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Assistive technology – It allows people to lead healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives and participate in education, the job market, and social life. In addition, Assistive technology reduces the need for formal health and support services and chronic care, as well as the workload of caregivers. In the absence of this technology, certain people tend to exclude, isolated and plunged into poverty, which makes the consequences of an illness or disability more severe for the person, their family, and society.
Who can Benefit from Assistive Technology?
The people who need it most are:
- People with disabilities;
- the elderly;
- people with noncontagious diseases, such as diabetes or stroke;
- people with mental health illnesses, including dementia and autism;
- people affected by progressive functional deterioration.
Health, Wellness and Socioeconomic Benefits
Assistive technology can not only positively impact the health and well-being of an individual and their family, but it can also have broader socioeconomic benefits. For example:
The proper use of hearing aids by young children translates into improved language skills, without which a person with hearing loss has substantially diminished educational and employment opportunities;
1 the use of manual wheelchairs facilitates access to education and service by reducing well-being care costs by reducing the hazard of pressure ulcers and contractures;
2 Assistive technology allows older people to continue living at home and delays or prevents the need for chronic care.
3 Therapeutic footwear for diabetics reduces the incidence of foot ulcers, thus preventing lower extremity amputations and thus reducing the burden this places on health systems.
Global Unmet Need for Assistive Technology
Around the world, vast numbers of people need assistive technology but do not have access to it. The following examples are worth illustrating the world’s unmet needs in this area:
- Two hundred million visually impaired people absent access to devices to improve vision.
- Seventy-five million persons need a wheelchair, but only 5-15% have one.
- Four hundred sixty-six million people suffer from hearing loss, yet current hearing aid production meets less than 10% of global needs.
- There is a massive lack of workers in the field of assistive technology: more than 75% of low-income countries lack training programs for prosthetics and orthotics.
- The countries with the highest prevalence of health problems related to disability usually have a smaller contingent of health workers trained to suggest assistive technology (only two professionals per 10,000 inhabitants).
- In low-income countries, one of the main motives assistive products are not available to the people who need them is that they are not affordable.
Assistive Technology – Difficulties
Related to Politics
Very few countries have a national policy or program for assistive technology. As a result, the public sector offers little or no access to this technology in many countries.
Even in high-income countries, assistive products are often rationed or excluded from health or social protection systems, forcing users and families to pay large sums outright.
In several European countries, for example, it is the policy of the State to provide only one hearing aid to the elderly, even though most people with age-related hearing loss need two hearing aids to function.
Today, the assistive technology industry is narrow and specialized, serving primarily high-income markets. As a result, there is not only a lack of public funding but also of national service delivery systems, user-centered research and development, procurement systems, quality and safety standards, and context-specific product design.
In high-income countries, services often function in isolation or fragmented ways. For example, people must attend numerous consultations in different places, which is costly and increases the burden on users, careers, and health and social service budgets.
The people of the c poorest in society depend on donations (always random) or charitable services, which often favor the delivery of large quantities of used or poor-quality products. These products, generally not adapted to the user or the context, are not accompanied by repair or follow-up mechanisms. This type of situation also occurs in emergency response programs.
Health personnel must train to prescribe support products, adapt them, instruct the user in their use and follow up. When these primary conditions are not encountered, it is common for assistive products to stop working or for the user to abandon them. It can even cause physical damage (such as when wheelchairs are delivered with pressure-relieving cushions for people with a spinal cord injury).
How to Find the Exact Assistive Technology Tool?
Finding the right one can be overwhelming with various assistive technology tools available. A good approach is to choose assistive technology targeted at a specific difficulty. For example, if a child struggles with writing, she might try dictation technology. As the child speaks, the words appear on the screen.
People with access to a mobile device, such as a smartphone or digital tablet, can add assistive technology tool applications. For example, through the technology search engine, you will find apps for children of different ages, which experts have approved.
Assistive technology is any device or software program that helps people overcome challenges to learn, communicate, and function better. A wheelchair is an example. So is software that reads text aloud on a computer. Or a keyboard for someone who has difficulty with handwriting.
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