View of the Side Event on AT at COSP with rowed seating showing a full house with speakers at the head of the room

Side event to the 11thsession of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD

New York, NY: On 13 June 2018, the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) joined CRPD signatory States and stakeholders in co-sponsoring a side event in New York City for the 11thAnnual Conference of State Parties (COSP). The side event, hosted by the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ecuador and co-sponsored by UNICEF, WHO, IDA, and the GDI Hub, explored plans to radically disrupt the market for Assistive Technology (AT), so more people can access the AT they need to participate fully in society. 

At the side event, Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond, GDI Hub Chair and Chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology, spoke on the importance of addressing AT as a human rights issue, as well as an economic and political one: “the ultimate goal” he added, “is that nobody is denied access to potentially life changing AT products and services.” 

Lord Holmes was joined by a large group of government representatives, policy experts, and DPO leaders in expressing their support for greater access to AT: “a lack of access to basic AT, like eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs or, increasingly, mobile applications, disables individuals and reduces their ability to live full, enjoyable, and independent lives,” mentioned Lord Holmes.

Among the speakers calling for increased access to AT were Anna Wechsberg, Director of Policy at the UK Department for International Development, Rocío González, Ecuador’s First Lady and President of the Interinstitutional Committee Toda una Vida, Volmir Raimondi, President of the Blind Union, Dr. Nata Menabde, Executive Director of the WHO Office at the UN, Ann Cody, Special Advisor and International Disability Rights Team Leader at the USDOS, Kristoffer Gandrup-Marino, Chief of Innovation at UNICEF, and Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. 

WHO estimates that over one billion, largely disabled and older people are currently in need of AT. By 2050, this number is predicted to rise to two billion. It is estimated that, currently, 90% of the people who need access to AT do not have it.  Considering a largely fragmented, non-integrated, and underinvested AT sector, GDI Hub is keen to work with partners to help address this access gap.