Terms in the area of assistive technology

The area of assistive technology is a subject that traverses sectors, disability groups, age groups, professional groups, and branches of trade. The area continuously constitutes itself in relations to and in correlations with the general societal and technological development. Assistive products, Assistive technology provision, Welfare technology and Accessibility are four central terms in the area of assistive technology, and the way we understand these terms is important for how we communicate about the area. In the following, a fundament for understanding these four notions is described.

Assistive products

An assistive product is any product which optimizes a persons functioning and reduces disability.

This definition is based upon a dialectic understanding of the notions of functioning and disability, in which functioning encompasses the human characteristics and abilities as a premise in relation to an ideal for the interaction and opportunities for interaction between the individual and the environment, while disability encompasses human characteristics and abilities 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 persons functioning and reducing a disability. Hence, assistive products are not limited to products, which can be provided according to a certain part of legislation, or products, which are included in a specific directive.

Assistive technology provision

The provision of assistive technology is a process resulting in a person acquiring an assistive product that optimizes the persons functioning and reduces disability. Provision of assistive technology encompasses the uncovering of the problem, selection, adjustment, counselling, and provision of assistive products including appropriate follow-up. The stages are part of the provision process and require professional knowledge and practical experience apart from the use of therapeutic, educational, and health professional methods.

Welfare technology

Welfare technology is a term 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 term 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 area 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 terms 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 area 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.