ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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DoC's Assistive Technology Initiative Will Reach Out to Industry and Standards Developers


New York, Jul 24, 2003

Thirteen years after it was signed into law, the Americans With Disabilities Act continues to safeguard the civil rights of over 54 million disabled U.S. citizens. Today, the Department of Commerce (DoC) announced an eight-point plan to advance the assistive technology (AT) industry, and better meet the technological needs of the disabled. The DoC will work with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – as well as standards developers and other organizations – to support the development of voluntary consensus standards in this area.

Assistive technology may be defined as any item, piece of equipment, process, or system that maintains or improves the capabilities of people with disabilities of any kind – physical or cognitive. AT can include tools such as canes, walkers, prosthetics, and hearing aids, as well as more complex devices such as computer-controlled wheelchairs, voice recognition software, speech synthesizers, and sensory aids. Assistive technology enables disabled children and adults to be more productive in their environment, whether in everyday life or on the job.

In February 2003, the DoC report, "Technology Assessment of the U.S. Assistive Technology Industry," issued recommendations for enhancing the U.S. AT industry at home and abroad. These recommendations included the education of AT manufacturers on foreign engineering, performance, safety, and environmental standards that can affect product acceptance and certification in overseas markets.

The DoC initiative announced today, “Technology for All Americans,” is built on the following points:

  1. Data Analysis to Increase Export Promotion Opportunities
  2. Reaching Out to Industry
  3. Cataloguing Trade Barriers
  4. Manufacturing Guidance and Reference
  5. Facilitating Measurements and Standards Development
  6. Promoting Federal Technology Transfer
  7. Establishment of a National Science and Technology Council Working Group
  8. Report to the Secretary (To be provided by March 2004)

Point 5 of the initiative states: "Working with standards developers and other organizations – such as the American National Standards Institute, government agencies, industry, and user groups – the Department through the Technology Administration’s National Institute of Standards and Technology will assist in the development of AT measurements and voluntary consensus standards by ensuring that the performance of AT devices can be accurately specified and measured, increasing its functionality and adaptability."

According to the DoC, this approach will enable the U.S. AT industry to serve domestic needs while fostering expansion of the industry and boost exports of U.S. AT products and services. The eight points are intended to maintain market share domestically, expand sales of American-made AT in markets overseas, incorporate cutting-edge technologies into AT products, and penetrate the underserved and unserved market base of Americans with disabilities.

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