Could Assistive Technology Provision Models Help Pave the Way for More Environmentally Sustainable Models of Product Design, Manufacture and Service in a Post-COVID World?

Catherine Holloway, Giulia Barbareschi, Dr Ben Oldfrey, Priya Morjaria, Tamara Giltsoff, Mark Miodownik, Jessica Massie
Sept. 26, 2021
Academic Research Publications
From multiple studies conducted through the FCDO AT2030 Programme, as well as key literature, we examine whether Assistive Technology (AT) provision models could look towards more sustainable approaches, and by doing this benefit not only the environment, but also address the problems that the current provision systems have. We show the intrinsic links between disability inclusion and the climate crisis, and the particular vulnerability people with disabilities face in its wake. In particular, we discuss how localised circular models of production could be beneficial, facilitating context driven solutions and much needed service elements such as repair and maintenance. Key discussion areas include systems approaches, digital fabrication, repair and reuse, and material recovery. Finally, we look at what needs be done in order to enable these approaches to be implemented. In conclusion, we find that there are distinct parallels between what AT provision models require to improve equitable reliable access, and strategies that could reduce environmental impact and bring economic benefit to local communities. This could allow future AT ecosystems to be key demonstrators of circular models, however further exploration of these ideas is required to make sense of the correct next steps. What is key in all respects, moving forward, is aligning AT provision with sustainability interventions.
Read the article in full: Sustainability