Understanding Assistive Technology

Resources to support manufacturers from ideation, design and go to market stages 

Australia’s $4 Billion Assistive Technology Market: A Local Manufacturing Opportunity.

In Australia, the Assistive Technology market is estimated to be over $4 billion, with continued growth predicted to accommodate for Australia’s shifting demographic.

Consistently evolving, Assistive Technology is driven by innovation and technological advancements in manufacturing and product design, sometimes driven by consumer feedback. Its primary focus is on enhancing the functionality, affordability, and usability of assistive devices.

Over 80% of assistive technology is imported and most is not customised, with the result that 50% of items are discarded within two years.

Consumer-driven programs such as the NDIS and My Aged Care Choice present an opportunity for customisation and short-run local manufacturing.

Advanced manufacturers in Melbourne’s North are perfectly positioned to leverage the increase in demand, supporting local health care providers to foster sovereign manufacturing within the AT sector. This initiative aligns with the Victorian Government’s Made in Victoria 2030 – Manufacturing Statement, which prioritizes sovereign manufacturing in healthcare to bolster domestic capability and ensure a resilient supply chain for essential medical supplies.

The Assistive Technology Cluster (ATC) at NORTH Link was initiated in collaboration with the then Victorian Government Department of Education and Training (now Department of Jobs, Skills Industry and Regions) under the Workforce Training Innovation Fund (WTIF), to establish a collaborative project across manufacturing, healthcare, and education sectors.

The goal was to develop a suite of professional learning tools to assist manufacturers in developing a collaborative user-centred process, co-designing and developing fit for purpose assistive technology. In consultation with the AT industry, these educational materials are designed with expert input, advice, and guidance, to provide researchers, designers and manufacturers with insights into the healthcare provider system.

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) refers to any device, tool, software, or equipment used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. These technologies are designed to assist individuals in performing tasks that may be challenging due to physical, sensory, cognitive, or communication impairments. AT can range from simple, low-tech solutions to complex, high-tech devices, and it aims to promote independence, accessibility, and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Some examples of AT include:

  • Aids: Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and scooters help individuals with mobility impairments move around independently. 
  • Communication Devices: Speech-generating devices, communication boards, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems assist individuals with speech or language impairments in expressing themselves. 
  • Sensory Aids: Hearing aids, cochlear implants, Braille displays, and magnifiers enhance sensory perception for individuals with hearing or vision impairments. 
  • Adaptive Software: Screen readers, text-to-speech converters, voice recognition software, and alternative keyboards enable individuals with disabilities to access and interact with digital content. 
  • Environmental Control Systems: Home automation devices, remote controls, and voice-activated assistants help individuals with physical disabilities control appliances, lights, and other electronic devices in their environment. 
  • Prosthetics and Orthotics: Artificial limbs, braces, and orthopaedic devices assist individuals with limb loss or musculoskeletal impairments in performing daily activities. 
  • Assistive Listening Devices: Personal amplifiers, FM systems, and loop systems amplify sound and improve communication for individuals with hearing impairments. 
  • Educational Aids: Braille textbooks, tactile learning materials, specialized software, and adapted classroom tools support students with disabilities in educational settings. 
  • Daily Living Aids: Adaptive utensils, reachers, dressing aids, and other assistive tools help individuals with physical limitations perform tasks such as eating, dressing, and grooming independently. 
  • Cognitive Aids: Memory aids, organizers, reminder systems, and cognitive rehabilitation software assist individuals with cognitive impairments in managing daily routines, tasks, and information.