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This text is also available in German language.
Dieser Text ist auch in deutscher Sprache vefügbar.

Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Hilfe für Behinderte e.V.

Düsseldorf, Germany.
Wolfgang Tigges.

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This publication is dealing with the report of Geramyn on experiences of user participation in R&D oriented work.


Overall, in Germany user involvement and user training in the context of assistive technology, research and development is quite insignificant. Therefore, it is very difficult to identify good methods, strategies or projects for user involvement in R&D related work.

In order to collect information on user participation and user training, an extensive literature and Internet research was carried out in the framework of the project. In addition, different relevant organisations and institutions as well as AT industries were contacted in order to ask for good methods and experiences in the field of user participation.
The result of the inquiry comprises only a few practicable findings or examples of good practice. Most of the gathered facts and information have only general character in form of recommendations and statements to the thematic. Everybody considers user involvement and a special user training for handicapped and elderly people to be very necessary and essential but concrete practical approaches are rare. There is a lack of detailed information on user involvement and training referring to the specific situation in Germany.

Many different organisations of handicapped people exist in Germany. The majority of the selp-help groups and professional associations is subdivided into different classes of impairment or disability. The great interest groups maintain associations on a nationa, regional and local level, which are financial supported by the authorities and various welfare organisations in many cases. These organisations, which are direct or indirect affected by the problems of handicapped and elderly people, mainly work in the field of social and vocational rehabilitation. Their domain is the social integration of people with severe disability into all fields of daily life. That's why subject areas such as user participation in product development and technology assessment plays an insignificant role.

In the single governments on local, regional and federal level advisory boards especially for people with disabilities exist. The chairperson (Behindertenbeauftragter) and the members of the board give advise and support to the handicapped and elderly people especially on the subjects of social rehabilitation and suitable infrastructure for the handicapped and elderly people. The thematic of AT is of secondary importance.

In the field of product development and technology assessment some larger mainstream AT industries (i.e. producers of wheelchairs, producers of prostheses) practice user involvement in the way of testing their products by handicapped people. In some cases well-known producers of AT support initiatives such as different sport teams in order to receive a variety of information concerning the product and practicable suggestions for improvement by the user experts. In this way both sides can profit. The handicapped people get the technical equipment, i.e. special high quality sports wheelchairs constructed according to their individual needs, and support for carrying out their hobby and the producer get data of the construction and behaviour of his product by a test with hard demands on the material.

There are only a few professional institutions, for example research centres, working in the field of AT. They involve users, i.e. to assess aiding devices before their introduction to the market or to test such aids already being available for the end user. Sometimes is the technology assessment by handicapped and elderly people part of single national and international studies and projects.

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