It is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to the Annual RESNA Conference.
We meet at a time of significant changes: Changes in demographics, changes in technology, changes in our healthcare system and changes in our economy. All of these changes affect how rehabilitation engineering will be practiced and how assistive technologies will be developed and delivered.
It’s no secret that the baby boomers are beginning to collect Social Security. With age comes functional limitations. While the baby boomers may not identify with the traditional disability community, nonetheless they can benefit from assistive technologies that will enable them to enjoy familiar activities despite functional limitations. We may have to consider new terminology and new ways of providing technology to appeal to this important demographic.
Changes in technology are certain to influence the design, development and delivery of assistive technology. Smart phones and tablets are quickly outnumbering desktop and laptop computers. With smart phones able to control more and more devices in our environment, they are becoming “universal remote controls.” Our role as rehabilitation engineers and assistive technology professionals will be to ensure that these controls are truly “universal” and usable by people all along the functional capability continuum.
What our healthcare system will look like in the future is anyone’s guess. However, accountability and quality outcomes will most likely be important. How do we measure the success and efficacy of the assistive technology we develop and deliver? How do we deliver technology to maintain people’s independence enabling them to live in their own homes even if that technology may not be considered “medically necessary?”
Our economy is struggling to rejuvenate itself. Jobs are slowly being created. What does the future economy hold for people with disabilities and older workers who find it necessary to work longer with increasing functional limitations?
The answers to many of these questions lies with us, the members of RESNA’s community of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology professionals. Our conference offers an opportunity to learn more about these challenges, share our stories, discuss and debate the solutions and meet and befriend the people we can collaborate with to find the way forward. Our conference is only the beginning. Only by working together throughout the rest of the year will we see progress and realize RESNA’s core mission of “promoting the health and well being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions.”
I hope your conference experience is everything you hope for and look forward to working with you throughout the year. I challenge you to find the way forward while also finding ways to engage and encourage people working in the field to work towards our common goals.