The history of GAATO
The seeds for GAATO were laid in 2000, when 4 organisations (AAATE, ARATA, RESNA, RESJA) decided to join forces to move forward the agenda on assistive technology (AT) with the signing of the Tokushima Agreement on 26th August in Japan. The signatories were Presidents Christian Bühler (AAATE), Barry Seeger (ARATA), Osamu Sueda (RESJA) and Mary Binion (RESNA) and the original document is now held by Renzo Andrich who received it during his tenure as AAATE President.
In 2016, two more organisations, namely RESKO and TREATS, joined. In 2019 the EASTIN network, ATIA, AATA and BATA also joined the Alliance.
Each of these organisations is motivated by the wish 'to advance the field of assistive technology (AT) and rehabilitation engineering (RE) to benefit people with disabilities and functional limitations of all ages' – as per GAATO’s mission statement. The need to coordinate on a global level for a coherent approach led to the first official general assembly and the wish to become more structured as an Alliance.
The GAATO Timeline 2000-2020
The first General Assembly of GAATO (formerly IAATO, the International Alliance of Assistive Technology Organizations) met during the AAATE Conference in Bologna, Italy in August 2019, following a formal Call for Collaboration. More information is available here.
GAATO timeline diagram
(Acronyms: IAATO - International Alliance of AT Organizations; GAATO - Global Alliance of Assistive Technology Organizations)
Why is there a need for GAATO?
AT is increasingly an issue of global concern and despite existing solutions there are still many people that could benefit but lack access to AT. Additionally, AT is an area where we can learn from our mutual experience and work together on standards, training, good practice and policies. Furthermore, there does not exist yet a unified global platform to represent the AT sector and coordinate with governments and international bodies such as the WHO and UN.
Areas where GAATO intends to make a difference include policy, research, innovation and development.
In 2019, Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf, who was then Co-Chair commented that “the strength of this Alliance lies in the huge amount of competence in its ranks and also that it is neither part of government nor industry. Instead, it is a third party that can be the connecting piece between policy and high-level initiatives like WHO’s GATE and ATscale, with the people on the ground who work with people with disabilities and older users and everyone who potentially needs assistive technology”.