First Lady calls for universal access to assistive technology

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DAVOS (APP): First Lady Begum Samina Alvi on Wednesday called for ensuring universal access to assistive technology for persons with disabilities, the aging population and those suffering from non-communicable diseases.

The first lady, in her keynote address at an event themed “Unlock the every day: advancing the SDGs through the power of Assistive Technology” on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum 2024, urged global leaders to prioritize the integration of assistive technology in their national plans and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) strategies.

“Unlock the Everyday” is the first-ever global campaign on assistive technology (AT) that has been launched to raise awareness about everyone’s right to AT- such as wheelchairs, glasses, hearing aids, prostheses and digital devices – regardless of their geographic and socio-economic background.

The event, organized by Devex and ATscale at the SDG Tent in Davos, was attended by high-level leaders specializing in disability inclusion, technology and impact investment, and aimed to explore the transformative power of AT in revolutionizing the lives of millions of people who have special needs.

Begum Samina Alvi said that assistive technology was a critical tool for achieving SDGs as it could open up opportunities for education, employment, and inclusion in society for people with special needs. She called for greater collaboration among technology experts, policymakers, and advocates worldwide, besides urging the public and private sectors to invest in technologies that empower people. The first lady highlighted that globally 2.5 billion people needed at least one assistive product whereas access was only 3% in low-income countries.

“Affordability, availability, and accessibility remain key challenges, particularly for individuals in low-income and marginalized communities. We must strive to overcome these hurdles and ensure that assistive technology reaches those who need it the most, leaving no one behind”, she remarked. Begum Samina Alvi emphasised that Pakistan was committed to creating an inclusive society and advancing the agenda of enhancing access to assistive technology.

She said that Pakistan stood at the forefront of advocating for assistive technology, both within its region and on the global stage. She highlighted that Pakistan had made significant efforts at the global level to promote assistive technology including proposing and adopting regional and global resolutions, hosting key events, launching the WHO Assistive Product List, developing a regional strategic framework for AT, and the first lady inaugurating and concluding the Global Conference on Assistive Technology. Begum Samina Alvi stressed that sharing the best practices, knowledge, and resources would help create a collective impact on a global scale.

“Assistive technology also plays a key role in universal health coverage by ensuring that health services are accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.”, she added. She also called for prioritizing research and development to ensure the continuous innovation and improvement of assistive technology.

ATscale is a global partnership working to transform access to life-changing assistive technology across lower- and middle-income countries. Its vision is to ensure every person can access and afford the assistive technology they need, enabling a lifetime of potential

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