“Assistive technologies are life-changing – they open the door to education for children with disabilities, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and independent and dignified lives for elderly,” said the head of theWHOTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The World Report on Assistive Technology, produced jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presents new data on the global need for – and access to – technologies that can make a fundamental difference.
We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology – WHO chief
Although more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products to support communication and cognition – such as wheelchairs or hearing aids – a shocking one billion people don’t simply do not have access to it.
The report highlights the vast gap that separates low-income countries from high-income countries. Analysis of 35 states reveals that the admission rate ranges from 3% in poorer nations to 90% in rich countries.
“Nearly 240 million children have disabilities,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
Denying them the right to the products they need to thrive doesn’t just hurt every child, “it robs families and their communities of everything they could provide if their needs were met,” says Russell.
Affordability is a major barrier to access, the report points out.
About two-thirds of people using assistive products said they paid out of pocket, while others had to rely on family and friends.
At the same time, aging populations and rising cases of non-communicable diseases mean that the number of people in need of assistive technology is expected to reach 3.5 billion by 2050.
Also, a survey of 70 countries revealed significant gaps in assistive technology in services and levels of staff training, particularly in cognition, communication and self-care.
Other major barriers revealed in previous WHO surveys include unaffordable prices, lack of awareness and services, insufficient product quality, as well as supply and supply chain issues.
© UNICEF/Ziyah Gafic
Assistive products are generally seen as a way to participate in life on an equal footing with others.
Without them, people risk isolation, poverty and hunger, suffer exclusion and become more dependent on family, community and government support.
Moreover, users are not the only ones to benefit: families and companies also benefit.
“Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only a violation of human rights, it is also a lack of economic vision,” Dr. Tedros said.
Enabling greater access to quality, safe and affordable assistive products reduces health and welfare costs, such as recurrent hospital admissions or public benefits, and promotes a healthier workforce productive, indirectly stimulating economic growth.
According to the report, access to assistive technologies for children with disabilities is often the first step in their development, their access to education, their participation in sport and civic life, and their preparation for life. jobs like their peers.
However, as they grow, they face additional challenges, such as frequent adjustments or the need to replace assistive devices.
“Without access to assistive technologies, children with disabilities will continue to miss out on education, be at greater risk of child labor and face stigma and discrimination, undermining their confidence and well-being,” warned the head of UNICEF.
© UNICEF/Vanda Kljajo
The Global Report provides a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, raise awareness and implement inclusion policies to improve the lives of millions of people.
In particular, it advocates improving access to education, health and social care systems, ensuring the availability, effectiveness and affordability of assistive products, expanding, diversifying and improve workforce capabilities and invest in research, innovation and a supportive ecosystem.
The document also highlights the need to increase public awareness and tackle stigma, develop and invest in supportive environments and evidence-based policies, and include this lifesaving technology in humanitarian responses.
“We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technologies and to give everyone the opportunity to fulfill their potential,” Dr. Tedros stressed.