Assistive technology: a ‘life changer’ for those most in need |

Co-produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Global report on assistive technology presents new evidence of the global need for – and access to – technology that can make a fundamental difference.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Assistant technology is a life-changer – it opens the door to education for children with disabilities, employment and social interaction for adults with disabilities, as well as an independent life of dignity for the elderly”.

We urge all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology – Head of WHO

Big difference

Although more than 2.5 billion people require one or more assistive products to assist with communication and cognition – such as wheelchairs or hearing aids – a shocking billion simply do not have the right to use them. use them.

The report highlights the wide gap between low- and high-income countries, with an analysis of 35 countries showing that levels of acceptance vary from 3% in poorer countries to 90% in rich countries. yes.

Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “Nearly 240 million children have disabilities.

Denying them the right to use the products they need to thrive, she adds, not only harms individual children, “it also deprives them of everything that families and communities can contribute if the need arises.” their needs are met.”

Identify obstacles

The report notes that affordability is a major barrier to access.

About two-thirds of people using assistive products reported paying out-of-pocket while others had to rely on family and friends financially.

Meanwhile, an aging population and growing cases of non-communicable diseases mean that the number of people needing assistive technology is likely to grow to 3.5 billion by 2050.

A survey of 70 countries revealed large gaps in assistive technology in services and workforce training, particularly in awareness, communication and self-care.

Other key barriers revealed in previous WHO surveys include unaffordable prices, lack of awareness and services, inadequate product quality, and procurement challenges and supply chain.

In Kosovo, a father helps his son with cerebral palsy get back into an electric wheelchair.

© UNICEF / Ziyah Gafic

In Kosovo, a father helps his son with cerebral palsy get back into an electric wheelchair.

Lots of profit

Assistive products are often seen as a means to participate in life equally with others.

Without them, people risk isolation, poverty and hunger; are more excluded and dependent on family, community and government support.

And users are not the only ones who benefit: families and society also benefit.

“Depriving people of access to these life-changing tools is not only a violation of human rights, but also economically short-sighted,” says Tedros.

Allowing greater access to quality, safe and affordable assistive products will reduce health and welfare costs, such as recurring hospitalizations or state benefits, and promoting a more productive workforce, indirectly stimulating economic growth.

Raising children

Access to assistive technology for children with disabilities is often the first step towards development, access to education, participation in sport and civic life, and preparation for employment like their peers, the report said. ages.

As they grow, however, they face additional challenges, such as frequent adjustments or the need to replace technology-enabled tools.

Without access to assistive technology, children with disabilities will continue to be excluded from education, continue to be at higher risk of child labor, and continue to be stigmatized and discriminated against, the head of UNICEF warned. discrimination, undermining their confidence and well-being”. .

Worldwide, an estimated 93 million children under the age of 15 are living with some form of disability.

© UNICEF / Vanda Kljajo

Worldwide, an estimated 93 million children under the age of 15 are living with some form of disability.

Improved access

Global report makes a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, raise awareness, and implement inclusive policies to improve the lives of millions.

It specifically advocates for improved access in education, health and social care systems; ensure the availability, effectiveness and affordability of supporting products; expanding, diversifying and improving the capacity of the labor force; and invest in research, innovation and a conducive ecosystem.

The summary also highlights the need to raise public awareness and combat stigma; develop and invest in enabling environments and evidence-based policies, and put this vital technology into humanitarian action.

We urge all countries to fund and prioritize access to technology that supports and gives everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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