Peter Lambreghts, ENIL board member recently spoke about the importance of assistive technology in improving the lives of disabled people at Ku Leuven University. In October 2014 a postgraduate course in ‘Community Service Engineering’ began and the aim of this course is to provide engineers with the necessary tools to be active in companies in assistive technology and in companies that want to tap their market or product potential in the not for profit sector. Technology can be an important lever for more independent and a better quality of life for disabled people.
In his presentation, Peter discussed the paradigm shift that has taken place over the last number of years from the idea of ‘care’ to ‘support’. One key aspect of this has been the recognition of Independent Living as a Human Right and this is specifically outlined in Article 19 of the UN CRPD. There is an ever increasing number of users of personal assistance and one aspect of this continued growth is the importance of cost-effectiveness.
It is important to outline that there is a very significant correlation between the person with a need for support and assistive technology and aid, accessibility and universal design and personal assistants and carers. The standard and quality of the technology can have a very significant impact on the quality of life of a disabled person.
In relation assistant technology there can very often be tension between the benefit and the ‘stigma’ that sometimes surrounds using this technology and more emphasis needs to be placed on the results and the impact on the person’s life that uses the technology. As the lives of people change and circumstances change, technology must also be adapted and it is important that disabled people are informed so that they can make the right choices for their own lives. There is a growing need for independent professional advice and a validation of peer support when sourcing information on Assistive Technology.
Peter also outlined the general principles that should be adhered to when developing Assistive Technology:
- Really put the person (user) in the centre (by engaging the user in assistive technology development and policy, by looking at the individual outcome/ quality of life and by viewing technology as a tool for participation and empowerment)
- Assistive technology is just one part of the solution (independent advise, personalisation, training and maintenance of the technology are also key components)
- Transparency and dialogue between users, producers/providers and Government is necessary (rethink financing, rethink market, improve administration, control and follow up)
It is also very important to note that assistive technology is beneficial for everyone in society.
To download Peter Lambreghts Presentation on Assistive Technology please click here