Almost One Billion Children and Adults with Disabilities and Older Persons in Need of Assistive Technology Denied Access, According to New Report
NNN: A new report released today by WHO and UNICEF reveals that more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, or apps that support communication and cognition. Yet nearly a billion of them are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where access can be as low as 3% of the need for these life-changing products.
The Global Report on Assistive Technology presents evidence for the first time on the global need for, and access to, assistive products and provides a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, raise awareness of the need, and implement inclusion policies to improve assistive technology. life of millions from the people.
“Assistive technology is life changing: it opens the door to education for children with disabilities, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and independent and dignified living for seniors,” said Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. . “Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only a violation of human rights, it is economic shortsightedness. We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology and give everyone the opportunity to reach their potential.”
“Nearly 240 million children have disabilities. Denying children the right to the products they need to thrive not only harms individual children, it deprives families and their communities of everything they could contribute if their needs were met,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell. “Without access to assistive technology, children with disabilities will continue to miss out on their education, continue to be at increased risk of child labor, and continue to be subject to stigma and discrimination, undermining their confidence and well-being.”
The report notes that the number of people in need of one or more assistive products is likely to increase to 3.5 billion by 2050, due to an aging population and rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases worldwide. The report also highlights the large gap in access between low-income and high-income countries. An analysis of 35 countries reveals that access varies from 3% in the poorest nations to 90% in rich countries.
Affordability is a major barrier to access, the report notes. About two-thirds of people with support products reported direct payments for them. Others reported relying on family and friends to financially support their needs.
A survey of 70 countries included in the report found large gaps in the provision of services and workforces trained in assistive technology, especially in the domains of cognition, communication and self-care. Previous surveys published by the WHO point to unawareness and unaffordable prices, lack of services, inadequate quality, variety and quantity of products, and procurement and supply chain challenges as key barriers.
Support products are generally seen as a means to participate in community life and society at large on an equal footing with others; without them, people experience exclusion, risk isolation, live in poverty, may go hungry and be forced to rely more on family, community and government support.
The positive impact of assistive products goes beyond improving the health, well-being, participation and inclusion of individual users: families and societies benefit too. For example, expanding access to affordable, safe, and quality-assured care products reduces health and wellness costs, such as recurring hospital admissions or state benefits, and promotes a more productive workforce, indirectly stimulating economic growth.
Access to assistive technology for children with disabilities is often the first step in child development, access to education, participation in sports and civic life, and preparation for employment as their peers. Children with disabilities have additional challenges due to their growth, which requires frequent adjustments or replacement of their assistive products.
The report makes recommendations for concrete actions to improve access, including:
1. Improve access within the education, health, and social care systems 2. Ensure the availability, safety, efficacy, and affordability of assistive products 3. Expand, diversify, and enhance the capacity of the workforce 4. Actively engage assistive technology users and their families 5. Raise public awareness and combat stigma 6. Invest in data and evidence-based policies 7. Invest in research, innovation, and an enabling ecosystem 8. Develop and invest in enabling environments 9. Include assistive technology in humanitarian responses 10. Provide technical and economic assistance through cooperation to support national efforts.
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