Assistive Technology (AT), for What?

Global Disability Innovation Hub, World Health Organization, University College London Interaction Centre (UCLIC)
Nov. 22, 2022
Academic Research Publications

This article features in the Special Issue Assistive Technology and the Wellbeing of Societies from a Capabilities Approach.

AT should be understood as a mechanism to achieve the things that AT users’ value. Our research found no commonly agreed operational global framework for (disability) justice within which leading AT stakeholders were operating. There are still vital gaps in coordination; as technology advances, and AT proliferates, no longer can the device-plus-service approach suffice.

Those of us interested in human flourishing might explore locating AT access within an operational global framework for disability justice, which recognizes AT as a mechanism to achieve broader aims, linked to people’s capabilities to choose what they can do and be.

Following the publication of the World’s first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) this paper explores how we are at the end of the beginning of the needed work. The situation remains vital and urgent. People lose their lives, livelihoods, and loved ones every day for lack of AT.

If AT is the mechanism, then some version of justice—however understood—is the goal to which it contributes. Hence, knowing what we mean by justice in this context feels like a vital next step to avoid perverse incentives and wasted effort. Now is the time to define “AT for what?” and ensure that every single actor knows how to contribute toward that goal.