Globally, over 2.5 billion people require assistive devices like a wheelchair, hearing aids, or apps supporting communication and cognition. However, over a billion people lack the most basic facilities, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) mentioned.
Further, it highlighted that in middle and low-income countries, the access to assistive devices could be as low as a mere 3 per cent. The Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) was built by international organizations. It highlighted the need to provide assistive products and a series of recommendations to expand the availability and access.
Disabled People Account For 2.21% Of India's Population
Rajib Dasgupta, one of the contributors to the report and the Chairperson of the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU, highlighted that disabled people in India account for 2.21 per cent of the total population.
At 26.8 million people, the disabled population includes persons with visual, hearing, speech, locomotor and mental disabilities, primarily found in 19-59 years, The Hindu reported. Since people are ageing and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases is increasing, the global population of the disabled is likely to touch the 3.5 billion mark by 2050.
Several Recommendations To Improve Access
The report notes that affordability is the primary barrier to accessing assistive devices. As many as two-thirds of the people with assistive devices reported out-of-the-pocket expenses for the same, while others relied on financial help from family and friends.
The report highlights improving access to health, education and social care systems. Moreover, it recommends ensuring the safety, availability, effectiveness and affordability of assistive devices to those in need. International organizations also call on the governments to invest heavily in the research and development of an enabling ecosystem.