Conceptions in the field of assistive technology
Assistive products, Provision of assistive products, Assistive products for a safe working environment, Welfare technology and Accessibility are five central conceptions in the field of assistive technology, and the way we understand these conceptions has implications for how we communicate about the field.
In the following, a basis for understanding these five conceptions is outlined.
An assistive product is a product that optimizes a person’s functioning and reduces disability (cf. ISO 9999, 2022).
This definition is based upon a dialectic understanding of the notions of functioning and disability, in which functioning encompasses the human properties and skills as a precondition to an ideal for the interaction and potentials for interaction between the individual and the environment, while disability encompasses human properties and skills being limited in relation to same ideal (cf. ICF, 2001, WHO).
Thus, an assistive product can be a product produced and marketed as an assistive product or a mainstream product with characteristics, which in a given context contribute to optimizing a person’s functioning and reducing a disability. Hence, assistive products are not limited to products provided according to a certain part of legislation, or products included in a specific directive.
Provision of assistive products
The provision of assistive products is process that ideally leads to a person acquiring an assistive product that optimizes the person’s functioning and reduces disability. The provision of assistive products encompasses the uncovering of the problem, selection, adjustment, counselling, and provision of assistive products including appropriate follow-up. The stages are part of the public provision process and require professional knowledge and practical experience apart from the use of therapeutic, educational, and health professional methods.
Assistive products for safe working environment
The conception of Assistive products for safe working environment (Danish: APV-hjælpemiddel) is widespread in the Danish local authority practice in the field of assistive technology and is used with reference to § 15 in the work environment act on the obligation of the employer to provide the employees with technical equipment necessary for conducting the job in a safety- and health-related responsible manner.
The conception of Assistive products for safe working environment equipment is often used as a category for assistive products that in a given context is not characterized as a personal assistive product, which a citizen uses unassisted, but on the contrary is seen as a tool necessary to perform care work in a safety- and health-related responsible manner at or with a citizen.
Basically, it is not possible unilaterally to categorize a certain product or a certain type of products as either an assistive product for safe working environment or as a personal assistive product. It will always depend on the situation and the individual person.
Welfare technology is a conception used in Denmark in relation to social and health services. It is connected with resources dedicated to innovation or dissemination of technological solutions in order to carry out social and health services faster, better, or cheaper than by using formerly employed tools, technologies, or methods. The conception Welfare technology is as such not connected to certain products or technologies but rather connected to a purposive process encompassing the use of technology.
Welfare technology in the field of assistive technology
Welfare technology is not synonymous with assistive products, but the specific technology encompassed in the service delivery may also be considered an assistive product in relation to an individual. The difference between the conceptions Welfare technology and Assistive products is that welfare technology involves a perspective of process and delivery support, whereas assistive products primarily has the perspective of individual functioning.
For instance, a robotic vacuum cleaner can be part of a welfare technological action in case of a political or administrative priority to disseminate the use of this in public service. When the disseminations has been implemented, the robotic vacuum cleaner can be seen as a work place utensil for the care worker. The product itself, a robotic vacuum cleaner, can in other contexts be seen as an assistive product compensating a disability making it possible for a disabled person to independently carry out vacuum cleaning. The potential for using robotic vacuum cleaners in a welfare technological action along with the consideration on whether the robotic vacuum cleaner is an assistive product will change over time in line with the technological and societal development.
Conclusively, welfare technology in the field of assistive technology can be defined as technology applied in a process arranged specifically with the purpose of supporting the delivery of public welfare service to persons with disability.
Accessibility for persons with disability is about facilitating access to performing activities, to living independently, and to participating in society and social life.
Assistive products and assistive technology provision can contribute to enhanced accessibility by making adaptations.
Universal design represents a principle of design directed towards human diversity and focused on solutions that meet various personal needs. Universal design is about designing the environment, services and products, diminishing barriers for activity and participation, and reducing the need for assistive products.
Thus, we are dealing with a dynamic interplay between accessibility, design, and the utilization/development of assistive products in relation to an ideal society with optimum opportunity for activity and participation for all.