Danish disability policy is based a small number of core principles which, among other things, affect the provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities. The policy is concerned with the principles of compensation, sector responsibility, solidarity and non-discrimination.
Before providing a closer definition of the respective principles, a brief account will be given of what is meant by the terms disability and handicap, since the principles under discussion are based on how these terms are understood.
No universally accepted definition of handicap exists in Denmark.
However, in everyday language, a handicap will mean the person concerned has an established physical, mental or intellectual functional impairment requiring some form of compensation to enable him/her to be able to function on an equal footing to other citizens.
The word handicap signifies the loss of, or at least a limit to, opportunities to participate in the life of the community in the same way as other people. It describes the relationship between a person with a disability and his/her surroundings. The purpose of this term is to emphasize shortcomings in the environment around the disabled person, as well as shortcomings in activities carried out in society, such as information, communication and education, which hinder disabled people taking part on an equal footing to others.
The definition is important as it defines precisely the relationship between the two key terms: handicap and disability. A disability is objectively ascertainable in an individual, e.g. visual impairment, hearing problems or mental or cognitive impairments. Handicap, on the other hand, refers to how the individual’s development is constrained as a result of the disability, since the surrounding society is not organized in a way which meets the needs of disabled people.
The compensation principle means that a disabled person receives, to the broadest extent possible, compensation for the consequences of their disability. This compensation may be provided by making the opportunities and activities offered by society accessible to disabled persons. It may also be achieved by providing special services, such as assistive technology, home conversions or personal assistance specially meeting the particular needs of the individual. The provisions in the Social Services Act have their starting point either in the provision of natural services or compensating for significant additional expense incurred as a consequence of the disability. In the matter of allocation, it is emphasized that disabled people themselves must pay the part of the costs equivalent to the fees they would have had to pay in any case if they had not been disabled. On the other hand, people with disabilities should not have to cover additional expenses arising from their disabilities.
The solidarity principle means that everyone is responsible for ensuring handicapped individuals receive the necessary services as and when these are required. The principle is reflected in the services largely being funded by the public sector through taxation. This principle forms a key element of the disability policy.
The sector responsibility principle means that the public sector offering activities, services or products is also responsible for ensuring that the activity, service or product in question is accessible to people with disabilities. Thus, efforts in the disability sphere are not only the task of the social sector, but also concern other areas, such as the housing, transport, labour market, education and health sectors. In the field of assistive technology, this means that responsibility for grants for assistive technology falls on the authorities where the need arises.
The non-discrimination principle is a result of the UN’s standard regulations on equality and the equal treatment of disabled persons alongside other citizens. This principle was ratified by a parliamentary resolution in 1993. The principle of the equality and equal treatment of disabled persons has since that time been a central component of the