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A Global Public Health Perspective: Facilitating Access to Assistive Technology

du Toit, Rènée, PhD, MPH1*; Keeffe, Jill, PhD2; Jackson, Jonathan, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO3; Bell, Diane, PhD, MBA4; Minto, Hasan, DipOpt, FAAO5; Hoare, Philip, CIPS (Foundation)6

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001272
Perspectives

SIGNIFICANCE Clinicians should not overlook vulnerable populations with limited access to assistive technology (AT), the importance of collaboration in multidisciplinary teams, advocacy for enabling environments, and supportive health systems. Resources, a model of care, and recommendations can assist clinicians in contributing to changing attitudes, expanding knowledge, and improving the lives of many.

The increasing availability of innovative advances in AT can immeasurably enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities. Clinicians will undoubtedly welcome the prospect of having cutting-edge AT available to prescribe to individuals who consult them. Arguably, though, the development of innovative strategies to improve access to AT, especially to underserved people “left behind,” is equally urgent. Current efforts are inadequate, with millions of people with disabilities not being reached. Particularly at risk are women, children, and the elderly, as well as poorer people who live in resource-poor and remote areas, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Not only must physical access be facilitated, but also quality services must be available. Good-quality, affordable AT, which is appropriate and acceptable to the user, would ideally be provided by competent personnel, working in multidisciplinary teams, offering comprehensive, person-centered services, including rehabilitation, fully integrated into the various levels of the health system. Clinicians can contribute to improving access to quality services, participate in initiatives aiming to increase the knowledge of health personnel and the public, engage in advocacy to change attitudes, influence legislation, and raise awareness of universal health coverage—ultimately facilitating access to AT for all.

1Independent Public Health Consultant, Pretoria, South Africa

2L. V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India

3Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Cathedral Eye Clinic, Belfast, United Kingdom

4University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa

5Brien Holden Vision Institute, Karachi, Pakistan

6International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, London, United Kingdom *dutoitrenee@gmail.com

Submitted: January 31, 2018

Accepted: June 19, 2018

Funding/Support: None of the authors have reported funding/support.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: None of the authors have reported a conflict of interest.

Author Contributions: Conceptualization: RdT; Methodology: RdT; Writing – Review & Editing: RdT, JK, JJ, DB, HM, PH.

© 2018 American Academy of Optometry