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Assistive Technology
  • Nov 16, 2018
  • Latest News

Guidance and information from the WHO

Assistive technology is an umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products and services.

Assistive products maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being.

Hearing aids, wheelchairs, communication aids,  spectacles, prostheses, pill organizers and memory aids are all examples of assistive products.

Globally, more than 1 billion people need 1 or more assistive products.

With an ageing global population and a rise in  noncommunicable diseases, more than 2 billion people will need at least 1 assistive product by 2030, with many older people needing 2 or more.

Today, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive products.

Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life. Assistive technology reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disease and disability on a person, their family, and society.
A woman with paralysis of both legs uses a rough-terrain active wheelchair to do domestic work and to run a small petty shop in her village.  

Today, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive technology due to high costs and a lack of awareness, availability, trained personnel, policy, and financing.

Who can benefit from assistive technology?
People who most need assistive technology include:
people with disabilities
older people
people with noncommunicable diseases such as
diabetes and stroke
people with mental health conditions including
dementia and autism
 people with gradual functional decline.

Health, well-being and socioeconomic benefits
Assistive technology can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of a person and their family, as well as broader socioeconomic benefits.

For example: Proper use of hearing aids by young children leads to improved language skills, without which a person with hearing loss has severely limited opportunities for education and employment.

Manual wheelchairs increase access to education and employment while reducing healthcare costs due to a reduction in the risk of pressure sores and contractures.

Assistive technology can enable older people to continue to live at home and delay or prevent the need for long-term care.

Therapeutic footwear for diabetes reduces the incidence of foot ulcers, preventing lower limb  amputations and the associated burden on health  systems.

The assistive products industry is currently limited and specialized, primarily serving high-income markets. There is a lack of state funding, nationwide service delivery systems, user-centred research and development, procurement systems, quality and safety standards, and context-appropriate product design.

Trained health personnel are essential for the proper prescription, fitting, user training, and follow-up of assistive products. Without these key steps, assistive products are often of no benefit or abandoned, and they may even cause physical harm (as is the case of providing wheelchairs without pressure relief cushions for people with spinal injury).

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