The 2nd IASTED International Conference on
Assistive Technologies
AT 2012

February 15 – 17, 2012
Innsbruck, Austria


Whither Assistive Technology?

Prof. Gunnar Fagerberg
SIAT Swedish Institute on Assistive Technology, Sweden


Assistive technology is now an established field of science, industry and policy. Assistive technology products play an essential role in the daily lives and activities of a significant part of the population, people with defined disabilities or other physical or mental limitations, yielding substantial societal and economic benefits.
Assistive technology is located in the crossroads between several important fields undergoing rapid change. This presentation will describe current trends and possible implications for the future of assistive technology, in particular related to the following domains:
-Technology: New hardware, software and networks provide continuously new developments affecting many aspects of human life. The challenge is to reap the potential benefits of these developments and put them to good use in assistive technology products and services, but also to ensure that new developments do not raise obstacles in the accessibility and usability for people with disabilities of general technology applications.
-Policies: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons went into force in 2008 as a new global framework and driving force for the development of disability policies, including assistive technology and accessibility. Pushed by lobbying from such organisations as Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) and European Disability Forum (EDF), European and national policies have been moving in a direction of stronger support for assistive technology and accessibility but practical results are difficult to assess.
-Markets: The markets for assistive technology devices and services are still fragmented and national systems for service delivery are not transparent. The industry is still dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises with little consolidation and collaboration. Market developments are affected by the general financial crisis and the demographic change, especially the ageing of the population.
-Research and development: Research and development programmes are strong drivers of developments at European and national levels, not only in technologies and applications but also in related fields such as training, information dissemination and networking. In Europe, preparations are under way for the Eighth Framework Programme, which will be important for the future of assistive technology at a higher, long-term level. In some countries, including the Nordic countries of Europe, more practical, needs-oriented national programmes have been established.

Biography of the Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker Portrait

Prof. Gunnar Fagerberg has a degree in electrical engineering from Chalmers Institute of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden. For many years, he has led research and development work on assistive technology and accessibility at the Swedish Handicap Institute, The University of Western Ontario, Canada and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.
During 2001-2004, Fagerberg was Principal Scientific Officer in the eInclusion unit in the Information Society Directorate-General of the European Commission. He is past president of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) and the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE).
Fagerberg was project coordinator for the large study HEART (Horizontal European Activities in Rehabilitation Technology) with 21 partners and the R&D project TASC (Telematics Applications Supporting Cognition), both funded by the European Commission. He has participated as project partner in several other European and international projects. During 1996-2001, he was chairman of the Technical Committees on assistive technology in the standardisation organisations CEN and ISO.
During the 1980’s and 90’s, Fagerberg had a number of political assignments in the city of Stockholm. During 2005-2006 he also held a post as Research Coordinator at the Linnaeus Centre for Bioinformatics at Uppsala University.
Between 2006 and 2011, he as coordinated the Integrated Project MonAMI (Mainstreaming on Ambient Intelligence) funded by the EU Sixth Framework Programme, developing and evaluating a wide range of services to the homes of elderly people with disabilities delivered on an open source, flexible technology platform.
Prof. Fagerberg is currently active at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences at Stockholm University.