Experiences in inclusion of people with disabilities and the supply with assistive technologies in low- and medium-income economies

Assistive technologies enable people with disabilities to enter or re-enter in economic and social life, to live more independently and to achieve a higher quality of live. The benefits of assistive technologies are not limited to a certain disability or disease but refer to a wide spectrum of disabling conditions including elderly people.

Globally, more than 1 billion people need one or more assistive technologies, by 2030 more than 2 billion people will need at least 1 assistive technology [WHO18]. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Articles 20 & 26) and the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities meet this requirement and confirm the importance of assistive technologies. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that in low- and medium-income countries, just 5% to 15% of people with disabilities have access to assistive technologies [WHO20]. This is compounded by the fact that 80% of people with disabilities on earth live in low-income countries, mostly in poor life conditions with very limited access to health care services and rehabilitation facilities.

Nowadays more and more assistive technologies are expensive high-tech technologies, thus the assistive technology industry mostly concentrates on high-income-economies that can finance these expensive technologies. People who live in low- or medium-income economies cannot benefit from these technologies. These people need alternative technologies at affordable costs, but not only the costs are the challenges, it is necessary to ensure a reliable supply, quick maintenance and replacement parts supply, good adaptation and training of involved people. Also, these indirect and maintenance costs must be available at affordable costs also.

Assistive technologies must be appropriate for the desired use and must fulfill the individual requirements of the disabled user to ensure a successful use of the technology. Thus, a suitable assistive technology service provision is essential for the success of any assistive technology supply.

The development of low-cost technologies to meet specific areas of education, health, accessibility, mobility and social relations services, are expressive needs of the population in emerging countries. Meeting these requirements is important to minimize the impact of low development rates. In addition to directly assisting people who need these services and technologies it is important to provide access to information on intervention actions and applied research with assistive technologies. The supply with low-cost assistive technologies should be a public policy to assist people with disabilities. This would be fundamental for the world population and should have priority in emerging countries.

The aim of this special thematic session is to present and discuss best practice examples for affordable assistive technology solutions that enable people with disabilities in low- and medium-income economies to participate in education, the labour market and social life to raise their quality of life.

WHO18: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/assistive-technology
WHO20: https://www.who.int/disabilities/technology/activities/en/


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