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

Introduction

The Italian experiences of user involvement in Assistive Technology R&D is currently very limited. This is the result of an inventory carried out by SIVA. As expected since the issue of user involvement is quite recent in Italy, literature search did not reveal any remarkable published paper on this topic; however, some articles (in Italian) found in national magazines of user organisations were helpful as a first screening of relevant initiatives. The major source of detailed information was the SIVA database (CdRom), interviews with knowledgeable people and direct discussion with representatives of the identified organisations.
No formal framework exists at either national or regional level for ensuring participation of end-users in R&D, so the small number of programmes that have been identified within this study are based on independent initiative of the concerned organisations. Such programmes covers aspects related to problem definition, analysis/specification and development, and are mainly placed within SMEs (small-medium enterprises) run or staffed by people with disabilities who acquired practical in-the-job experience in the field.

No AT testing programme seems to exist now, either at formal or informal level. Currently there is no commitment to testing or standardisation by the State or the Regions or any organisations of manufacturers or suppliers. For the time being it is expected that the enforcement of EU Directive 93/42 on Medical Devices and the EU Directive 93/68 for the part concerned with "machines" will have some impact on AT testing policy, but probably little impact on user involvement, they being mainly concerned with just safety aspects. For instance, these directives have been kept into account in the latest revision (published 27.9.1999) of the National List ("Nomenclatore Tariffario") of prosthetic devices provided through the National Health Service, in that it is stated that certain products (such as prostheses, orthoses, wheelchairs etc…) must bear the "CE" label in order to be eligible for prescription.

No formal training specifically devoted to user participation in R&D was found. However, two AT educational programmes were identified in which many participants with disability participated, many of them making afterwards use of the acquired competence for advising disabled peers (peer counselling), working in advice centres (professional counselling), or even advising firms, designers and industrial developers (formal or informal consultants) on AT topics.

A few AT manufacturing enterprises could be identified in which people with disabilities directly take part and having a significant role in R&D.

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