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Frontiers in Multicultural Marketing: The Disabilities Market - page 6 / 17

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to his spinal cord after a serious automobile accident (Margiotta, 2005).  

Harry Herman, a nuclear engineer, broke his ankle and discovered that crutches can cause problems for users; he developed “crutch palsy” which results from nerve damage in the underarms.  He started a company, Orthotic Mobility Systems (http://orthoticmobility.com/), and developed the “Sure Foot” cane and the “Strutter” crutch.  The “Sure Foot” cane is much more stable and comfortable than a typical cane and allows the user to walk on grass and snow and feel secure.  The “Strutter” is considerably more comfortable than traditional crutches and provides additional support (Silva, 2001).   

One market that has already expanded greatly thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is that for assistive technology (AT).  The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (PL 100- 407) defines an AT device as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." In other words, AT products assist those with disabilities and improves their lives.  Berven and Blanck (1998) state that the Americans with Disabilities Act has significantly affected the market for AT  devices in “economically positive ways and is creating profit-making opportunities for inventors and manufacturers. AT devices include: “motorized and customized wheelchairs, augmentative communication devices, vehicle modifications, computer equipment, assistive listening devices, home modifications, work-site modifications, and classroom modifications” (Berven and Blanck, 1999).   According to Jossi (2006), there are currently almost 2,000 companies selling 18,000 AT products.  Clearly, there is a huge market for AT devices.

AT devices have been categorized by the Massachusetts Department of Education (2005) as follows:

Aids for Daily Living: Self-help aids for use in activities such as dressing, personal hygiene, bathing, home maintenance, and cooking.

Mobility Aids: Standing/walking aids, transfer aids, wheelchairs and three-wheeled chairs, patient lifts.

Educational and Vocational Aids: Computers, adaptive software and job modifications.

Environmental Aids: Worksite/school design or modification, home modification, accessible architecture, adapted furniture, and environmental controls e.g., electronic switches or systems that help a person without mobility to control lights, telephones and appliances.

Recreational Aids: Aids that help persons with disabilities to participate in activities like skiing, biking, boating etc.

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