PROF. LUC DE WITTE
Persons living with disabilities and older people face many challenges in leading self-determined lives and participating in society on an equal basis. Assistive Technology has a huge potential to change that. And for many years, organisations like RESNA, AAATE, ISPO and other professional organisations have tried to work on the advancement of Assistive Technology, thus trying to contribute to a world in which persons with disabilities have equal opportunities. These efforts have resulted in a large number of fantastic assistive products for a wide range of functional domains, but much more remains to be done. One of the most important challenges is to make sure that everyone who might benefit from Assistive Technology has access to it.
The recent Global Report on Assistive Technology, published by UNICEF and WHO, demonstrates in an undeniable way that the reality in the world is very far from that goal: about 30% of the world population might benefit from Assistive Technology, including spectacles, and only a relatively small proportion of these people have access to it. Changing this requires truly global efforts.
The WHO with its GATE programme has strongly stimulated and triggered such global efforts. GAATO as a global umbrella organisation of established regional, national and international professional organisations in this field, aims to contribute to these global efforts by bringing together the wealth of expertise of more than 15,000 professionals and academics in the field of Assistive Technology, to channel and use that expertise towards breaking down barriers and building bridges to help realise the dream of an inclusive world where persons with disabilities have equal opportunities.
GAATO wants to work with any other organisations that share the same mission, on the basis of respect, openness, dialogue, mutual learning and trust. This biannual report describes what GAATO has achieved in the first two years of its existence. The report demonstrates a combination of moderation with ambition; our contribution to the major challenge is of course limited, but the organisation has proven its relevance and its ability to undertake global initiatives with visible impact. For the board of GAATO this is a strong motivation to continue its work.