In Southern Africa, it is estimated that 85-95% of persons with disabilities who need assistive technology (AT) do not have access. Improving access to AT is a problem that will take concerted effort on many fronts; however, one key challenge at this stage is simply lack of information about the availability of AT within the target countries. Although information alone will not increase access to AT, its absence is a major barrier to reducing the unmet need.
- Lack of information on what AT is and is not available makes it impossible for advocates, suppliers and policy makers to develop the best strategies to address unmet needs.
- Lack of information for persons with disabilities means that they are not aware of what AT is available, do not know what AT they need or where to find it.
Without access to AT, persons with disabilities are less likely to realize other basic human rights such as access to education, health care, employment, information, communication, and activities of daily living. In this context, the project will therefore contribute towards the achievement of a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) – these are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.
For example, Goal Number of 4 of the SDGs focuses on guaranteeing equal and accessible education by building inclusive learning environments and providing the needed assistance for persons with disabilities, and the ATs plays a very significant role in this regard.
The project will also contribute to achieving Goal Number 8 which focuses on promoting inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market. Without AT, most persons with disabilities would find it hard to “fully” access the job market as ATs enhance their functionality within workplaces. Similarly, Goal Number 10 emphasizing the social, economic and political inclusion of persons with disabilities which can be even more feasible when persons with disabilities are accorded the opportunity to access ATs.
To address the inadequate supply of AT in Southern Africa, AT designers and producers must also be informed of what quantity the local market is demanding and requiring. Increases in quantity must be accompanied by increases in quality to ensure the new products are appropriate for persons with disabilities within their local environment.