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Why Is Technology Transfer Important to People with Disabilities?

 

People with disabilities rely on assistive technology devices and services to sustain, regain or increase their functional capabilities. About 13 million people with disabilities report using assistive devices to provide functional capabilities needed to participate in major life activities. Advances in assistive devices rely on advances in the underlying technologies, and the transformation of those advances into new assistive technology products.

Despite the thousands of devices on the market, each has limitations in features or functions based on technological limitations in components (e.g. materials, power cells, sensors). People with some impairments, such as bowel and bladder incontinence or cognitive declines, have yet to be served well by assistive technology devices. To meet such demands, companies have to either develop new technologies and products from internal resources, or seek opportunities to incorporate externally developed innovations. Companies need a systematic process for handling the procedural, legal and financial issues involved in acquiring external innovations, whether in the form of ideas for technologies, prototypes or products. Otherwise the cost (in time or money) of completing the acquisition would always exceed the value.

The functional needs of people with disabilities change, so the demands on the functional capabilities of assistive technologies continue to change. Functional needs change with age, with rehabilitation, and with changing life roles. The functional demands on devices for daily living are changing as the baby boom strives to maintain independence into later decades of life. Managed care practices are requiring new functional capabilities in assistive technology for the home that previously was limited to use in a medical facility under a therapists supervision. The functional demands on wheelchairs changed with the advent of wheelchair sporting events and off-road recreational activity. It is important to the lives of Product Consumers for the marketplace to continue developing and offering new and improved assistive devices.

The problem is that the assistive technology industry lacks the internal resources to keep pace with the changing needs of the Product Consumers. The industry needs assistance of the outside science and technology community to address the important needs of the Product Consumers. Product Consumers are the target populations in need of new or improved assistive technology devices. They are the customers of the Product Producers who are the target population for technology transfer. Manufacturers seek new technologies to improve the features and functions of their products. They then target their marketing efforts to demonstrate the value of these products to end-users, family members and professional service providers.

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