Purpose: The need for suitable assistive technology is growing all over the world, not only for people with disabilities but also for the ageing population with functional decline and non-communicable diseases. Access to assistive technology promotes access to education, employment and active societal participation. The aim of this study was to assess the self-reported need by persons with disabilities and by people who were 65 years and older without disabilities in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, for assistive products; and to identify barriers to accessing these assistive products.
Method: This mixed-methods pilot study included 76 participants who were either persons with disabilities or their caregiver or persons 65 years and older, from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, affected by the now-ended 30-year civil war. To ascertain trends in the local need for assistive products, a translated version of the World Health Organisation’s Priority Assistive Products List of 50 items was used. In addition, semi-structured interviews with key participants were conducted, to gain some insights into the barriers to accessing assistive products.
Results: The most widely used assistive products among persons with disabilities were connected to war-related injuries. In contrast, those used by the older age group of persons without disabilities were connected to non-communicable diseases and age-related frailty. The assistive products requested by both groups were aids to promote independence in daily activities and to support access to education and employment. The emergent themes included affordability, employment, independence in activities of daily living, stigma and psychological impact, and a lack of awareness and guidance in the use of assistive devices.
Conclusion: The findings highlight the need for policies and practices to be informed by local socio-cultural, historical and geographical realities.