Global Report on Assistive Technology

Global Report on Assistive Technology

News: Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) jointly launched the first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT).

What is assistive technology?
• AT is any item, piece of equipment, software program or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. For example, it includes technologies and devices such as prosthetics, braces, walkers, special switches, screen-readers and specialized curricular software.
• Priority Assistive Products List launched by WHO in 2018 include hearing aids, wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, artificial limbs, pill organisers, memory aids and other essential items for the elderly and person with disabilities.

Highlights of the Report:
• More than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, or apps that support communication and cognition.
• A billion of them are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where access can be as low as 3% of the need for these life-changing products.
• The number of people in need of one or more assistive products is likely to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050, due to populations aging and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases rising across the world.
• Affordability is the major barrier to access.
• A survey of 70 countries featured in the report found large gaps in service provision and trained workforce for assistive technology, especially in the domains of cognition, communication and self-care.

What does the problem look like in India?
• The 2011 census puts the national estimate of the number of people with disabilities at 2.21% of the total population.
• The countries disabled population increased by 22.4% between 2001 and 2011 census periods.
• Subsequent to the notification of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act in 2016, the 76th round (July- December 2018) of the National Sample Survey (NSS) reported that among persons with disabilities, 21.8% reported receiving aid/help from the government and another 1.8% from other organisations.

What are the government initiatives?
• Ongoing initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India along with the health insurance schemes such as Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) can cater to the AT demands of the most vulnerable 40% of the population to address their rehabilitation needs.
• Assistance to Disabled Persons Scheme
• Accessible India Campaign – Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs
• National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities
• Unique Disability Identification Project
• DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme

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