Assistive technology for inclusion: India’s Vision and potential
By: Rajesh Aggarwal
Assistive Technology (AT) is any product or service that helps Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) or health conditions to perform daily activities to join mainstream and improve the quality of life. According to the first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) launched by WHO and UNICEF in May 2022, more than 2.5 billion people in the world need one or more assistive products. In India, where about 26.8 million people with disabilities according to the Census 2011, which speaks for the need for assistive technology.
People with disabilities in India face many challenges, including limited access to education, employment, and healthcare. In addition, many people with disabilities struggle to access basic services such as transportation and housing due to a lack of accessibility. Assistive Technology can play a critical role in addressing these challenges by helping people with disabilities to perform everyday tasks and equally participate in their communities.
The Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), a Central PSU under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment aims to provide quality assistive devices and rehabilitation services to PwDs. Over the years, ALIMCO has become a key player in the field of AT in India. ALIMCO’s manufactures wide range of assistive devices, including prosthesis, orthosis, hearing aids, and mobility aids such as Tri Cycle, wheelchairs, Stick, Walker, Crutches etc.
ALIMCO has taken proactive measures to modernize its facilities to produce State of the Art technology aid and assistive devices to maintain pace with the advancement worldwide. In this direction, ALIMCO collaborated with international companies and signed ToT to pave way for indigenous manufacturing of Lower Limb Prosthetic Component (Artificial Leg) and active wheel chairs. “Parivartan Kit” for prosthetics made by ALIMCO has much lower price as compared to imported prosthesis in the given category, which has been fitted to thousands of beneficiaries across the country. Indigenous designed and manufactured ‘Sugamya’ Cane for visually impaired envisaged in Atma Nirbhar Bharat Campaign.
The efforts made by ALIMCO towards technology absorptions include State of art Prosthetic & orthotic centre; Improved design efficiency – 3D Modeling and Analysis software; Computer Added Designing (CAD) & Computer Added Manufacturing (CAM) including 3D Printing; Use of CNC Sliding Head Machine & CNC Turn Mill Machine; Spectro Analyzer – For accurate / precise metal analysis; New features like Reverse Drive & Disc Brake incorporated in Battery Operated Motorized Tricycle; and Design/Drawing of Active folding Wheel chair and rough Terrain Wheel Chair.
Accessible India Campaign launched by the Government in 2015 to make public spaces and transportation systems more accessible for PwDs and focuses on making information and communication technology more accessible for people with disabilities.
National Action Plan for Skill Development launched in 2015 aims to provide training to one million people with disabilities by 2022 with provisions for providing AT to PwDs to help them develop their skills.
Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) Scheme by Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (DEPwDs) provide financial assistance to people with disabilities for the purchase of assistive devices and equipment and is most popular and have covered almost every districts of the country to provide free of cost assistive devices to needy Divyangjan.
Nine National institutes have been established by the department across the country, under Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (DEPwDs) along with 21 Composite Regional Centres (CRCs) as extended arms of National Institutes.
India is witnessing a growth in start-ups focused on developing AT solutions for PwDs leveraging the latest technology to create innovative products for PwDs that can help to promote inclusion and improve their quality of life with the support of GOI.
Today, AT is an increasingly important topic of discussion at the World Forum on Disability, which is a global event focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities. Overall, the scope of Assistive Technology in the disability sector in India is significant, and there is a growing ecosystem of start-ups and innovators focused on this area. The government has recognized the potential of AT solutions in promoting inclusion and improving the lives of people with disabilities and is taking active steps to promote the development, adoption, and use of AT solutions. With continued investment and support, India has the potential to become a global leader in the development and adoption of AT solutions.
* The author is Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India.