March 2011 - Volume 27, Issue 1
The story of Australia’s AT collaboration stems from a shared vision by an interdisciplinary group of practitioners and academics.
The vision is that people will have access to appropriate assistive technology when they need it, as well as built and social environments that facilitate maximum independence.
Australians are a reasonably creative culture, particularly when including our Indigenous Australians, but we aren’t so good at building industries around our ideas. We have developed a range of technologies that have suited our particular needs or requirements and in several cases seen them adopted internationally.
A notable example is the aircraft ‘black box’ flight recorder, invented in 1956 but largely ignored in Australia until the United Kingdom began production in the following few years. Today, every commercial aircraft must carry the devices and they have been critical to accident investigation and improved aviation safety for several decades.
Unfortunately, the Australian development of Assistive Technology (AT) continues to suffer the same indifference from many professionals and funders today.
In this Australian study, it was found that some people use care work to assist with a particular activities of daily living (ADL) while others use AT, and substitution cannot be inferred because information is not available on whether AT is now being used in place of care work or care work is being used instead of AT.
However, given that some people use carers while others use AT for the same ADL, it shows there is an opportunity for AT and care work, to substitute for each other.
Economists normally deal with questions for which they have large data sets available, they can use all their mathematical procedures and can demonstrate the validity of their findings according to all the requirements of modern statistical techniques.
Assistive Technology (AT) just didn’t sound like something about which there would be a lot of hard data available.
Would any economist have dared even tackling the issue, analysing the economics of AT?
Would the topic be like a harmless looking iceberg, knowing too well that 7/8 of every iceberg are hidden below the waterline…
Read the findings from the four and a half years research.
The implementation of universal design in housing is still in the Ice Age. It has not yet become the new “cool” of design. There is hope, however, in the form of the newly developed Livable Housing Design Guidelines. The Guidelines are part of a political push to have all new homes universally designed by 2020: a worthy aim.
But how will the Guidelines be interpreted?
How will the housing industry respond?
And most of all, will they work?
"Better equipment improves all my life and makes me feels being disabled isn't such a big problem for everyone."
The Equipping Inclusion Studies demonstrate that AT is critical to the achievement of outcomes identifi ed in government policy frameworks. The studies made a number of recommendations to improve the outcomes of government funding schemes, and to better meet the needs of AT users. These include an overhaul of the ‘equipment list’ approach and introduction of appropriate safety nets.
Traditionally, the cost of including people with disabilities has been examined by calculating the additional expenses incurred by specialized technologies and modified environments. However, little consideration has been given to the additional costs and poor outcomes that result from limited AT and exclusionary design practices.
To try to understand this complex relationship and the outcomes that result from using these resources, the AT Collaboration Group developed a hypothetical case and used the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to describe the person’s level of performance in activities and participation and the environmental factors that hindered or facilitated their performance. For the economic analysis, the environmental factors such as AT, personal support and environmental changes were identified as the resources used and were detailed to calculate the relevant costs while performance in activities and participation was seen as the results achieved and were detailed to examine the effectiveness of the resources used.
With AT traditionally designed from a medical perspective, ‘functionality’ has taken precedence over ‘form’. The shift towards more aesthetically pleasing assistive technology has been slow, even with growth in popularity and acceptance of universal and inclusive design movements worldwide and changes to government and public policy in relation to persons with disabilities and older people.
With this in mind, a pilot study was undertaken to research what consumers consider to be aesthetically appealing Assistive Technology (AT), using grab rails as the example. Furthermore, the study explored the economic value consumers associated with what they considered to be aesthetically pleasing AT.
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