Assistive technologies (and/or products) enable and promote inclusion and participation, especially of persons with disabilities, ageing populations, and people with non-communicable diseases. The primary purpose of assistive technologies is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being. They enable people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life.
One billion people need assistive products today and more than two billion people around the world are expected to need at least one assistive product by 2030. While anyone may need an assistive product at some time in their life, they are most often required by adults and children with disabilities, older people and people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and dementia.
Examples of assistive products include hearing aids, wheelchairs, spectacles, prostheses and devices that support memory, among many others. While supporting independence and well-being, these products can also help to prevent or reduce the effects of secondary health conditions, such as lower limb amputation in people with diabetes. They can also reduce the need and impact on carers and mitigate the need for formal health and support services. Moreover, access to appropriate assistive technologies can have a tremendous impact on community development and economic growth.
Despite the global need and recognised benefits of assistive products, access remains limited. Addressing this need is essential to progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and realising the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Definition adapted from World Health Organisation (WHO).