Like many people, I never really considered the Assistive Technology sector a big “Market Opportunity”. My views changed quickly after tearing my nearly 50-year-old calf muscle piggy backing a 20-year-old. Besides feeling like an old fart I also realized that we are all only temporarily able bodied and we are all going to need varying degrees of support as we age. In fact, there are now an estimated 30 million people with disabilities in the United States, 21 million of working age. By 2013, these people will purchase $49.3 billion of voice recognition software, eye trackers, sip and puff mice, screen readers, and more (http://www.bccresearch.com/report/HLC047B.html).
I do not want to paint too rosy a picture though as the aging demographics has only had minor impact on most assistive technologies (AT) — of course, the hope is that it will broaden the market as the demand increases.
The concept of what AT is has expanded along with the aging population. Most people think AT and imagine a powered wheelchair. The leading brands are now employing the concept of Universal Design. This approach requires the design of products and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible, regardless of age or ability. A great one pager, as it applies to the AT world was placed together by the Region of Waterloo, Ontario ohttp://www.waterlooregion.org/spc/trends/disabilities/design.html). Another great example is the Oxo brand of products (www.oxo.com). The inventor simply wanted to make it easy for his wife, who had arthritis to hold kitchen utensils. What emerged was a product that makes the experience better for everyone.
If you are searching for the next big trend, look at assistive technology. It is a market opportunity that offers an entrepreneur the chance to make a good return and feel like they are having a positive impact on society.