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Global perspectives on assistive technology

The World Health Assembly recognizes the need for improving the access to assistive technology across the world and, through its resolution 71.8, has commissioned the World Health Organization to prepare a global report on effective access to assistive technology by 2021. The development of the Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) is led by av Steering Committee with representatives from the WHO Secretariat, the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) and UNICEF, and an Ad-hoc Advisory Group of Experts on Assistive Technology. The work is carried out in collaboration with international experts and stakeholders in assistive technology. As a first step to inform the development of the Global Report, WHO Headquarters in Geneva hosted the GReAT Consultation on 22-23 August, 2019. Over 260 participants from 60 countries representing academia, civil society, users of assistive technology, global assistive technology stakeholders, States and UN agencies participated in this global consultation. There was an overwhelming response to the call for contributions addressing the objectives of the Global Report, which are to highlight the current need, demand and supply of assistive technology, as well as to outline good practices for innovation and recommendations to improve access. More than 130 abstracts were submitted, and following a review process considering the relevance, quality and geographic representation, over 80 manuscripts or illustrative contributions were subsequently invited to be developed into full manuscripts for presentation at the GReAT Consultation. Contributions were sought to illuminate the range and breadth of assistive technology and to recognise the diversity of stakeholders within the complex system of assistive technology. An encompassing view of evidence ensured that evidence-based practice, practice-based evidence, and situated knowledges were recognised and considered. Submitted manuscripts were reviewed from academic, technical and accessibility perspectives. These Proceedings represent the first foundation for the Global Report. Its 76 sections comprise 72 manuscripts and four abstracts, and are presented across eight themes:
1. Needs and supply
2. Access
3. Outcomes
4. Policies and programmes
5. Procurement and service provision
6. Capacity building
7. Innovations
8. Enabling the sector
Many sections are authored by international groups of authors, and a substantial proportion were received from author teams who had not previously published. All authors are to bev congratulated on sharing their knowledge and perspectives. The sections present a ‘state of the science’ for the assistive technology sector in 2019 at a time of great need and great opportunity.

Work will now continue to identify and fill knowledge gaps, collect data and listen to unheard voices to further inform the development of the Global Report. Our sincere wish is that the spirit of the GReAT Consultation – great things happen when great people meet – will inspire us to continuous concerted efforts to improve the access to assistive technology worldwide.

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