Disability Rights, Physical Rehabilitation, and Assistive Technologies

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 Coalition for Independent Living
Coalition for Independent Living/Georgia

Disabilty Communication Tips

Disability Rights 

USAID has a longstanding commitment to the empowerment and inclusion of the one billion persons with disabilities—approximately 15 percent of the world’s population—around the world. The Agency believes societies that are inclusive of their diverse populations are more likely to be democratic, participatory, and equitable. USAID works to transform lives, communities, and economies in a way that is inclusive of all members of society—including persons with disabilities.

Disability Policy

USAID’s Disability Policy furthers this commitment in two important ways; it states that USAID: 

  1. will not discriminate against persons with disabilities, and 
  2. will work to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in its programs and activities. 

The policy also calls on USAID missions to encourage in-country partners to collaborate to end discrimination and promote equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in developing countries. In many cases, this includes advancing a country’s compliance with its treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

USAID’s Disability Inclusive Development approach advances U.S. national interests in fostering accessible and inclusive environments around the world. Its policy is underpinned by U.S. domestic disability law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and others

USAID provides field missions with training, technical assistance, tools, and resources to integrate disability into key mission strategic documents and develop and implement disability action plans. 

Download USAID’s Disability Policy here.

Learn more >

Physical Rehabilitation

A splint fabrication done by an occupational therapist in the Rehabilitation Department of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.
A splint fabrication done by an occupational therapist in the Rehabilitation Department of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.
WHO/Sebastian Liste/NOOR

According to new global estimates, 2.4 billion people worldwide would benefit from physical rehabilitation services inclusive of assistive technology to optimize their functioning and promote their well-being. While this number seems daunting, it will likely rise due to growing numbers of persons with injuries resulting from conflict, aging populations, increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, the impact of COVID-19, and natural disasters. Lack of access to physical rehabilitation can negatively impact an individual's physical functioning and is associated with decreased productivity, lower household income levels, and reduced educational outcomes across entire populations. 

The global community defines rehabilitation as a set of interventions designed to enable persons with health conditions to optimize their functioning in interaction with their environment. Physical rehabilitation includes services, such as prosthetic and orthotic services, physical, occupational, and speech language therapy, and access to wheelchairs and other assistive technologies.

USAID Response

Since 1989, USAID has worked through its Leahy War Victims Fund to develop sustainable quality physical rehabilitation services, including prosthetic and orthotic, physical and occupational therapy, and assistive technology services in conflict-affected countries. Today, USAID also emphasizes the development of these services in health systems as an essential service for all. USAID supports the development of a range of physical rehabilitation services while maintaining its vital focus on developing services for victims of conflict and persons with disabilities. USAID supports activities that organize, strengthen, and extend comprehensive physical rehabilitation services inclusive of assistive technologies, particularly in countries affected by conflict. Program focus: 

  • Assist countries and regions in increasing their capacity to provide quality, sustainable physical rehabilitation services in health systems 
  • Develop and promote related global standards and guidelines 
  • Support training for professionals and staff working in physical rehabilitation services
  • Increase participation and inclusion of victims of conflict and persons with disabilities
Learn more >

Assistive Health Technologies

Wheelchair Basketball
Wheelchair Basketball
Sue Eitel

More than one billion people worldwide currently need assistive technology. Only one in ten have access. There is a huge and unmet need for assistive technology, an umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products—such as wheelchairs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetics—and related services. 

Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labor market, and civic life. Assistive technology can reduce the need for formal healthcare and support services and long-term care. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of decreased function and disability on individuals, their families, and society.

USAID Response

USAID’s Assistive Technology programs improve access to appropriate wheelchairs, eyeglasses and other assistive technology and trained service providers in low- and middle-income countries. USAID’s approach aims to achieve the following:

  • Strengthen policies and systems that supply assistive products and related services
  • Improve local capacity and access to quality services
  • Ensure a sustainable supply of quality and affordable assistive products 
  • Develop and disseminate service and product standards
Learn more >

Last updated: October 07, 2022

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