New Delhi: People with disabilities in India have limited access to basic things that can help them. Despite advances in assistive technology and rehabilitation, a large number of them have to endure difficulties. Assistive Technology can go a long way in making their lives much more comfortable.
On the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December3), Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Senior Consultant Neuro & Spine surgeon, Apollo Hospitals has given a lowdown on state of people with disabilities. Dr Prasad says, ‘It is possible for patients recovering from neurological illnesses like stroke, meningitis, head and spine injuries and some permanently affected by dementia or simply old age disabling conditions to be made more independent or easier to look after. This can happen with the help of latest affordable technology (Assistive Technology or AT) to assist them in walking and improving vision, hearing, speech and communication skills and by increasing the skill of care givers’.
Dr. Prasad spearheaded the creation of a complete neuro-rehabilitation team at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals and has helped the hospital become one of the first private hospital to have a stand-alone neuro-rehabilitation department as a specialty in Delhi and have treated hundreds of patients of head and spine injury, stroke and other neurological diseases. Dr Prasad claims that there is no center in India that provides all these solutions to patients under one roof.
Dr Prasad further said, ‘Assistive Technology in Neuro-rehab refers to a piece of equipment, software program or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of person with disabilities. These technologies which may be high tech or low tech can help the disabled person in Walking (with a walker, stick, and wheelchair), Activities of daily living (ADL) like eating with a spoon, shaving, dressing up and writing, Speech and Communication, e.g through text to speech apps, Hearing through hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc, Vision through spectacles, braille text, Smart cane (a brilliant invention of IIT Delhi), magnifier, etc.’
Dr Rajendra Prasad added, ‘It is also important to train family as caregivers and to enhance the training of professional caregivers. With the rising geriatric population and the increasing number of people who need long-term home care, there is a need for caregivers with specialised training in CPR, hygiene, dementia care, dealing with end of life etc. There is also a need to train family members who are often sole caregivers and unable to cope with the mental and physical stress.’
At present, around 1 billion people in the world suffer from some form of disability. Out of this, nearly 80% of these live in developing countries such as India. Broadly speaking, people with disabilities normally have impairment in hearing, vision, daily activities and locomotion.
Even though there have been significant advances in the last few years in rehabilitation, assistive technology and awareness, we still have a long way to go. People with disabilities have the same general healthcare needs as others, but are likely to be denied for healthcare services thrice and four times more likely to be treated badly in the healthcare system.
A large disadvantage that people with disabilities have to endure is the fact that they have limited access to basic things that can help them. There is a huge gap between the demand for access to healthcare and the supply of the same. Worldwide, 70 million people need wheelchairs but only 5-15% of them have access to one. Globally, 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss but the production of hearing aids only meets 10% of the global need and 3% of developing countries’ needs.