - persons with disabilities and their family members. While the topics are technical in nature, the articles are written for broad comprehension despite the reader's education or training.
Technology and Disability's contents cover research and development efforts, education and training programs, service and policy activities and consumer experiences.
The term Technology refers to assistive devices and services.
- The term Disability refers to both permanent and temporary functional limitations experienced by people of any age within any circumstance.
- The term and underscores the editorial commitment to seek for articles which see technology linked to disability as a means to support or compensate the person in daily functioning.
The Editor also attempts to link the themes of technology and disability through the selection of appropriate basic and applied research papers, review articles, case studies, programme descriptions, letters to the Editor and commentaries. Suggestions for thematic issues and proposed manuscripts are welcomed.
Abstract: This special issue editorial discusses the inspiration for the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe's 2010 workshop – the concept of a social model for assistive technology-technology transfer, anecdotal shortcomings in assistive technology innovation and the desire to identify what the state of the art was and what future research is needed. The themes of the workshop were addressed by the presentations through case studies that use methods drawn from other fields, but the papers included in the special issue are instances where different approaches were taken, methodological issues in user requirements gathering and challenges in meeting…regulatory requirements for CE marking. Ambiguity in the use of the terms ‘assistive technology’ and ‘technology transfer’ are observed. Embracing definitions are given for both. The inadequacy of many simpler models of technology transfer is discussed. Factors suggesting inadequacy are competitive innovation and, technology transfer implementation that employs parallel tasks that are modelled as sequential. An argument to innovate non-medical assistive technology in preference to medical ones to reach markets quickly is described. Consequential challenges are noted. Areas of assistive technology-technology transfer needing further research are highlighted.
Abstract: Despite substantial and sustained investment of public funds in research and development, the return in new or improved Assistive Technology devices or services has not met expectations. The paper asserts that the creation, translation and transfer of technology-based knowledge is hampered by assumptions regarding the primacy of research over development and production, and the accompanying dominance of academia over industry. Parity between methods and sectors is needed to transform ideas into inventions and on to innovations. The Need to Knowledge Model offers a framework for achieving this parity in practice.
Keywords: Knowledge translation, technology transfer, research discovery, development invention, production innovation
Abstract: The importance of systematic user requirements gathering and consequences of poor user requirements are highlighted. Key sources for developing robust user requirements gathering fitted within a methodological hierarchy are reported. International standards provide a top level process within which appropriate research methods are suggested. The use of specific data gathering frameworks and tools, user participation and ethical issues are all discussed. Assistive technology specification, design and evaluation is considered from the point of view of adding robustness to the processes while discussing some of the barriers to adopting the strongest levels of evidence. The balance between adding robustness and still…allowing commercial viability is also considered. Recommendations are made for adding robustness to user requirements processes in the assistive technology field.
Abstract: The paper describes the European regulatory framework as it relates to the developers and manufacturers of assistive technologies. It uses the context of a UK-based collaborative healthcare technology co-operative “Devices for Dignity” to provide three representative case studies to aid understanding of, and routes through, the regulatory systems. It discusses when and which European Directives apply to assistive technologies, recent changes to the medical devices directive, where to find information on standards, and ethical and regulatory influences on user-centred design. Despite the hurdles, the paper concludes that in the main, the regulatory framework is enabling for the users and manufacturers…of assistive technologies rather than being disabling.
Keywords: Medical device, standards, regulations, ethics
Abstract: A development programme was carried out by the Swedish government and the Swedish Labour Market Board (AF) over a period of more than twenty years. The paper describes a case history of a single national programme. Some significant conclusions from it are given. The rationale for the effort was the advent of micro-computers in the early 1980s and the ICT development in general. It was realised that people with disabilities would struggle in the job market if active measures were not taken. Within the AF expertise on different impairments and functional disorder was employed, often highly-skilled with many years of…experience of helping people with workplace adaptations. In five years some 4000 jobs for disabled jobseekers were established by applying public procurement, partly on a pre-competitive basis. After these first five years the programme was regularised but still only as a development tool for another fifteen years, with a yearly budget of 0,5–1,0 M€. The ICT technology offered successively a range of generative options, often pre-empting application to solutions beneficial for people having a variety of functional difficulties in their jobs. The projects were intended to include a potential to result in products or services on the open market. If new technology could be transferred into regular business, it would benefit the chief target groups and their procurers in the long run. One success case was Comfort Audio AB. The company was started in 1994 by two young entrepreneurs. Fifteen years later it employs some 60 people and finds its market all over the world with its cutting edge technology for hearing impaired persons.
Keywords: Assistive technology, pre-competitive, pre-commercial, procurement, technical development, technical procurement, technology transfer, work, work life
Abstract: ACTION (Assisting Carers using Telematics Interventions to meet Older people's Needs) stemmed from an EU-funded project (1997–2000). It is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based support service designed together with frail older people and their family carers to help empower them in their daily lives by providing access to web-based educational programmes, support from other ACTION families and dedicated care practitioners via the use of an integrated videophone system. It is currently running as a mainstream service in Borås municipality in West Sweden and as implementation projects in an additional twenty-five municipalities across Sweden. It is well recognised that…there are relatively few examples of telecare projects that have successfully managed the transfer to a mainstream service. Based on our fourteen years of experience with the design and implementation of ACTION, we reflect on the major lessons learned. This paper highlights the user centred design model developed and refined during this period, including the range of methods for working in partnership with a variety of stakeholder groups at all stages of the technology transfer process of the ACTION service.
Keywords: Family caregivers, frail older adults, empowerment, community care networks, public-private sector partnerships, videoconferencing, multimedia
Abstract: The development of technology based interventions for healthcare requires collaborative working between multidisciplinary groups of scientists, engineers, designers, healthcare professionals, and of course end users. This necessitates transfer of knowledge between the various disciplines, preferably underpinned by defined methodologies. Exploitation and uptake of the technology requires participation of industry, typically a small to medium size enterprise (SME) or research department of a larger company and use of the technology requires flexibility of working and often change in healthcare practices. This paper documents the experiences of developing and evaluating two prototypes: the first for telerehabilitation of stroke and the second for…self management of long term conditions (stroke, pain and coronary heart failure). We have identified two challenges: (a) knowledge transfer from domain specialists to engineers to facilitate technology development and (b) knowledge transfer back to the domain specialists to facilitate prototype evaluation and exploitation. The use of appropriate ICT tools and the incorporation of principles of human computer interaction have underpinned this approach. Users should influence the choice and functionality of the technology, but decisions must also be informed by technical considerations and possibilities for both hardware and software design. This is a two-way flow of information. How a prototype is taken forward into mainstream practice requires knowledge transfer from academia into the clinical and commercial sectors. Research funding enables both formative and summative prototype evaluation, but does not generally extend to examination of population based effectiveness, which is the evidence most often sought by health commissioners. Hence a process which provides the necessary underpinning for robust evaluation is proposed.
Keywords: Self management, telerehabilitation, long term conditions, knowledge transfer