The Impact of Assistive Technology

60Decibels, Global Disability Innovation Hub
June 2, 2023
Case Studies and Reports

The Assistive Technology (AT) start-up sector is growing but a data vacuum of reliable & robust insights at a venture and ecosystem level are restricting investment decisions. The difficulty in reaching and surveying AT users discourages robust impact measurement of both products and services. This presents challenges in quantifying benefits and costing improvements.

There is a need to create data and evidence for the AT sector. The current data vacuum is challenging venture but also ecosystem growth. At the ecosystem-level the lack of data and evidence creates a significant barrier for the sector to make informed decisions about where and when to invest. 

The objective of this research was to develop an easily administrable set of surveys – AT Lean Impact Assessment Suite – which would capture company-level impact for emerging AT companies from the users’ perspectives whilst simultaneously delivering ecosystem-wide learnings. 

Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub alongside partners 60 Decibels chose six pilots to test a standardised set of survey modules to measure the user experience and impact performance of portfolio companies.

Read the full report.

Six key learnings: 

  • Emerging AT companies working in innovation are reaching users with AT for whom no good alternatives exist. While nearly half of the users report prior use of similar AT products, 85% say they cannot think of a good alternative to the AT company’s offering. This suggests that the offerings of these emerging AT companies are superior to what’s available on the market for this set of users or limited user knowledge exists of what is available.
  • AT products are making a positive difference in users’ lives across a variety of dimensions. AT improves users’ confidence and self-esteem, ability to work and social participation. Nearly four in five users report improved quality of life, citing improved functioning and independence. Nearly all the AT companies surveyed outperform the 60 Decibels global benchmark for impact on quality of life.
  • Many report challenges with AT, which inhibit value creation and satisfaction. A consistent link across companies is that users who report challenges have a significantly lower Net Promoter Score than those who don’t experience challenges. However, the good news is that challenge resolution can improve customer satisfaction. Companies can use user voices to describe challenges and suggestions for improvement to improve user satisfaction.
  • The impact of AT and the potential for scale is higher among rural users. AT users living in rural areas report higher improvements in quality of life because of their AT product compared to their urban and peri-urban peers. Furthermore, findings on scalability show that a higher proportion of rural users say their AT product is a ‘must have’ compared to urban and peri-urban users. Expanding reach in rural markets can help emerging AT companies meet their inclusivity and impact goals.
  • AT companies are showcasing that gender inclusivity is not a distant goal. The overall gender distribution across all products surveyed is almost equal, with 58% male and 42% female users. Moreover, specific AT services, such as a Hangout Hub (a safe space for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing), have reached 71% female users. Users of the Hangout Hub and users of a product distributed by a second AT company explicitly expressed that their quality of life improved due to increased self-esteem and confidence, which are key contributors to well-being. Other AT companies can make this a focus area in the future and track progress over time. For example, new AT product styles within prosthetics and glasses may appeal more to female users and have a greater impact on their lives, as measured by metrics, such as improvements in social ties.
  • Lean Data is a promising pathway for assistive tech impact measurement and driving insights. Users spent 15 to 30 minutes sharing how AT impacted their lives, challenges, and suggestions for AT companies, indicating they care deeply about their AT.  Survey response rates were also high. This was helped by our inclusive approach to data collection, which suggests unbiased, representative data can be collected even when data collection is not in-person. Our Inclusive Lean Data approach can be a speedy and repeatable way to collect qualitative and quantitative AT impact data. Additionally, companies can make business decisions and communicate their impact using data and insights powered by AT user voices.