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Systems and Services Supporting Accessibility

The market for Accessible and Assistive ICT products and services is complex and presents many challenges for successful technology transfer. It includes an array of supply and sale mechanisms, from direct sales to consumers to indirect supply in specialised fields such as Assistive Technology. The ultimate determinant of successful research in the area of Accessible and Assistive ICT must be whether or not a product reaches the market place and is available to consumers throughout the EU. It is clear however, that much, good, research fails to result in new innovations transferring successfully to the market place. Consequently in such instances, it may be argued that consumers do not benefit directly from investment in research.

There are a variety of reasons why this is so, some of these are specific to the area in question, such as the complex supply chain in many countries, others however are more applicable to the transfer of ICT products in general, such as affordability, availability etc. On the other hand, a number of approaches and solutions are available that support the ICT industry in implementing accessibility into their products and services in various stages of products development, maintenance and service provision. These “solutions” comprise e.g. methodologies, guidelines, knowledge bases, hardware and software components, tools for modelling, simulation or verification, as well as interfaces to external assistive technology.

Besides the application of such “solutions”, some industrial companies have established structures and procedures in their organisation that take care of accessibility aspects, be it a part of their product philosophy or just a matter of quality assurance. These can also include cooperation with other organisations from the same technological area, e.g. in associations like DIGITAL EUROPE, with research organisations, with user oriented organisations or with assistive technology companies.