Opinion Paper - Special Collection: Disability Unplugged

Promoting regional coherence and cohesion amidst multiple assistive technology initiatives in Africa

Surona J. Visagie, Malcolm MacLachlan, Elsje Scheffler, Nikola Seymour
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a937 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.937 | © 2022 Surona J. Visagie, Malcolm MacLachlan, Elsje Scheffler, Nikola Seymour | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 September 2021 | Published: 10 February 2022

About the author(s)

Surona J. Visagie, Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Malcolm MacLachlan, Department of Psychology and Assisting Living and Learning (ALL) Institute, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland; and, Olomouc University Social Health Institute, Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Elsje Scheffler, Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Nikola Seymour, Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Appropriate provision of assistive technology services (ATS) and products are a global health issue and essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sixth African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD) conference included a workshop on collaboration, cohesion and coherence in ATS delivery in Africa.

Objective: This article aimed to summarise the workshop proceedings and to provide some recommendations on how coherence and cohesion can be facilitated in assistive technology services in Africa.

Method: A round table and small group discussions on assistive technology were facilitated in the virtual space of the AfriNEAD conference. Organisations and role players in ATS and products in Africa participated as keynote speakers, round table members and in small group discussions.

Results: There was consensus amongst participants that cohesive collaboration must be facilitated. They further agreed that users must be central to future action. There are local, national and regional initiatives, but none of these have grown into an African assistive technology platform. World Health Organization (WHO) Africa can bring partners together and facilitate creation, officialisation and operationalising of a continental assistive technology platform, through building on the existing initiatives. The AfriNEAD disability research country working groups can act as in-country coordinating bodies for ATS and afford a possibility of a structured approach to assistive technology research.

Conclusion: It is time to break away from Western institutionalised biomedical ways of providing ATS in Africa. Africans must develop coherent, cohesive ATS driven by empowered users who build on Africa’s strengths and addresses the continents’ unique needs.


Keywords

assistive technology; assistive products; Africa, coherence; cohesion

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