Lessons learned from assistive technology country capacity assessments 2019/2020

Luke Bostian, Global Disability Innovation Hub
Oct. 7, 2020

Background

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), World Health Organization (WHO), and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) have been working since early 2019 to create and pilot a new tool for evaluating a country’s capacity to deliver appropriate assistive technology (AT), at scale, to people in need. The tool, called the Assistive Technology Capacity Assessment (ATA-C), has now been used to complete 11 country capacity assessments (CCAs), and five more are underway. The purpose of the CCAs is to “capture a high-level understanding of the often-fragmented AT sector in a country or region,” helping raise awareness about AT gaps and opportunities and contributing to advocacy and policy and program development. One year after the first CCAs began, GDI Hub commissioned research into lessons learned so far and recommendations for how the tool and process might be improved in the future.

The ATA-C tool

The ATA-C has had several key successes across the board, including:

  • It raised awareness about AT issues in every country where it has been implemented.
  • The CCA process led directly to a greater degree of coordination among AT actors in each country. In most cases, it led to the creation of new working groups that collaborate and share information across different government ministries and non-governmental partners.
  • In some countries, findings from the ATA-C have already helped form the basis for new policies and, in some countries, budget allocations. In others, the findings are informing ongoing policy development.

At the same time, implementing the ATA-C was not without challenges; for example:

  • The tool’s wide scope and design mean that not all pieces will be relevant in all contexts, which has led to frustration in some countries. It would be helpful to update the guidelines to include more explicit instruction on how to adapt the tool to a given context.
    • The data-entry component of the tool, which is Excel-based, was difficult for some implementing partners to use. Translating the tool into research software would improve usability.
    • The tool does not capture well the experiences of AT users, or the contributions and shortcomings of informal AT product and service providers. Incorporating these perspectives would add substantially to the tool’s usefulness for policy and program development, as well as advocacy.
    • In some countries, stakeholders were not sure how to translate the findings into a prioritized action plan and would have appreciated more guidance. Making financial resources available for immediate follow-up actions would help maintain the momentum of the CCA process generated

Overall, the ATA-C met or exceeded expectations for its impact and usefulness in the countries where it has been implemented so far. The AT2030 core team of GDI Hub, WHO, and CHAI has already made adjustments to the tool based on lessons learned and will continue to adapt and upgrade the tool so that it makes the greatest contribution possible toward expanding access to AT.

More information in the full report.