Introduction to support products

Mastery of techology

Since ancient times human beings have worked to dominate the environment in which they live and adapt it to their needs. In this quest, they devised tools and tamed the fire. From that moment on, progress was made voraciously. But the change reached a new dimension in the production of consumer goods as never before with the Industrial Revolution. This period had the largest set of economic, technological and social transformations in the history of humanity since the Neolithic. Mass production of the factories reduced the costs and made available to society goods that were reserved for a few persons and universalized technology. However, not all progress was made, social problems emerged due to the demand for an improvement in the living conditions of the disadvantaged classes. The need for the application of the same amount of development to human well-being emerged. At the same time, a large artifact design defined by Charles Babbage in 1822 was taking shape, the computer. But specially since the 60s and 70s its appearance in the consumer market was decisive. So that today, allows a large majority of citizens access services and perform activities that were once unimaginable. Thus, the Information Society in which we are immersed, provides this and other appropriate products so that a part of the citizenship can participate in society, becoming an undeniable and essential requirement for people with disabilities and the elderly, in particular.


Information Society

The information society offers a great amount of possibilities to people with reduced mobility, vision difficulties, speech difficulties, etc., but at the same time it can be a challenge if we really want to comply with the legislation. Many basic services are being made available to the public so that more and more users can hardly access them without the use of the Internet, for example. The Network of Networks provides access to information, education, news, email, shopping and leisure, at any time of day, practically anywhere in the world. So, we have the world just a mouse click away, that is, if you can click on a mouse ... and if you can see the screen ... and if you can hear the audio ..., if you understand what is offered, etc., etc., etc.



Design for all

The very dynamics of the evolution of these goods and services implies a handicap in itself: the lack of universal access, universal design or design for all. Either because of the conditions of the technologies and infrastructures, or because of the conditions of people. So the disadvantages faced by a person with a disability become more evident if possible, having its origin in their personal difficulties, but also and above all in the obstacles and limiting conditions that in society itself -which is conceived according to the pattern of the average person- oppose to the full participation of these citizens (Law 51/2003, on equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility for people with disabilities)

  • Governments have developed policies and measures to protect the access of people with disabilities and older people to services and products. Thus, since the Lisbon Strategy was introduced in 2000, Europe and Spain have a policy framework for e-inclusion and e-accessibility, with special emphasis on the participation in the Knowledge Society, design for all and digital opportunities and integration.
  • So, the most significant references in Spanish legislation are Law 51/2003 on Equal Opportunities, Non-Discrimination and Universal Accessibility for People with Disabilities (LIONDAU in its Spanish acronym) that promotes equal access for citizens to the Information Society, and Law 39/2006 on the Promotion of Personal Autonomy and Care for People in Situation of Dependence.
  • In June 2006, the ministers responsible for the digital inclusion policy of the European Union adopted a ministerial declaration in which they pledge to promote an inclusive and barrier-free Information Society, the Riga Declaration.
  • In Spain, the I National Accessibility Plan 2004-2012 was conceived to undertake the transformation of environments, services and products to make them fully accessible to all people, especially those with disabilities.
  • Particularly, in the university environment, the Royal Board on Disability was the great promoter of meetings between Spanish universities to promote the exchange of experiences between support services for people with disabilities that were created since 1995 approximately. Since then, many congresses have been held that led to the creation of the SAPDU Network of Support Services for Persons with Disabilities at the University, within RUNAE. The Spanish university is aware that its physical environment, its classrooms, its virtual environment must monitor that: "The condition that environments, processes, goods, products and services must meet, as well as objects or instruments, tools and devices, to be understandable, usable and practicable by all people in conditions of safety and comfort and in the most autonomous and natural way possible. It presupposes the Design for All strategy and it is understood without prejudice to the reasonable adjustments that must be adopted. "(LIONDAU, 2003). And this is reflected in the statutes of higher education institutions, providing the means, adjustments and human and technical resources necessary to achieve the full integration of people with disabilities and special needs

In this way, the term Assistant Technology and Technical Assistance have been used generically, which would limit the scope of assistance, adaptation and rehabilitation devices for people with disabilities; including the process used in the selection, location and use of them.


Support products

Although the use of technology to compensate for the shortcomings of the human being has long been present, it is now considered that the support products specifically cover deficiencies in the accessibility of environments and comply with the UNE-EN-ISO standard. 9999: 2007.

The publication in 2007 of the reform of the UNE EN ISO 9999 standard replaces the term Technical Aids with the one of Support Products (CEAPAT). Version 2 (2012) specifies by such any product, including devices, equipment, instruments and software specially manufactured or available on the market, used by or for people with disabilities, aimed at:

  • Facilitate participation
  • Protect, support, train, measure or replace body functions/structures and activities.
  • Prevent deficiencies, limitations in activity or restrictions on participation

This definition implies updating the term considering the concepts and philosophy of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (CIF), drafted by the World Health Organization (WHO)

This has been necessary in view of the heterogeneity of the industry, the wide range of products, the fragmentation of demand due to sometimes very specific sectors of the population to which they are destined, or the low maturity of the offer.

Following the operating criteria, ISO 9999 classifies support products in three levels: classes, subclasses and divisions.

The classes of support products are:

  • Assistive products for personalised medical treatment
  • Assistive products for training/learning skills
  • Orthosis and prosthesis
  • Support products for personal care and protection
  • Assistive products for personal mobility
  • Assistive products for domestic activities
  • Furniture and adaptations for homes and other properties
  • Support products for communication and information
  • Assistive products for the manipulation of objects and devices
  • Support products to improve the environment, tools and machines
  • Support products for leisure and free time


If we consider, for example, the class "Support products for communication and information" we will note that it contains the following subclasses:

    • Support products to see

    • Assistive products for hearing

    • Assistive products for vocal production

    • Assistive products for manual drawing and writing

    • Assistive products for calculation

    • Support products for the management of audiovisual and video information

    • Support products for face-to-face communication

    • Support products for telephoning (and for telematic messaging)

    • Assistive products for alarm, indication and signalling

    • Support products for reading

    • Computers and terminals

    • Input devices for computers

    • Output devices for computers

    • Support products for the management of audiovisual and video information

    • Audio recorders and receivers

Within the subclass "Support products for the management of audiovisual and video information" we will find, for example, the division:

    • Devices for recording or playing sounds

This division includes, for example, digital sound recorders such as: Minidisc, DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and CD and DAISY readers

Depending on the type of disability to which they are oriented, support technologies are classified into hearing, intellectual, motor, and visual accessibility technologies


Support and Education Products

In the field of education, the support product would be any tool or device that a student with a disability uses to perform a task that he or she could not do otherwise without that or any tool that the student uses to perform another task, easily, quickly or in a better way.

Other definitions speak of any object, part of an equipment, product, whether commercially produced or modified, accommodated, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a person with a disability.

Thus, any student with disabilities ranging from severe to mild can benefit from the use of support products, since it is used as an aid to reading, writing, memory, wandering, sitting, vision, hearing and communication.

The advantages of incorporating support products for students can be seen in how:

  • They help the student to learn
  • They allow to launch devices
  • They allow to keep things standing and/or static
  • They help to dress and to eat
  • They facilitate access to recreational settings
  • They allow communication or its improvement
  • Help to see and/or hear better
  • It allows students to control devices such as TVs, computers, lights, etc.

Information and Communication Technologies in education meanwhile contribute to:

  • Personalise and adapt the content to work according to the needs of the student
  • Respect the work rhythms, they allow repeating an exercise several times and correct it
  • Promote independence and self-confidence
  • Facilitate the teacher's work
  • Encourage group activities
  • Allows to evaluate the student's results

However, the quality of education and learning does not improve significantly with the simple introduction of ICT and support products in the classroom, they even get worse in some cases. There are other factors to consider and that determine its success, such as:

  • Teacher training, stability and motivation
  • Methodology used
  • Implication of the center
  • Integration of the actions in the center plan and in the curriculum
  • Educational and not only technological support and advice
  • Suitability and adaptation of ICTs to each reality
  • Family support


The introduction of technology should enhance the autonomy of students with functional diversity.