Disabled and Elderly Assistive TechnologiesBCC Research
July 1, 2011
187 Pages - SKU: WA6481829
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS
Assistive technology products are designed to assist people who, because of specific disabilities or the general infirmities that often accompany aging, would otherwise be unable to participate meaningfully in economic, social, political, cultural, and other forms of human activity in their communities. Assistive technology encompasses a broad range of devices, from glow-techh products such as eyeglasses and large-print books, to technologically sophisticated products such as voice synthesizers, Braille readers, and wireless monitoring devices.
BCC published its last report on disabled and elderly assistive technologies in 2008. Since that time, continued progress in medical science as well as technology and healthcare, combined with demographic trends, societal evolution, and changing attitudes, have continued to drive the market for assistive technologies. Thus, it would seem that the time has come for a new review of the marketfs overall size and direction.
Not only has there been substantial growth in the number of disabled and elderly people, but they are living longer lives and living independently or semi-independently longer. These individuals need to perform activities such as shopping, personal hygiene, and communications that once might have been performed by a family member or an institutional caregiver.
Not only do many disabled and elderly people need to perform basic activities for themselves, but they have also undergone a revolution in their life expectations. They may now expect to be gainfully employed, participate in the political process, and attend cultural and social events, to name only some of the possibilities.
These changes have coincided with dramatic shifts in public and professional attitudes toward the disabled and the elderly. Persons with disabilities, including the elderly, are now considered full citizens entitled to receive a range of services of their choosing to maintain their quality of life and enjoy full inclusion in society.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which took effect July 26, 1992, is the clearest expression of this attitudinal shift. The ADA says, in essence, that participation in the mainstream of daily life is an American right, regardless of race, religion, or disability.
The ADA contains provisions dealing with equality of employment, equal access to government services, equal access to private businesses that deal with the public, and telecommunications for the disabled. Subsequent legislation and decisions by the courts have clarified and extended the basic provisions of the ADA in a process that has continued up to the present. These demographic, social, political, and legal developments have created an opportunity as well as a challenge for medical technology and manufacturing to develop and commercialize new products.
Another recent piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010, is likely to have a significant impact on the market for various assistive technologies. Among its other provisions, the new law imposes a tax on medical devices such as prosthetic limbs, pacemakers, and wheelchairs that will increase the cost of these devices and may decrease their use.
The new health law contains various other provisions that could have a significant impact on the market for assistive technologies, particularly through changes in Medicare. There is considerable controversy about the extent of these impacts even if the law is implemented as it is currently written (there is considerable political support for major changes in the law or even its repeal). However, the uncertainty about the healthcare lawfs impact on the assistive technologies market makes this an opportune time to look at alternative scenarios.
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