Critical Junctures in Assistive Technology and Disability Inclusion

Catherine Holloway, Vicki Austin, Dr Maria Kett
Nov. 5, 2021

"It is clear from the events of the last 18 months that while technology has a huge
potential for transforming the way we live and work, the entire ecosystem—from manufacturing to the supply chain—is vulnerable to the vagaries of that ecosystem, as well
as having the potential to exacerbate new and existing inequalities [1]. Nowhere has this
been more apparent than in the lives of people with disabilities, who make up around 15%
of the world’s population and already face barriers to accessing education, employment,
healthcare and other services [2]. Some of these barriers are a result of unequal access and
opportunities. However, there is a growing movement to better understand how assistive
technology systems and services can be designed to enable more robust and equitable
access for all. As part of this growing movement, the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this
autumn saw the launch of a new global campaign to transform the lives of the world’s
1.2 bn persons with disabilities: the ‘WeThe15’ campaign reached more than 4.5 billion
people through its marketing and stands ready to be the biggest of its kind in history. Next
year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), AT scale and GDI Hub will publish the first World Report on Access to Assistive Technology, which will include research from the £20 million, UK Aid funded, GDI
Hub-led, programme, AT2030. Ahead of that, in this Special Issue, we focus on how some
events and situations—as diverse as the coronavirus pandemic and the Paralympics—can
act as ‘critical junctures’ that can enable a rethink of the status quo to facilitate and promote
change. We focus on the medium of assistive technology as technology used by people with
disabilities to bridge accessibility and inclusion gaps in mainstream digital and physical
environments. Bringing together perspectives from a wide range of contexts, we present
six new papers which reflect examples of critical junctures in disability inclusion or the
opportunity to create such turning points in disability inclusion."