Final press report for REHACARE 2015: Strong impulses for self-determined living

The international trade fair REHACARE 2015 in Düsseldorf wrapped up on Saturday, October 17th 2015, after four days of serving as a vibrant gathering place for nearly 39,000 visitors who came in search of information on aids for self-determined living for people with disabilities and care needs as well as seniors. A total of 754 exhibitors from 37 countries presented their new and advanced rehabilitation and care products to affected individuals, their family members and an international audience of trade professionals. More than 100 self-help and social-economy associations and organisations were on hand to provide consultation services and discuss current disability and health policy-related questions.

In keeping with REHACARE’s alternating yearly cycle, the range offered this year was comparable to 2013, a year when 43,500 visitors had come to the halls of the Exhibition Centre in Düsseldorf.

“Even though visitor numbers may have fallen short of the 2013 level, REHACARE always finds its audience, regardless of quantitative aspects. Happening annually, it’s a reliable source of information both for international industry pros and for affected persons, especially here in North Rhine-Westphalia. With this trade fair we’re making an important contribution to help strengthen and expand social participation, self-determination and dignified care – which means we’re doing our part to solve one of the central societal challenges of our time”, says Messe Düsseldorf Managing Director Joachim Schäfer in addressing REHACARE’s significance. “As usual, the exhibitors at REHACARE 2015 set benchmarks when it comes to internationality. The predominately small and medium-sized companies from around the world impressed our visitors with their innovative solutions for nearly every sphere of life and every disability.”

According to BAG SELBSTHILFE, the German Federal Association of Self-help Groups based in Düsseldorf, REHACARE is more deeply anchored in the minds of people with disabilities, care needs and chronic diseases than any other trade fair. Wolfgang Tigges, the deputy managing director of BAG SELBSTHILFE, calls the event the “annual Germany-wide family gathering for affected individuals and their loved ones”. He adds, “The visitors at our stands come from all over Germany to meet each other, talk about their experiences and get advice on the procurement of aids.”

BAG SELBSTHILFE also hosted an extensive trade visitor and lecture programme. In particular, topics such as the reform of the German Equality Act and the voluntary target agreements on creating accessibility in Germany struck a chord with affected visitors. “These topics are critically important for people with disabilities. This is about making good on the promise of full inclusion, which is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, explains Wolfgang Tigges.

Offered for the first time at REHACARE was a virtual and real-life suggestion box for complaints and comments on aids. Affected persons and their family members were given an opportunity to describe their problems and experiences in procuring aids, either by filling out an online questionnaire or by using suggestion boxes placed throughout the exhibition halls during the trade fair. The initiative was a total success: Saturday’s discussion panel, which was entitled “Aids: Prescribed – Approved – Denied” and featured experts commenting on the questions and issues raised in the survey, drew a large number of affected persons to the REHACARE Forum.

A trend at the trade fair: international exhibitors increasingly also use REHACARE as a platform to present forward-looking product concepts and introduce prototypes just about to hit the market.

PARAVAN GmbH from Pfronstetten-Aichelau, a specialist for car adaptations and the leading technology provider of autonomous driving systems, presented the first-ever vehicle for people with mobility impairments that’s able to drive into and out of a garage automatically. In narrow garages, wheelchair users can hardly ever exit theirs cars on their own, which makes it nearly impossible to park the car in the garage or to take it back out. While the new system isn’t for sale yet, it does show “the kinds of new freedoms motorists with disabilities can look forward to in the near future”, says Wolfgang Glauner, an executive at PARAVAN GmbH. “We’re a company that launches new products every year, and we aim at presenting them as soon as possible. REHACARE provides us with an opportunity to do just that. We consider it a key platform to stay in touch with our end customers and international specialist retailers.”

The succinctly named South Korean start-up dot presented a trailblazing innovation at REHACARE: a smartwatch with a braille display for blind people. It’s able to communicate with the iOS and Android operating systems and lets users retrieve and answer smartphone messages. This innovative product will become available in 2016. Managing Director Chris Withers Green explains the reasons why the company participated in REHACARE: “We came to Düsseldorf in order to explore the market for this new product, introduce it to potential users and find international distributors. But also to identify new fields of application and talk to experts about future products for blind and visually impaired people. And we got some great feedback.”

Equally well received was the expanded homecare education and training programme presented at the “Living with care @home” forum. More than 200 visitors attended presentations and seminars offered by the care-training academy Pflegeakademie Niederrhein. “The response far exceeded our expectations”, says Heike Senge, managing director of the Pflegeakademie. “Our topics excited care professionals and care-giving family members alike. Intense discussions ensued, especially with care-giver relatives who talked about their experiences and asked lots of questions.”

The North Rhine-Westphalia state government participated in this year’s REHACARE by providing a wealth of information, with the Ministry for Health, Emancipation, Care and Aging leading the way. “We want to encourage people to deal with issues such as old age, care and dementia in a timely manner.

Because if the goal is to keep living autonomously for as long as possible when a need for support arises, one simply has to lay the groundwork early on”, said Health Minister Barbara Steffens ahead of the trade fair. Also represented at the state government’s group stand were the Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs; the Ministry for Schools and Further Education; the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection; and the state-associated public-welfare foundation Stiftung Wohlfahrtspflege NRW. They presented projects and programmes initiated by the state to promote an inclusive society. The Ministry for Care and Aging put the dominant focus on living with dementia.

Once again this year, REHACARE visitors were particularly interested in everyday aids and all the things that move people with disabilities: wheelchairs, mobility aids and walking aids.

Hosted by the Disabled and Rehabilitation Sports Association North Rhine-Westphalia (BRSNW), the REHACARE Sports Center delighted visitors with a four-day-long informational programme on the multifaceted options available to disabled people and seniors who are interested in staying active and fit.

The next REHACARE will take place from 28 September to 1 October 2016 in Düsseldorf.

Düsseldorf, 17 October 2015