According to WHO, today, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive technology due to high costs and a lack of awareness, availability, trained personnel, policy, and financing.
Assistive technology reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disease and disability on a person, their family, and society.
In countries like India, experts suggest that assistive technologies are not widely available and affordable.
Who can benefit from assistive technology?
- People who most need assistive technology include:
- People with disabilities
- Older people
- People with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and stroke
- People with mental health conditions including dementia and autism
- People with gradual functional decline.
Health, well-being and socioeconomic benefits
Assistive technology can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of a person and their family, as well as broader socioeconomic benefits. For example:
Proper use of hearing aids by young children leads to improved language skills, without which a person with hearing loss has severely limited opportunities for education and employment
Manual wheelchairs increase access to education and employment while reducing healthcare costs due to a reduction in the risk of pressure sores and contractures.
Assistive technology can enable older people to continue to live at home and delay or prevent the need for long-term care
Therapeutic footwear for diabetes reduces the incidence of foot ulcers, preventing lower limb amputations and the associated burden on health systems
Dr Avinash Wachasunder, ENT surgeon from Pune, said, “If a child does not get hearing aid then his development is hampered. But in India, assistive products like hearing aid are not easily available. Many children suffer because they do not get a hearing aid.”
The non-availability of assistive technology has several reasons behind it. The funding for such technology is also low. Although these devices make it easier for people to give their lives, the unavailability of them can be a roadblock for such people and prevent them from having fuller lives.
Dr Shailesh Hadgaonkar, the spine surgeon from Pune, said, “The assistive products industry is currently limited and specialized, primarily serving high-income markets. There is a lack of state funding, nationwide service delivery systems, user-centred research and development, procurement systems, quality and safety standards, and context-appropriate product design. Such products not only make life easier for people but also help them live life like a normal healthy person.”