In a world where only 10% of people in need have access to assistive products that would transform their lives due to high costs, lack of financing, availability, awareness or trained personnel, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) provide a clear way to identify why AT is important and how vital AT is to helping to achieve many broader SDG goals. Considering ways in which AT could be instrumental in transforming lives is easy. Here are some examples.
If you live 3 days walk from the nearest clinic, which is the only place you can find help for treating the small ulcer on your foot and cannot afford the cost of travel for treatment, your minor problem eventually becomes very serious and you eventually have your lower limb amputated, so you cannot reach the fields to grow crops to feed your family.
If your child needs spectacles to read but you cannot afford the assessment services or the cost of the lenses then your child cannot learn well at school, they do not pass their exams and are prevented from accessing higher-paid employment than manual labour.
Or if you are an elderly widower with dementia who lives alone in a third floor flat and cannot afford the care to support you to remember how to wash or feed yourself, you a live a lonely, perilous existence.
These examples could all be resolved through equitable access to high-quality assistive products and services. Each of those people could be living productive, fulfilling lives among their communities and contributing to their own quality of life. Today, 200 million people with low vision do not have access to spectacles or other low-vision devices; 70 million people need a wheelchair but only 5–15% have access to one and with hearing aid production only meeting 10% of global need dropping as low as 3% in low-income countries, we need to recognise the huge impact that access to AT can have on achieving many of the SDG's and take action now.
AT is not just a healthcare issue, although many products and services relate to the body, we must change our understanding and see that AT is involved across countless sectors either directly, such as in education and social care or indirectly as with environmental concerns, where climate change effects those living in the most fragile environments as the lack of an accessible infrastructure renders the disabled most at risk.
The SDG's are clear and the goals are broad. Take a closer look at them and consider how many goals could be impacted by assistive technology in your own community.
Goal 10 - Reduce inequality
Goal 8 - Decent work and economic opportunities
Goal 4 - Quality education
Goal 3 - Good health and well-being
All of these can be improved in most communities around the world for people who benefit from AT regardless of whether in high or low-income countries.
Alternatively, in humanitarian or emergency programming, consider who needs AT? You are a second year university student, what happens when your home is destroyed in a cyclone, you normally wear glasses to read, wear orthotics in your shoes and your mother is in a wheelchair? How will you carry your mother to refuge as her wheelchair is destroyed, or you walk for miles on foot without your orthotics, or read documents that officials show you along your route to find safety? Those of us who are fortunate enough to already have AT in our daily lives would be disabled without them. So please give some thought to how you can help support the global campaign to improve access to greater AT.
For further information on the Sustainable Development Goals please click on this link: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
If you think that your organisation should like to learn more about AT, and would be interested to develop new innovative policies promoting the importance of AT in your programming, then please contact us at GAATO, we would welcome your thoughts and will do all we can to support your initiatives.