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Emma M. Smith, Malcolm MacLachlan, Ikenna D. Ebuenyi, Catherine Holloway & Victoria Austin
While the inadequacies of our existing assistive technology systems, policies, and services have been highlighted by the acute and rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, these failures are also present and important during non-crisis times. Each of these actions, taken together, will not only address needs for more robust and resilient systems for future crises, but also the day-to-day needs of all assistive technology users. We have a responsibility as a global community, and within our respective countries, to address these inadequacies now to ensure an inclusive future.
Disability & Society; 2020
This year (2022) has seen the publication of the World’s first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) . This completes almost a decade of work to ensure assistive technology (AT) access is a core development issue. The lack of access to assistive products (APs), such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, and eyeglasses, as well as less well-referenced products such as incontinence pads, mobile phone applications, or walking sticks, affects as many as 2.5 billion people globally. Furthermore, the provision of APs would reap a 1:9 return on investment . This could result in a family in need netting (or living without) over GBP 100,000 in their lifetime  or more, if we count dynamic overspills in the economy such as employment of assistive technology services and manufacturing of devices .
Victoria Austin, Catherine Holloway, Ignacia Ossul Vermehren, Abs Dumbuya, Giulia Barbareschi and Julian Walker
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are currently one billion people in the world who need access to assistive technology (AT). Yet over 90% currently do not have access to assistive products (AP)—such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking sticks and eyeglasses—they need, nor and the systems and services necessary to support their appropriate provision . This shocking deficit is set to double by 2050, with about two billion of us likely to require AT but no anticipated reduction in lack of access. The World Health Organisation defines AT as the “the umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products and services”, which are products that “maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being” , and the importance of AT provision is strongly highlighted in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) . AT has also been shown to be essential to achieving many of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) . Without access to AT, many persons with disabilities are unable to go to school, be active in their communities, earn an income, or play a full role in their families . As a recent study found, “AT can make the impossible possible for people living with a wide range of impairments, but a lack of access to basic AT …excludes individuals and reduces their ability to live full, enjoyable, and independent lives” .
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 2021
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.
Jessica Noske-Turner, Emma Pullen, Mufunanji Magalasi, Damian Haslett, Jo Tacchi
Communication & Sport
Disability inclusion necessitates proactive efforts to ensure everybody has an independent and equitable opportunity to meaningfully participate in the activities of their choosing [1,2,3]. Furthermore, disability justice is not a minority concern. There are more than a billion disabled people worldwide, and impairment is something which affects most people’s family right now and will impact all of us over our lifetime. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) enshrines human rights of all disabled people , and in 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) recognised disability inclusion for the first time with the call to ‘leave no-one behind’. Increasingly, governments, non-governmental agencies and businesses alike are seeking to develop and implement policy and practice which enables greater social inclusion for disabled people (In this paper, Disabled People is used in line with the Social Model of Disability in the UK, though please note the UN uses ‘Persons with Disabilities’ as is common in North America) . Eighty percent of the disabled people in the world live in low resource settings in the Global South  with a projected growth of this number due to an increase in population age, there is the ever-pressing need to critically evaluate how best to approach disability inclusion to build a societies where we all can flourish. Despite this, we lack case studies of how disability inclusion can be done well—in the literature and in practice. For this reason, we set out to undertake this research using one the most recognised cases of ‘disability inclusion done well’.