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Table 1 The relevance of assistive products for achievement of the SDGs

From: Assistive products and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

SDG 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Conceptualization: Poverty is both a significant cause and consequence of impairment and disability. Assistive products are powerful enablers for people with impairments to overcome poverty.
Target 1.2: By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
Example: A study in Bangladesh found that the use of hearing aids and wheelchairs amongst people with hearing and ambulatory impairments respectively was predictive of reduced poverty (Borg et al., [15]).
SDG 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable people with impairments to have the opportunity to contribute to the production of food.
Target 2.3: Increase the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women and family farmers (among others, through non-farm employment).
Example: Victims of landmines are often farmers from low and middle-income countries. When a farmer loses a limb in a landmine incident, a prosthesis enables him or her to continue to produce food. Families affected by landmines are 40% more likely to have difficulty obtaining adequate food (Walsh & Walsh [16]).
SDG 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Conceptualization: Assistive products compensate for impairments, reduce the health and social consequences of gradual functional decline and are key for primary and secondary prevention of many health problems.
Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.
Example: Therapeutic footwear for diabetes reduces the incidence of foot ulcers, preventing lower limb amputations, and the associated implications and costs for the individual and for health systems (Bus et al., [17]).
SDG 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Conceptualization: Assistive products play a powerful role in both ensuring students with impairments access education and in supporting educational achievement.
Target 4a: Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive, and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
Example: Assistive products (including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, switches, touch screens and alternative keyboards) enable children with severe disabilities to communicate effectively with their teachers and peers, fostering learning and participation (Alquraini & Gut [18]).
SDG 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Conceptualization: Assistive products are essential for many women and girls with impairments to have gender equality, including equal rights, universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and for full participation. Additionally, assistive products can reduce the need for caregivers, roles which fall mostly to women and girls and consequently limit other opportunities for their full participation in society.
Target 5.b: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
Example: Women with disabilities in South Australia identified the importance of accessible ICT to reduce isolation, to access information, and to contribute to decision making within their communities (Jennings [19]).
SDG 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable people with impairments to access clean water and sanitation services.
Target 6.2: By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
Example: Grab rails, wheelchairs, ramps, and toilet chairs all enable access to toilets. A study in South Africa found that a lack of accessible toilets prevented university students who use wheelchairs from fully participating in lectures and university life (Losinsky et al. [20]).
SDG 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable people with impairments to have access to affordable and clean energy, be productive users of energy and enable them to pay for it, contributing economically.
Target 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.
Example: In the United Kingdom, unaffordable energy bills disproportionately affect older people. Changing energy provider can save one household £200 each year on energy bills but 60% of households age 65 and over have never switched (Age Action Alliance [21]). A leading British charity has developed written and auditory information to make it easier for older people to switch to the most affordable energy supplier, but for many of them this information will only be accessible with spectacles or hearing aids (Age UK: Love later life [22]).
SDG 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable people with impairments to have the opportunity to participate in the workforce, earn a living and contribute to the economy.
Target 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
Example: Assistive products (including adapted telephones, wheelchairs, magnifiers and adapted computer equipment) remove barriers to employment for workers with disabilities, resulting in substantial benefits to productively and self-esteem (Yeager et al., [23]).
SDG 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Conceptualization: Assistive products need to be an integral component of all infrastructure in order for infrastructure to be inclusive for all.
Target 9c: Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.
Example: Language software products can assist students with learning disabilities to learn how to read and write. Without access to the Internet, such products are not available, which hinders learning and restricts or prevents moving ahead with education (GAATES: Global Accessibility News [24]).
SDG 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Conceptualization: Assistive products greatly reduce inequalities by enabling people with impairments to participate in all areas of life.
Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
Example: Underutilization of assistive products can delay successful transitions into independent living and community participation for adolescents and young adults with Spina Bifida (Johnson et al. [25]).
SDG 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable many people with impairments to access their cities and communities, including public transport systems.
Target 11.2: By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
Example: People with impairments often describe lack of accessible transportation as a barrier to accessing services and social contact; barriers can be physical, cognitive, communication or environmental, among others, and can include issues such as lack of ramps, inaccessible timetable information and payment systems (Roberts & Babinard [26]).
SDG 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Conceptualization: Everyone, everywhere needs access to information for sustainable development and lifestyles. Assistive products enable people with impairments to access mainstream information channels.
Target 12.8: Ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles.
Example: Television is a primary source of information about sustainable lifestyles. Captioning displays enable viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing to have full access to programmes (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), [27]).
SDG 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Conceptualization: Access to assistive products is important for strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity for people with impairments, especially in the event of natural disasters, a predictable outcome of global climate change. There is also an increased incidence of disease and injury as a result of extreme weather events, which leads to an increased need for assistive products (Rataj et al, [28]).
Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
Example: The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was hailed by participants as the first international meeting of its kind to provide a wide range of accessibility features, in order to ensure that people with disabilities are consulted on plans and strategies for managing disaster risk. Closed captioning, sign language interpretation, wheelchair accessible venues and transport, accessible documents and Braille displays enabled more than 200 people with impairments to actively participate as delegates, speakers, panellists, and contributors (UNISDR, [29]).
SDG 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Conceptualization: Just as on land, assistive products enable people with impairments the opportunity to contribute to the use of marine resources, and to benefit from the tourism and self-development potential of such environments.
Target 14.7: By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.
Example: Presbyopia (blurred near vision) affects most people beyond middle age and can be simply corrected with spectacles, enabling people to continue to contribute to family life and livelihoods (Holden, et al., [30]). A core activity of small-scale fishing industries is the maintenance and repair of fishing nets – an ideal task for older family members if they have access to spectacles.
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
Conceptualization: Assistive products enable people with impairments to contribute to protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of the environment.
Target 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.
Example: With access to wheelchairs, a group of people with disabilities in Malawi were able to start a sustainable farming business, growing mushrooms in a greenhouse, which required no fertilizers or chemicals and which did not add to the degradation of the land locally. All parts of the process can be done from a wheelchair, no hard labour or digging is needed and mushrooms are light and easy to transport. (World Health Organization, [31]).
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
Conceptualization: In order for societies to be inclusive, all people who need assistive products need to be able to access them.
Target 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
Example: Documents in Braille enable a person who is blind to access information in order to have equitable access to justice (UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disability, [32]).
SDG 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Conceptualization: As illustrated by the examples above, assistive products are important facilitators of sustainable development. Strong global partnerships are crucial for ensuring that essential assistive products are available and affordable, and that everyone, everywhere can access them.
Target 17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.
Example: In October 2015, China hosted an Asia-Europe High-Level Meeting on Disability and Global Conference on Assistive Devices and Technology (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, [33]). The German Chancellor and Chinese Premier initiated a collaboration towards developing the manufacturing capacity of high-quality affordable assistive products – a prerequisite for the universal access needed to meet the SDGs.