New innovations helping people with disabilities

Right now, there are one billion people in the world who need assistive technology, and by 2030, that number will grow to two billion. 

Those living in poverty are especially likely to lack access to assistive technology which includes wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthetics and anything else that helps people with disabilities and in their daily lives. 

Assistive technology is vital to improving the livelihoods of people around the world, but only one in 10 have proper access. 

GDI Hub and AT2030 Aid People with Disabilities in Developing Countries 

For London-based nonprofit Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), assistive technology is one of the major themes in its work. It runs research programs related to disability and helps to remove barriers faced by people with disabilities. 

With its AT2030 initiative, GDI Hub is contributing to improved access to assistive technology. AT2030 was launched in 2018 and is supplying people in Asia and Africa with life-changing support. It carries out research to see what types of services work best for people with disabilities in developing countries and then brings them together with expert engineers who can provide assistive technology. 

Success in Iraq 

Just one of many success stories is that of Zainab Jalal Ahmed, a 37-year-old translator who works for the Iraqi government. She was born blind in both eyes, but with just a few adjustments, is able to work at a high level of efficiency at her job. 

Using a scanner, Zainab is able to have texts that need to be translated read aloud to her. She then uses a braille notetaker to type out her translations. Assistive technology allows people like Zainab to provide for themselves and live their day-to-day lives without facing unnecessary difficulty. 

However, this is not typical for most people with disabilities. The large majority of those in poverty do not share the same access that Zainab has to life-changing technology. Nevertheless, GDI Hub is working each day to create more stories like Zainab’s. 

Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport 

One of GDI Hub’s latest programs falling under the AT2030 initiative is Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport. It aims to fight the stigma surrounding people with disabilities in developing countries while simultaneously promoting the development of paralympic athletes. 

Collaborating with the University of Malawi, the project will challenge negative ideas about disability in Africa through the I’mPOSSIBLE education program. I’mPOSSIBLE was launched by the International Paralympic Committee to educate children on a variety of relevant topics. It provides a toolkit with lesson plans so that teachers can change their students’ perception of those with disabilities. 

An early success can be seen in Japan, where the I’mPOSSIBLE program was implemented starting in 2017, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Since then, more than 23,000 schools have received teaching materials. Japanese children are beginning to have a better understanding of what life is like for people with disabilities, something many more children across Africa will come to understand soon through the University of Malawi’s combined efforts with GDI Hub. 

Under AT2030, millions will benefit from assistive technology. It is still in its beginning stages, but signs of hope in Iraq and Japan show good signs for what is to come for those in Africa and Asia who are in need of assistive technology. 

by Evan Driscoll

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