Improving access to assistive technology in the Pacific

Access to affordable and appropriate assistive technology (AT) is an important but often neglected issue. AT can improve or restore health and is a precursor to many rights for persons with disabilities.

Assistive Technology includes the products or equipment that help people carry out tasks they might not otherwise be able to do. AT can support cognition, communication, hearing, mobility, self-care and vision.

Efforts towards equal access for persons with disabilities and support for growing rates long-term health conditions must consider improving access to AT. This is especially important in the South Pacific where there are very high rates of NCDs and long-term health conditions, and where the disability community has achieved enormous success towards ‘inclusion for all’, but where many shortfalls remain, including access to AT. The goal of AT Procurement Study was to understand the challenges people in Pacific Island Countries currently face when trying to access AT.

Inside a clinic room, a woman uses parallel bars to support herself while she practises walking with her new lower limb prosthesis. A man in a service uniform is walking alongside her, matching her steps and watching closely to make sure she is safe. Image courtesy of Motivation AustraliaNossal institute for Global Health worked with partners Motivation Australia and Pacific Disability Forum to interview 122 people in 13 countries including Fiji, Palau Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

The study found Pacific peoples faced many barriers, including availability, affordability and quality of AT.

Image Courtesy Motivation Australia

The study recommends that regional stakeholders and international partners work together to:

  1. Establish a Pacific AT resource facility to provide impartial information, guidance on AT products, services, training and policy for the region.
  2. Establish an AT supply hub to supply a range of priority AT products, of an appropriate standard, for the lowest cost, shortening delivery times and making smaller and mixed orders available.
  3. Strengthen national AT services and workforce Including within health systems, so that access to AT products and services improves for AT users in Pacific countries.

The AT procurement study is intended as a blueprint to guide all stakeholders toward clear and specific actions that can significantly improve access to AT services and products. Failure to prioritise AT now will create more problems and higher health care costs in future years.

Read the Assistive Technology (AT) Procurement Study

Key regional and global stakeholders are being invited to a technical meeting to discuss a roadmap for the establishment of the Pacific AT resource facility. Please contact Wesley Pryor if you would like to participate.

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Wesley Pryor