Applying market shaping approaches to increase access to assistive technology: Summary of the wheelchair product narrative

Catherine Holloway, Richard Frost, Frederic Seghers, Novia Afdhila, Alison End Fineberg, Margaret Savage, Sara Boiten, Michael Allen, Nikki Tyler, Rachit Kejariwal
Aug. 5, 2019

To accelerate access to assistive technology (AT), we need to leverage the capabilities and resources of the public, private, and non-profit sectors to harness innovation and break down barriers to access. Market shaping interventions can play a role in enhancing market efficiencies, coordinating and incentivizing the number of stakeholders involved in demand and supply-side activities. Across health sectors, market-shaping has demonstrated its potential to enhance national governments’ or donors’ value-for-money, diversify the supply base, and increase reliability – ultimately increasing product and service delivery access for end users. These market-shaping successes in other health areas have led practitioners to hypothesize that market shaping could also be applied to assistive technology markets. ATscale, the Global Partnership for AT, aims to mobilise global stakeholders to shape markets in line with a unified strategy. To inform this strategy, it is critical to identify specific interventions required to shape markets and overcome barriers. The first product undergoing analysis by ATscale is wheelchairs. The market for appropriate wheelchairs in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) is highly fragmented and characterized by limited government interest, investment, and a low willingness-to-pay. Moreover, the market is dominated by cheaper, low quality wheelchairs which fail to meet the needs of end-users. Non-profit organizations have attempted to fill the need for context-appropriate wheelchairs, but market uptake is limited. These initial findings led ATscale to believe that market shaping could support increased access to appropriate wheelchairs. This paper outlines what market shaping is, and how it can be applied to assistive technology at large – using the aforementioned wheelchair product narrative as an illustrative case study and presents the proposed market shaping strategy for wheelchairs. ATscale will develop a framework to evaluate short-term interventions identified to achieve a healthy market and increase access. This paper provides an opportunity to obtain feedback from interested stakeholders on the market-shaping strategy for wheelchairs, as well as the product narrative process to be undertaken for other priority AT.