During the last twenty years , the number of disabled has increased: in 2000 more than 23 millions in Europe (all types of handicaps), for two main reasons:
the number of elderly has grown; some of them, specially those 75 and over have more or less the same needs as the disabled;
the progress of medical and associated tools have enabled people, especially young people with severe injuries or neuro-muscular dystrophy, to be saved.
These motor disabled persons have, very often, maintained their intellectual capacity. They could work, learn and live full lives if they could have the chance to live in an adapted environment. The adaption to an active and socially full life is very important from a number of points of view:
Psychologically, to avoid the tendency to stay alone, to retire from the real world and to permit the maintenance of intellectual and physical capacities ;
Economically, to help decrease dependence costs: hospitalisation, rehabilitation etc and to obtain a regular income;
Socially, to include disabled people in a normal way of life.
However, deficiencies exist and generate incapacity and disadvantages at home, at work and in the street. Rehabilitation technical aids contribute to compensate for these deficiencies.
The use of new technological tools and means (smart house, telecommunication, computers etc) and their applications in normal life can reduce or eliminate these disadvantages. Used by normal people, these products allow dependent people (disabled and elderly) to decrease their dependence and to be able to:
open and close doors, windows , shutters etc.;
switch lights on and off;
use appliances: TV, recorder, microwave, fridge etc.;
use means of communication: phones, fax, computers;
use various aids.
We can distinguish five types of rehabilitation technical aids:
Mobility ’ wheelchairs, adapted cars
Environment control ’ smart house
Remote manipulator ’ robotics
Communication ’ devices, interfaces
Access to computers ’ adapted computers
To be useful and therefore used, rehabilitation technical aids must be adapted to the user needs.