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Assistive Technology Product Reviews - Erik Kondo


Graphic of a scale showing costs vs. benefits.
There is always a tradeoff of costs vs. benefits.

If the marketing for a product refers to solving a problem for a large category of people, it is claiming to have created a Systemic Solution to a problem. If it claims to solve a problem for a group of people under specific circumstances, it has created a Situation Solution. If it solves the problem of some people on an individual basis, it has created a Personal Solution.


The fact that a product creates a Personal or Situational Solution doesn’t mean that it has created a Systemic Solution. The fact that a product may NOT work for some individuals, or in certain circumstances does NOT mean that it does NOT provide a Systemic Solution. (Yes. That's a lot of NOTs). The underlying point is that specific examples of a product working or NOT working fail to provide conclusive proof of a systemic product solution or a systemic product failure. Individual examples are just pieces of evidence which provide limited information to the overall picture.


In the wheelchair using world, assistive technology products are typically marketed towards wheelchair users as if they are a monolithic category. It is common for every wheelchair user to be described as having the same problem. Therefore, adaptive products are promoted as Systemic Solutions to Systemic Problems. It makes sense to critically review products that market themselves as providing Systemic Solutions since these products are generalized for the wheelchair using population as a whole.


In a nutshell, a product many work well for a few people, but not for many people. Or a product may work well for many people, and not for a few people. Product reviews are not about the viability of a product for any one person. They are about examining the viability of products that are marketed as systemic solutions.


In order to solve a systemic problem, the parameters of the problem must be defined. A systemic problem is one which occurs repeatedly as a result of the structure of the system/environment. Parameters can be defined in terms of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY. Specifically:

  • Who are the people who have this problem?

  • What is happening that makes it a problem?

  • Where does this problem typically occur?

  • When does this problem typically occur?

  • Why does this problem repeatedly occur?

Now that the problem has been clearly defined. It is time to look at the benefits of a proposed product solution in terms of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY.

  • Who benefits from the product solution?

  • What does the product do that creates the solution?

  • Where can the product be used?

  • When can the product be used?

  • Why will the product be repeatedly effective?

It is rare that a product solution would not create drawbacks or some manner of disadvantages. These costs can also be defined in terms of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY.

  • Who is disadvantaged by the product solution?

  • What are the primary disadvantages?

  • Where do these disadvantages occur?

  • When do these disadvantages occur?

  • Why will this disadvantages repeatedly occur?

The first set of W’s allow potential customers to understand the problem at hand. The 2nd set of W’s create understanding of the benefits of the product. The 3rd set of W’s, create an understanding of the costs of using the product. Unless a product is evaluated in this complete manner, it is not possible to come to a realistic conclusion about its utility.


When assistive technology products are marketed, companies typically cherry pick both the W’s of the Problems and the W’s of the Benefits. They conveniently ignore the W’s of the Costs. Potential customers, many times, are misled into purchasing product solutions for problems they either don’t have, or whose costs far outweigh their benefits. Therefore, impartial product reviews are valuable tools for obtaining a complete view of a product to enable educated buying decisions.

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