Almost one billion people across the world are not receiving the support they need to help them manage with their disability, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF.
They found that over 2.5 billion adults and children globally need at least one assistive productive, from wheelchairs to hearing aids. However, as many as one billion are not able to access these, particularly in low- and middle-income nations.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted the importance of assistance technology, saying: “It opens the door to education for children with impairments, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and an independent life of dignity for older persons.”
However, findings highlighted in the Global Report on Assistance Technology revealed the huge number of people who are not able to benefit from it, something which Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus says is an “infringement of human rights”.
He also states that it is “economically short-sighted” to not offer as much help and support as possible to disabled people, as this would enable them to live independently, including working.
UNICEF’s executive director Catherine Russell comments: “Denying children the right to the products they need to thrive doesn’t only harm individual children, it deprives families and their communities of everything they could contribute if their needs were met.”
According to the report, there is a significant disparity between access in poorer nations compared with wealthier countries, varying from three per cent in the former to 90 per cent in the latter.
It also revealed that two-thirds of those with assistive products have had to partially pay for them themselves, while others have relied on financial support from friends or family.
The scale of the problem is likely to get worse, with the report predicting the number of people in need of assistive products will soar to 3.5 billion by 2050. While 240 million across the globe currently live with disabilities, this is set to rise substantially due to the increase in the number of cases of non-communicable diseases.
Therefore, governments need to act now, helping children gain access to education, participate in sports and civic life, and get ready for employment.
Ms Russell notes: “Without access to assistive technology, children with disabilities will continue to miss out on their education, continue to be at a greater risk of child labour and continue to be subjected to stigma and discrimination, undermining their confidence and wellbeing.”
Recommendations highlighted in the report include improving access within education, health and social care systems; ensuring the availability and affordability of assistive products; enlarging and diversifying workforce capacity; increasing public awareness to combat stigma; and investing in data.
It also emphasises the importance of investing in research and innovation; including assistive technology in humanitarian responses; and providing technical and economic assistance through international co-operation.
In the UK, there is a range of benefits or financial support programmes available for those who are disabled or have health conditions, depending on the type, and severity, of the ailment.
These are intended to enable people to live independently, whether by being able to fit a wet room into their house or receive help getting a job.