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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: T2RERC technical assistance activities
Author: Joseph P Lane
Published: 2001
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 3 Issue 2 (Summer)


The T2RERC is responsible for providing assistance whenever possible. This article outlines different ways assistance is made available as well as who benefits from the assistance.

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Our Assistive Technology Transfer Update newsletter typically focuses on the major projects within the T2RERC program, and rightly so. However, we also help others accomplish their mission through "technical assistance," defined as responding to requests with anything from a fifteen-minute e-mail reply, to multiple days of consultation.

In-Depth Consultations
Providing lengthy consultations is usually limited to other RERCs, where we have some expectation of mutual advancement for our works in process. Such consultations include our on-going collaborations with the RERCs on Wheeled Mobility, Hearing Enhancement, and Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC for Augmentative and Alternative Communication). For each of these RERCs we continue to share technology submissions, identify new opportunities for research, and develop strategic partnerships with other sectors related to each industry, through our Demand-Pull program. As an extension of our Supply-Push program, we work closely with RERCs to either find manufacturers interested in their prototypes, or to identify potential markets for the products as a means to interest potential manufacturers. We are working with the RERC on Universal Design (Buffalo), to validate the market demand for a series of products.

Providing Information and Referrals
Responding to e-mails and phone contacts consumes the majority of our technical assistance time. Employing our eight years of experience often saves others time that would have been lost to reinvention. For example, a Congressional aide called recently on behalf of a constituent who had an idea for inventing an emergency weather alert device for people with sensory impairments. It happened that we had reviewed the prototype for a similar product in 1995. Within fifteen minutes, we were able to retrieve the documentation and inform the caller. This need had already been addressed by Radio Shack's "Weatheradio", a product that is easily linked to alternative signaling devices.

Many who contact us seek information about government programs available to fund the development of prototype assistive devices. The U.S. Small Business Administration's Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/SBIR/), remains the single best – and virtually only — opportunity to secure such funding. The specific Federal agency to target depends on that agency's mission and current priorities. Finding that information requires some additional study by the inventor. Even if an agency won't fund the proposal, the candid feedback the inventors receive from expert review panels is well worth the time invested in a submission.

International Technical Assistance
The need for technology development and transfer programs is increasingly acknowledged outside the United States. In the past year, we hosted visitors from England, The Netherlands, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India, Hong Kong and Japan. These technical assists included: providing access to our staff, our instruments and protocols; giving tours of our facilities; and sharing our non-proprietary databases. We expect these exchanges to increase our international network of collaborating agencies, since some of the products we review are appropriate for the global marketplace.

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