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Group ensures equitable access to assistive tech for PWDs

By Henry Uche

In a bid to foster inclusiveness in the scheme of things, the Telecommunication & Technology Sustainability Working Group (TTSWG) is making a case on behalf of people with disabilities (PWD) in Nigeria for the provision of Assistive Technology (AT).

According to the Assistive Technology Industry Association, Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

“AT includes hearing aids, wheelchairs, prosthetic devices, Braille, canes, spectacles, text-to-speech software, among others. 

According to the group, the number of people who need Assistive Technology in the world today is currently estimated at about one billion. “That figure is projected to double by the year 2030 and refers to people with disabilities, impairments, or restricted mobility who need the help of items, products, or software for proper functioning, independence, and general well-being.” 

They said although many people are estimated to need access to these adaptative devices, however only 10 per cent of them have access to them.

“Several factors can be identified as the reasons why there is such a gap between how many people need and how many people have access to AT. For sustainability to be achieved in these processes, certain structural changes need to be implemented. The role of knowledge and technology as an enabler also needs to be emphasised. 

“One of the major hindrances to equitable access to these aiding devices is finance. Most people who need this do not have the wherewithal to acquire the appropriate Assistive Technology- AT. If made affordable, would deliver access to quality education as well as facilitate social participation and integration for users. Due to the huge cost of acquiring new technology aids, charity services often deliver low-quality pre-used products. 

“It doesn’t help that Assistive product delivery virtually does not exist at a national level in many low- and mid-income countries like Nigeria. This means that the members of the poorer demographic must wait for donations and charity services which can be inconsistent. In addition to this, lack of instructor training and subsequent abandonment of technology as well stand as a hindrance to making access to these aids equitable.”

TTSWG maintained that to make access to AT fair and square, the government, NGOs, as well as businesses need to see the value of providing the devices and equipment as they promote equitable living for all.

“The articles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) and other international standards relating to disability, also need to be reconstructed to make sense of the priorities, needs, and struggles of People With Disabilities (PWDs) in low- and middle-income countries. The sustainability of the existing international laws and protocols is vital for effective access to these life-changing devices.”

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