A new report released today by the World Health Organization and UNICEF reveals that more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids or applications that support communication and cognition. However, nearly a billion of them do not have access to these products, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where access can represent up to 3% of the need for life-saving products.
The Global Assistive Technology Report provides for the first time evidence of global needs and access to assistive products and makes a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, to raise awareness of these needs and to implement inclusion policies to improve the lives of millions of people. Persons.
“Assistive technologies are changing lives. WHO Director-General Dr. said.s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Depriving people of access to these life-changing tools is not only a violation of human rights, but also shows economic myopia. We call on all countries to fund, prioritize access to assistive technology and give everyone a chance to realize their potential.”
“Nearly 240 million children are disabled. Depriving children of access to the products they need to thrive not only harms children, but also deprives families and their communities of everything they can provide if their needs are met,” said UNICEF Executive Director Kathryn Russell. “Without access to assistive technologies, children with disabilities will continue to be denied an education, be at greater risk of child labour, and be subject to stigma and discrimination, which will undermine their confidence and affect their well-being.”
The report notes that the number of people requiring one or more assistive products is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2050, due to an aging population and an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases worldwide. The report also highlights the huge access gap between low-income and high-income countries. An analysis of 35 countries reveals that access ranges from 3% in the poorest countries to 90% in the richest countries.
The report says affordability is a major barrier to access. About two-thirds of people with assistive products said they got them through out-of-pocket payments. Others said they relied on family and friends to support themselves financially.
A survey of the 70 countries cited in the report found significant gaps in service delivery and workforce training in assistive technologies, particularly in the areas of cognition, communication, and self-care. Previous surveys published by the World Health Organization indicate a lack of awareness and high prices; lack of services; insufficient product quality, mix and quantity; and supply chain and supply chain challenges, which constitute major obstacles.
Assistive products are generally viewed as a way of participating in the life of society and society as a whole on an equal basis with others; Without these products, people would be excluded, risk being isolated, live in poverty, could go hungry and have to rely more on the support of their families, community and public authorities.
The positive impact of assistive products goes beyond improving the health, well-being, participation and inclusion of individual users; Families and communities also benefit. For example, expanding access to quality-assured, safe, and affordable ancillary products leads to lower health and welfare costs, such as frequent hospital stays or benefits. It promotes a more productive workforce, which indirectly stimulates economic growth.
Accessing assistive technologies for children with disabilities is often the first step in child development, accessing education, participating in sports and civic life, and preparing for employment as peers. Children with disabilities face additional challenges as they grow, which require frequent adjustment or replacement of their assistive products.
The report makes recommendations on concrete steps to be taken to improve access, including:
- Improving access to education, health and social protection systems
- Ensure availability, safety, efficacy and affordability of assistive products
- Expand, diversify and improve employee capabilities
- Actively engage assistive technology users and their families
- Raising public awareness and fighting stigma
- Investing in data and evidence-based policies
- Invest in research, innovation, and an ecosystem that enhances access
- Create and invest in enabling environments
- Embedding assistive technologies in humanitarian responses
- Providing technical and economic assistance through international cooperation to support the country’s efforts.
Note to editors
Assistive technology is an umbrella term for assistive products, systems, and associated services. Assistive products improve performance in all major functional areas such as mobility, hearing, self-care, vision, cognition, and communication. These can be physical products, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, eyeglasses, or digital software and applications. It can also be an adaptation to the physical environment, such as moving ramps or grab bars.
People who need assistive technology are people with disabilities; Elderly. People with non-communicable diseases, including neglected tropical diseases; People with mental disorders. People with progressive functional loss or loss of intrinsic capacity and many people affected by humanitarian crises.