WHO: Global report on assistive technology

There is a large, unmet need for assistive technology worldwide. This was highlighted in the WHO-UNICEF Global Report on Assistive Technology (AT) report published this spring.

The WHO-UNICEF Global Report on Assistive Technology 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 one 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 was developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA71.8) on improving access to assistive technology adopted in May 2018. The Global Report is expected to play an instrumental role in setting the global roadmap for improving access to assistive technology for everyone, everywhere. Guided by an Expert Advisory Group, the WHO and UNICEF have jointly developed this report in the context of an integrated approach, based on the best available scientific evidence and international experience, in collaboration with stakeholders from diverse settings, multiple countries, and all regions. It is primarily directed at policy-makers, providers of assistive technology, donors and funding agencies, and industry leaders. It is also aimed at broader stakeholders including users and potential users of assistive technology and their families or caregivers.

The Global Report provides the best available evidence about the barriers currently preventing access, how access can be improved, and how enabling environments and AT can enable persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights while generating a tremendous return on investment for governments. The positive impact of assistive products goes beyond improving the health, well-being, participation and inclusion of individual users – families and societies also benefit.

The Global Report sets out ten recommendations for improving access to assistive technology, which in turn support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, inclusive Universal Health Coverage, and alignment with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Access to assistive technology for children with disabilities is often the first step for childhood development, access to education, participation in sports and civic life, and getting ready for employment like their peers. Children with disabilities have additional challenges due to their growth, which requires frequent adjustments or replacements of their assistive products.

This comprehensive report on assistive devices, arguably the best current overview on the subject, can be downloaded free of charge from the WHO website.