People with disabilities are among the most marginalized worldwide, with children at an even higher risk of stigma, abuse, neglect and death. Although 38 million need prosthetics or orthotics (P&Os) annually, less than 10% are able to access them. Without these assistive devices, people with physical impairments are unable to go to school, gain employment or even conduct daily living activities and engage with their communities – resulting in a cycle of disability and poverty. By disrupting traditional P&O production methods using 3D printing technology, this project can dramatically improve device availability. Access to devices alone, however, will not solve this crisis. By creating Centers of Excellence that will not only produce and fit devices but also facilitate ability-centered initiatives for children and adults with disabilities to learn and develop, this project will dismantle discrimination and foster empowerment. Integrating inclusive programming into existing learning platforms will ensure wider systems.
Hope and Healing Internationalwebsite: https://www.hopeandhealing.org/
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The WHO estimates that 42,000 more P&O technicians are required to produce enough assistive devices to meet the global need. Currently, only 400 new technicians are trained annually; therefore, a persistent failure in capacity exists. The traditional plaster casting method of device production is time-consuming and costly. Not only does this method depend on trained technicians, but it also requires extensive infrastructure and equipment. As a result, devices are inaccessible to more than 90% of the 38 million people in need of them every year. However, providing these essential mobility devices alone is insufficient to truly improve the lives of these marginalized millions because they have been isolated, excluded and forced to the fringes of societies due cultural norms and misconceptions about ‘disability’. People suffering from limb loss, birth defects, musculoskeletal weakness, other illnesses or injuries that impair their mobility are living with higher rates of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy than their peers. Children with disabilities are at extremely high risk – they are up to four times more likely to die. Only one in ten of all children with disabilities attends school, and just one in twenty completes primary education. Too many children, mothers, fathers and grandparents living in poverty with disabilities are seen as broken, cursed, somehow less than human…and it’s wrong. Stigma and exclusion pull whole families, communities and countries into deeper poverty. Deeper poverty makes everyone more vulnerable to sickness, infection, disability. It is a vicious cycle, and together, we’re out to break it.
3D printing can significantly increase the availability and access to individualized P&O devices and shift the entire industry away from the outdated, labor-intensive and expensive production standard currently used. The increased speed of production, coupled with a reduction in cost, will allow more people with disabilities to access the essential devices they require (an average 25 devices is required per lifetime of a child with a mobility impairment). Through a hub and spoke approach with five Centers of Excellence (hubs) and numerous partner facilities (spokes), exponentially more people living with mobility impairments will be able to engage in education, employment and their communities; enabling them and their families to break out of the cycle of disability and poverty. Complemented by evidence-based best practices in ability-centered, youth-led, child-friendly, inclusive sports and arts programs, more mobility devices on more people will incite a redefinition of impairment. Instead of being shunned, these marginalized millions will be confident advocates leading social change. In five years, the project will increase the production of P&Os by at least 1,000%. In addition, the ability-centered initiatives will facilitate public accountability and community, national and regional agency on disability inclusion. The five regional hubs and their partner facilities in Africa, India and Asia will be catalysts for deep and impactful change. Ultimately, this project’s success and replication will eliminate the gap in access to prosthetics and orthotics, reduce inequalities for people living with disabilities, and help foster truly inclusive communities across the globe.