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As India amplifies development efforts to emerge as a five trillion dollar economy by 2025,the country  can ill afford to ignore the continued impact on public health, society and the economy caused due to lack of access to affordable and  appropriate assistive technology products and services.   

Societies the world over are deprived of an estimated US$1.37 to 1.94 trillion in annual loss in GDP due to the lack of access to gainful employment for persons with disability. (ILO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around one hundred million people in India and one billion people globally lack access to affordable and appropriate assistive technology products and services     and this figure is predicted to double to two billion by 2030.

Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Pledge ‘To leave no one behind’ requires urgent, coordinated and concerted action.

Despite its potential to improve quality of life indicators, promote independence, and enhance individual productivity and participation, assistive technology in India has received very little attention. Unmet need for assistive technology products and services in India is estimated to be as high as 90%.(ibid).

India signed and ratified UN CRPD in 2006. It replaced the old legislation on disability titled People with Disabilities ACT of 2005 with a new rights-based legislation titled ‘Rights of persons with disabilities ACT 2016’.  This ACT covers 21 disability categories as compared to 7 categories covered by the earlier legislation.

 Progress achieved in adopting a rights-based framework, warrants urgent and effective implementation of individual rights to equal treatment and full participation.  This includes ensuring access to high quality, appropriate and affordable assistive technology products and services for persons with disability.

The governments rallying call on Atma Nirbhar Bharat, Start-Up India, Make-In-India provide an exciting opportunity to mainstream universal design and assistive technology considerations across India’s Industrial Strategy and emerge as a global leader and manufacturing hub for the design and development of life-changing products and services.

This requires development of an ecosystem for innovation and manufacture of indigenous assistive technology products that are responsive, intuitive, desirable and commercially viable capable of addressing new and unmet needs.

Developing such an ecosystem at scale and focus will require leadership and engagement from respective State and National Government,   bilateral and multilateral organizations, NGOs, DPOs  and INGOs academic, research and manufacturing  institutions, funding organizations including corporate business and industry.

The emphasis of policy and practice development will need to be on harnessing the country’s  capabilities across information and communication technology (ICT) and engineering disciplines to produce innovative and more cost effective local solutions to address the diverse needs of its population to aid quality of life improvements based on principles of individual rights, equality,  inclusion and sustainability.

In an effort to promote access to assistive technology products and services Disability Entrepreneurship And Leadership Foundation has commenced work to:

  1. Undertake needs mapping and availability of appropriate assistive technology products and services for work and daily living.
  2. Identify gaps in current provision.
  3. Establish a local network of respective stakeholders interested in promoting access to assistive technology products and services.
  4. Foster research collaborations to ensure manufacturing, production and distribution of cost-effective, affordable and appropriate assistive technology products and services.

A key part of this work is to ensure effective incorporation of universal design and accessibility principles based on diverse user perspectives and experience in the development and delivery of assistive technology products and services for persons with disability.

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