Lord Holmes, Chair of the GDI Hub Advisory Board tells delegates at the 2017 AAATE Congress in Sheffield.

Assistive Tech Today

Despite the wide availability of AT, there is an imbalance in how people use and have access to it. In higher income countries we abandon around a third of the AT available whilst WHO estimate that only 15% of people globally have access to the most basic of Assistive Technology such as a white cane, wheelchair or eye glasses.

We must ensure that no one is left behind and take advantage of the opportunities AT brings to over 1 billion disabled people globally.

A New Approach

Technology which enables disabled people has been traditionally classed as a medical device with clinicians deciding what best meets a patient’s needs. High costs of bespoke technology has meant markets remain small.  While profits for some companies are high there is little incentive to diversify production which can bar entry to new companies and inhibit innovation.

We need to consider a new approach.

·        Barriers to design and development of AT have reduced as the Maker Movement has grown 10-fold in 5 years benefitting the AT market. For example, the e-Nable Hand is a 3D printed prosthetic widely available with multiple open-source designs to download.

·        The iPhone and smart phones more generally have helped to mainstream what used to be considered extra technology.

·        Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provide a focus for a step-change in how lower and middle income countries can provide ATs.  There is a will to give people ATs but there is a failure in the market. In many cases designs which work well in developed countries don’t function in other settings and are unaffordable.

A New Opportunity

There is an opportunity for new thinking in how we design, develop and deliver ATs to people in resource-poor settings and higher income countries could learn from this processAT design and development does more than benefit disabled people – it develops new ways of interaction with technology.

As the 4th Industrial Revolution begins, we must embrace the changes to the market place and build a community of users.

We have an opportunity to support the growth of a global movement which disrupts the traditional roles of user and inventor. This is why we set up the GDI Hub where people can think about disability innovation differently.

The Enable Makeathon 2 embodies that movement.  A collaboration with the ICRC to bring designers, makers, experts and corporates together to design new AT which helps people reach their potential.

Join us in thinking differently about AT and disability.