Communication aids: Market with steady growth prospects
Communication aids: Market with steady growth prospects
Whether we use words or body language – all of us communicate constantly and everywhere. While non-verbal communication essentially takes place automatically, spoken and written communication may sometimes prove more difficult. People with disabilities tend to frequently encounter barriers in this area – for instance, if nobody in their surroundings knows sign language or if they don’t have access to the necessary assistive technologies.
This year's REHACARE also offers the opportunity to find out about the variety of communication aids on site in the exhibition halls. (Picture: Meier & Schütte, Mr. Meier)
"The market for augmentative communication devices for people with disabilities offers a variety of products – both in the low-tech and high-tech segment," says Christopher M. Lee, Chief Learning Officer at G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, (ICTs). At this point, users have access to a wide selection of resources that provide auditory, tactile, visual, and other feedback options. Lee points out that "choosing the right product can be overwhelming for the user, as well as care providers and the supporting healthcare professionals."
Diversity in the communication device market
Depending on the disability, options are not just limited to electronic braille displays for blind people or assistive listening and alerting devices for people with hearing impairment. Special adaptive switches and keyboards can also facilitate access to communication if persons experience mobility and dexterity impairments. For people with aphasia and autism, apps or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices have increasingly proven successful.
That being said, resources are not just designed to support the device users. Various apps also aid speech therapists, who work with people suffering from aphasia for example – like the neolexon app. The app is available in a therapist and patient version. For the latter, the app facilitates independent and unlimited training in the privacy of the patient’s own home – outside of therapy sessions, but still under the remote supervision of a therapist. Mona Späth and Hanna Jakob, the two students who came up with the idea for neolexon four years ago, have seen great success with their innovation. And users of the app are not the only ones making amazing progress. "Speech therapists say it makes their work easier, while working with the tablet as a modern therapy method also proves motivating for therapists and breathes new life into therapy," says Hanna Jakob. Find out more in our article "From A to Z: How patients with aphasia can recover speech and language thanks to neolexon".
Christopher M. Lee is Chief Learning Officer at G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies.
Focus on communication trends
Given that the market for all communication resources is very large, it is essential that consumers and providers keep up and stay on top of the current trends, says Christopher M. Lee. "Communication trends such as artificial intelligence (AI) software with voice assistance like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant can virtually do anything a user asks for, thus catapulting AI to the top of communications trends."
That being said, what drives AI and most of the other top trends in product improvements in the communication sector is the Internet of Things (IoT) development. "IoT connects to objects that can easily exchange data and information and will play a major role in designing and implementing augmentative communication resources for the next few years," according to Lee. "IoT is about expanding the Internet beyond standard devices to a number of physical devices and everyday objects that are traditionally not web-enabled. IoT communication supports innovations in the fields of medicine, healthcare, elderly care and transportation, which have already had a positive effect on the everyday lives of people with disabilities."
Whether it’s AI or IoT – the market for augmentative communication devices exhibits continuing global growth. Thanks to the aging population and increasing demand for accessible products and services, Christopher M. Lee is certain that the market will continue to grow and mainstream companies will be prepared to profit from this customer segmentation in the future. Lee confidently adds that "over the next decade, consumers will observe established companies investing resources by integrating the principles of universal design and accessible user experience into their design and development cycles." He estimates that companies will increasingly incorporate principles of accessible design, such as flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach and use.
In the coming years, it remains to be seen whether this prediction proves correct. Until then, this year's REHACARE can afford you the opportunity to discover the latest developments in the augmentative communication market – whether you choose to stop by any of the numerous exhibitors in the halls or visit the first-ever M-Enabling Forum Europe, which will take place on September 27 at the REHACARE trade fair. Digital accessibility and assistive technologies will be the primary focus at this event. How all of this is connected is something Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of G3ict, recently summed up in an interview with REHACARE.com: "The best assistive technologies cannot be useful if our digital environment is not accessible".