AT2019-09-17T11:06:22+00:00

AT Page

Assistive Technology (AT)

A lack of access to Assistive Technology (AT) for the people who need it results in children rejected from education, adults excluded form work, or family life and older people prohibited from participating in their communities. The figures are staggering: it is estimated that by 2050, two billion people would benefit from assistive technology, yet 90% will not have access.

Why AT?

Over one billion (largely disabled and older) people are currently in need of Assistive Technology (AT), a number predicted to rise to two billion by 2050. Right now, only about one-tenth of the people who need AT – to learn, to work or to fully participate in their families and communities – have access to it (WHO, 2017)1 which renders achievement of the SDGs highly unlikely if not impossible.

Whether a person needs a traditional Assistive Product (like a wheelchair, hearing aid or walking stick) or – increasingly – a digital solution (such as an app that helps to navigate or converts speech to text) our research shows that not only are these products too expensive in LMICs, but they are, quite often, simply unavailable due to market failure.

1 WHO; Global priority research agenda for improving access to high-quality affordable assistive technology, Report 2017-02;

Man in wheelchair next to another man
Image of multiple red triangles
Image of wheelchair repair

This problem is compounded by the fact that the (national and local) services which should ensure the right products reach the right people at the right time often don’t exist. The result is that those desperately in need of assistive technology (often including very low-cost items like eyeglasses or walking sticks), frequently receive the wrong items (which can be life-threatening) or more often, no AT at all.

The lack of access results in serious long-term health problems, but it also results in children left out of education; adults excluded from earning livelihoods; women (particularly but not exclusively) unable to lead independent lives, and older people unable to participate in their communities. The lack of availability of assistive technology for the poorest people compounds intransigent poverty in complex and multi-faceted ways and affects the effectiveness of almost every development imitative undertaken globally. Yet this is rarely recorded or quantified, never mind overtly tackled. Mainstream and disability-inclusive development initiatives have both largely failed to address AT in systematic and sustainable ways.

The lack of access results in serious long-term health problems, but it also results in children left out of education; adults excluded from earning livelihoods; women (particularly but not exclusively) unable to lead independent lives, and older people unable to participate in their communities. The lack of availability of assistive technology for the poorest people compounds intransigent poverty in complex and multi-faceted ways and affects the effectiveness of almost every development imitative undertaken globally. Yet this is rarely recorded or quantified, never mind overtly tackled. Mainstream and disability-inclusive development initiatives have both largely failed to address AT in systematic and sustainable ways.