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Building a Global Strategy To Improve Access to Assistive Tech

Themes: AT 2030, Participation and partnerships, Assistive Technology

Not since the Paralympic Games in London 2012 have I felt such a massive upsurge of energy and enthusiasm, expertise and enterprise all focused on one clear goal: access to AT for those who need it.

One billion people! That’s the number of people that the World Health Organisation estimate currently need access to some kind Assistive Technology (AT) - like wheelchairs, hearing aids, eyeglasses, prosthetics or personal digital assistants. It’s an issue which affects everyone’s family at some point, and one in seven of us right now.

But at the moment up to 90% people don’t have access to the AT they need to get a job, go to school, have a family, or live fulfilled lives as family and community members. Most of the time this access gap is concentrated in Global South countries where prices and barriers to innovation for AT are high and access and incomes are low. Drastic action is needed and the time to take it is now.

Timely then, that right now the awareness of this situation is transforming into concrete action. Important global and local institutions are gathering together to set a new mission: to reach half of those in need with the AT they need by 2030.

This bold mission has been set out in a new strategy published by AT scale – the new Global Partnership of AT. Please read and comment on the strategy here. GDI Hub is proud to be a founding member of AT scale, along with the International Disability Alliance, the Clinton Health Access Initiative; multi-lateral agencies UNICEF and WHO; representatives from China and Kenya; and Bilateral Donors from the UK, US and Norway.

So how are we going to change things? Honestly, it is a huge challenge and we aren’t one hundred percent sure yet. And that’s ok as we require innovative approaches to change the current situation Hub is running an initial programme, funded by DFID, to test ‘what works’ called AT 2030. It is operating in countries across Africa and Asia and trialling new ways of doing things within AT markets, in national health systems and within communities. The programme is based on research we conducted last year.

But what we do know is that the work done to massively reduce the cost and increase access to drugs like Anti Retro Virals (used to treat HIV) across the Global South by our partners CHAI is a good model to trial. And so, they are under the AT2030 banner, but we are also looking at the ways in which new technologies - like this fantastic work by AMPARO - can help by promoting innovation in this space. We are lucky to have GATE on our team too bringing their years of expertise and knowledge.

The plan is that AT 2030 will help to inform the programmes which AT scale is able to then take to ‘scale’ (as the name implies!) based on what works. It is very important we have the right priorities. Take a look and let us know what you think?

Article by Vicki Austin

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