Critical Junctures in Assistive Technology and Disability Inclusion
It is clear from the events of the last 18 months that while technology has a huge potential for transforming the way we live and work, the entire ecosystem—from manufacturing to the supply chain—is vulnerable to the vagaries of that ecosystem, as well as having the potential to exacerbate new and existing inequalities . Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the lives of people with disabilities, who make up around 15% of the world’s population and already face barriers to accessing education, employment, healthcare and other services . Some of these barriers are a result of unequal access and opportunities. However, there is a growing movement to better understand how assistive technology systems and services can be designed to enable more robust and equitable access for all. As part of this growing movement, the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this autumn saw the launch of a new global campaign to transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 bn persons with disabilities: the ‘WeThe15’ campaign reached more than 4.5 billion people through its marketing and stands ready to be the biggest of its kind in history. Next year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), AT scale and GDI Hub will publish the first World Report on Access to Assistive Technology, which will include research from the £20 million, UK Aid funded, GDI Hub-led, programme, AT2030. Ahead of that, in this Special Issue, we focus on how some events and situations—as diverse as the coronavirus pandemic and the Paralympics—can act as ‘critical junctures’ that can enable a rethink of the status quo to facilitate and promote change.