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

Introduction

An inventory carried out by the Danish centre shows that it is very difficult to get accurate knowledg about user involvement strategies and routines in research and development in the area of disability and assistive technology. Neither the research institutions nor the most of the manufacturers have common agreements and planed user involvement in their development and research, so documentation or descriptions are not available. But the big manufacturers do almost always use one or another sort of user involvement in product development, and manufacturers of mainstream products for everybody very often have routines and methods for user involvement.

The achieved information of this inventory gave the clear conclusion, that the users were not involved in defining the problems in the primary stages of research and development. In the social research area the professional researchers always define the problems and start the analyses in order to design the actual research.

When talking about user-participation in steering- and consulting boards in the municipalities, standardisation and quality assessment projects, the users very seldom take part in defining the problems.

In product development the users are involved to assess the problems in special areas and new ideas, which the manufacturers have pointed out. The users then describe the needs and the development starts. But it must be pointed out, that this is only the case for big manufacturers. Mostly the smaller manufacturers get an idea and start straight away to make a prototype, and first here the users are included to test the product.

Organisations of disabled people often get ideas from their members, and if they find them interesting they might contact a manufacturer to develop a new product from the idea. In the same way it might happen in the service delivery system. The conclusion is that the users are not involved in problem definition unless they themselves have taken the initiative.

In the area of research and development of products of assistive technology it is more common that the users are involved at the stage of analysis and specification. Especially large manufacturers work professionally with user participation in order to reach a qualitative and specific analysis of the problem and then get a detailed description of the needs, which the product has to correspond to. At the stage of developing assistive technology an other new products, it is more common that end-users take part as assessment-measure-tool, and in testing the products before they are sent on the market. Also the users take part in testing and assessing the products after they have been introduced in the market. These tests which are performed after the products have entered the market are often done by independent instistutions or by organisations of disabled people themselves.

Many research schemes have a "reference-group", which mostly is composed of professionals in the area. There might though sometimes be representatives of the end-users, but this is very seldom even though the research is concentrated on vital issues in the end-users daily life.

The way of user-participation in standardisation and testing is quite similar: The end-users may take part in standardisation, if they take the initiatives themselves. The problems of disabled people are seldom taken into account in the tests carried out by private test companies.

The training of users in order to get competence to participate in research and development of assistive technology or in research in the social area does not exist organised. Most users come with the knowledge they have, because they are users themselves and therefore know the problems very detailed in specific areas.

PDF-Download of Danish Report (226KB).

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