Assistive Technology and Sustainable Development Goals

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Original Editors - Joseph Ayotunde Aderonmu

Top Contributors - Naomi O'Reilly, Joseph Ayotunde Aderonmu and Kim Jackson      

Introduction[edit | edit source]

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations is described as “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.[1] The SDGs also are aimed at "leaving no one behind" and ensuring that individuals who are furthest behind are promptly reached.[2] These goals highly indicate an emphasis on inclusion for all populations. However, a significant category of people who are also included in the UN’s SDGs are people living with disabilities as well as the elderly population and who are at the peak of demand for assistive technology (AT).[3] [4][5] Therefore, the role and relevance of AT to SDGs must be clearly understood to enhance the real-world achievements of the SDGs.

Assistive Technology and Sustainable Development Goals[edit | edit source]


Since the SDGs focus on the inclusion of the global population, it becomes crucial that AT is in place to prevent specific populations (especially the elderly and people with disabilities) from being isolated in poverty or poor states of health and quality of life.[3] Furthermore, there is a greater risk for functional decline and devastating consequences of diseases and disabilities on individuals, their families and societies when AT is not in place for people who require it.[3]

There have been numerous demonstrations of AT's benefits for people with disabilities, which has been studied across different ages and people with different functional abilities.[6] It has been shown that mobility, self-care, functional independence, recreational skills, activities of daily living, communication as well as literacy can be improved by AT.[6] It has also been identified that AT can tremendously lower the level of inequalities that are being experienced by individuals with various impairments, such as children and adult who have disabilities, and persons with chronic conditions that result in functional limitations. This happens through the enablement of these populations in productivity and participation through all stages of life.[3][7] In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified AT as pivotal for achieving the SDGs and promoting Universal Health Coverage.[7]Some examples of these AT include wheelchairs, artificial limbs, spectacles, hearing aids, pill organizers, and accessible information communication technology (ICT).[8]

Due to the importance of AT, the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) mandated access to high quality and affordable AT for ten years. Although, only 10% of people who are really in need of AT have access to them.[7] This strongly suggests that if the need for AT is not addressed, there will be a rising demand for AT while the access to AT remains static, which will not bring about the achievement of the inclusion for all people which the SDGs have. Thus, to support nations of the world to achieve the mandate of the CRPD, the WHO in 2014 established the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE), which is in partnership with organizations and for persons with disabilities to increase access to AT for everyone in need of it.[8]

Relevance of Assistive Technology to the Achievement of SDGs[edit | edit source]

The table below summarizes the relevance of AT to the achievement of SDGs using a conceptualization described by Tebbutt and colleagues.[3]

SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere Poverty can be a cause or consequence of impairment and disability. AT can enable people with impairments to overcome poverty.
SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture AT can allow people with impairments the opportunity to participate in the production of food.
SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages AT can act as compensation for impairments, decrease the health and social consequences of progressive functional decline and can serve as means for primary and secondary prevention of some health conditions.
SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all AT can act as a factor that facilitates access to education for students with impairments and support educational achievement.
SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls AT can allow women and girls with impairments to have gender equality, including equal rights, universal access to sexual and reproductive health. Also, AT can reduce the need for caregivers roles that fall primarily to women and girls and consequently limit other opportunities for their full participation in society.
SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all


AT can enable easy access to clean water and sanitation services for people with impairments.
SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all With AT, people with impairments can access affordable and clean energy while being productive users contributing economically by paying for it.
SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all AT can allow individuals with impairment become a member of the workforce, earn and participate in economic growth.
SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation AT have to be factored in the design and development of infrastructures to facilitate inclusion for all.
SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries Through AT, inequality can be significantly reduced by enabling persons with a disability to participate in all areas of life.
SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable With AT, there will be more accessible access to human settlements and transport systems for all people, especially those with disabilities.
SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns AT can provide access to information for sustainable development and lifestyles.
SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts By providing access to AT, there can be a stronger resilience and adaptive capacity for people with impairments, especially in natural disasters, which is a predictable consequence of global climate change.
SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development AT can allow people with impairments access to the use of marine resources and to benefit from the tourism and self-development potential of such environments
SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss With AT, people with impairments can protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of the environment.
SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels AT can help build an inclusive society by allowing people with impairment access to maximum interaction and participation in their community.
SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development Through access to AT, people with disabilities can contribute their quota to sustainable development at all level.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

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Without sufficient access to AT, the SDGs are at the risk of being discriminatory and being underachieved, especially in terms of goals related to equity and universal coverage. Thus, every institution needs to prioritize access to AT towards the realization of the SDGs.

References [edit | edit source]

  1. United Nations Development Programme, "Sustainable Development Goals," 20 August 2016. [Online]. Available: Accessed 20 May 2021.
  2. United Nations, "Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” 2016. [Online]. Available: transformingourworld Accessed 20 May 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 World Health Organization. World report on DIsability. Geneva: WHO; 2011.
  4. Tebbutt E, Brodmann R, Borg J, MacLachlan M, Khasnabis C, Horvath R. Assistive products and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Globalization and health. 2016 Dec;12(1):1-6.
  5. United Nations. World population ageing: 1950-2050. New York: United Nations; 2015
  6. 6.0 6.1 Borg J, Lindström A, Larsson S. Assistive technology in developing countries: national and international responsibilities to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Lancet. 2009 28 November;374(9704):1863-5.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 World Health Organization. Improving access to assistive technology: report by the secretariat. Geneva: WHO; 2016
  8. 8.0 8.1 Khasnabis C, Mirza Z, MacLachlan M. Opening the GATE to inclusion for people with disabilities. The Lancet. 2015 5 December.