December 5, 2022

Global Report on Assistive Technology for disabled persons to launch Monday

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

WHO and UNICEF are co-hosting a virtual launch of the first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) on Monday, May 16.

The WHO-UNICEF Global Report on Assistive Technology presents evidence for the first time on the global need for access to assistive devices and provides a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, and also emphasizes the implementation of these recommendations and policies could improve the lives of millions of people.

“Assistive technology is a life changer – it opens the door to education for children with impairments, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and an independent life of dignity for older persons,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.

More than 2.5 billion people are in need of assistive products, however, a billion people are denied these devices as access in developing and low-income regions that do not have enough or any access to assistive technology and devices.

“Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only an infringement of human rights, it’s economically shortsighted,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

The Director-General also called on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology.

The launch of this report will have a significant impact globally, but especially in Africa.

Africa is reported to have at least 80 million people living with disabilities, many of which are located in low- and middle-income areas.

WHO collected data from four countries in the region and found that “only 26% to 55% of people received the medical rehabilitation they needed, while only 17% to 37% received the assistive devices they needed such as wheelchairs, prostheses and hearing aids.”

The majority of Africans with disabilities are excluded from schools and opportunities for work, making their escape from poverty harder to reach. School enrollment for disabled Africans is estimated to be 5-10 percent and about 70-80 percent of working age people with disabilities are unemployed, according to the African Studies Center.

The GReAT suggests those figures can change with better availability and access to assistive technology. Those steps begin with 10 key actionable recommendations.

The recommendations call for countries to improve access within education, health and social care systems; ensure availability, safety, effectiveness and affordability of assistive products; enlarge, diversify and improve workforce capacity; actively involve users of assistive technology and their families; increase public awareness and combat stigma; invest in data and evidence-based policy; invest in research, innovation, and an enabling ecosystem; develop and invest in enabling environments; include assistive technology in humanitarian responses; provide technical and economic assistance through international cooperation to support national efforts.

Monday’s launch will provide further depth of the report’s findings and strategies.

The virtual launch will be hosted Monday on Zoom from 15:00-16:00 CEST. Details on attending the Zoom can be found here. The event will also be live-streamed on WHO social media channels (Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok).

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