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EU Helps People With Disabilities Find Assistive Technology

ATIS4all portal compiles information about technology that helps people with disabilities and the elderly participate more fully in life.
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The European Union has launched a free online resource to help people with disabilities and the elderly find relevant assistive technology (AT) aids. The portal, ATIS4All, short for Assistive Technologies and Inclusive Solutions For All, collates data on computer and communications products ranging from magnification software, keyboard and mouse alternatives, text-to-speech translation packages and voice recognition systems.

The service seeks to simplify finding suitable AT or accessibility devices and services according to individual need, preference, desired language or tech category. The idea is to make it easier for Europeans to get a handle on AT solutions as information about them can be either not readily available or widely distributed, or in some cases just doesn't exist. This issue has led to "market fragmentation" in the AT field that the backers of the portal want to see ended.

The portal offers a range of resources including links to news stories about assistive tech, details for professionals about best practices and relevant European Union compliance legislation, and a search tool claimed to offer product details and independent assessments of "the latest software and hardware assistive technology products across Europe."

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It also aims to offer Web 2.0-style participation tools to encourage online exchange of knowledge and expertise, including information sharing among key AT stakeholders and end users, plus open up a repository of open source AT software and cutting-edge technological trends.

According to Ability Magazine, which tracks developments in IT for the disabled in Europe, the project cost €600,000 ($790,000) and will support investigation of products across the U.K., France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium.

The project is led by Technosite, a Spanish technology and consultancy offshoot of Once, Spain's national organization for the blind, as well as a wide set of European institutions and organizations concerned with helping people with disabilities and the elderly use technology for greater inclusion and improved quality of life.

All in all, 43 different institutions in 16 European countries have contributed to get the site up and running, including IT charity AbilityNet, BlackBerry in the U.K. and the European Disability Forum from Belgium.