important mainstream and general use products and technologies. The plan should
propose criteria and processes for designating high-priority product areas for standard setting;
identify existing public or private standards or guidelines that might be useful in setting standards; and
include medical equipment as an initial priority area.
This recommendation proposes a priority-setting process to extend the accessibility policies of the federal government to new product areas. Such a process would take industry concerns as well as consumer and health professional concerns into account and would also consider technical issues in setting standards for different kinds of products. Taking into account the issues discussed in Chapter 6, the committee identified medical equipment as a priority area. It also identified home products and product packaging as particularly important for helping people maintain the most basic levels of independence in activities of daily living. Among the criteria that might be considered in a priority-setting process are the numbers of people likely to be affected by a product and related standards, the potential for standards to improve product accessibility, and the potential for standards to have unwanted effects, such as sharply increasing costs and discouraging innovation.
Discussions of assistive technology generally focus on the development of new and better assistive and accessible technologies and on better insurance coverage. An equal need (also acknowledged in the 1991 IOM report on disabilities) exists to make sure that people with disabilities and those close to them are aware of existing products or product categories, especially products that may not be mentioned or prescribed by health care professionals. Increasing consumer and professional knowledge about assistive technologies should increase the use of the products, which should, in turn, make the market for such products more attractive to private companies, promote greater product diversification, reduce the costs of some products, and generally increase product availability.
The committee believes that a substantial national program to increase the awareness, availability, and acceptability of assistive technologies and accessible mainstream technologies is timely, given the demographic changes in the United States noted earlier in this report. The objectives would be to assist the people with disabilities, family members and friends, and health professionals in learning about (1) the existence and range of potentially beneficial mainstream and assistive technologies and (2) the ways in which