Disabilities and rehabilitation

Personal Mobility - facilitating access to quality mobility aids and devices

Mobility aids and devices such as prostheses, orthoses, crutches, sticks, walking frames, wheelchairs, tricycles are among the common types of assistive technologies used to improve personal mobility for people with disabilities. Mobility devices are a matter of equity for people with disabilities as they facilitate their access to education, work and social life, increase their independence and enhance their participation in their communities. Besides people with disabilities, many older people also rely on such devices. Despite their importance, surveys report considerable unmet needs for these devices, often due to a lack of financial resources.

In the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Article 20 on personal mobility requests States Parties to take effective measures to ensure personal mobility by facilitating access to quality mobility aids and devices, including making them available at affordable cost; and encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and other assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities. Article 26 on habilitation and rehabilitation further mentions that States Parties shall promote the availability, knowledge and use of assistive devices and technologies, designed for persons with disabilities, as they relate to habilitation and rehabilitation.

The World Health Assembly Resolution WHA58.23, WHO and the related action plan for 2006-2011 requires WHO to promote development, production, distribution and servicing of assistive technologies. On 28-29 October 2009 WHO organized a stakeholders meeting at WHO headquarters in support of implementing the CRPD, focusing on access to mobility devices and other assistive technologies. The meeting was attended by experts from WHO Collaborating Centres, partners and other key organizations working to enhance the mobility of people with disabilities. Participants agreed to work towards a global action plan and form an alliance to support Member States in implementing the Convention Articles 20 and 26. Towards this, participants agreed to work together to develop a joint position paper highlighting the importance of personal mobility, the role of mobility devices and other assistive technologies, and requirements for the implementation of the Articles.