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In 2014 -17, UNICEF has prioritised the needs of children with disabilities in its procurement, market influencing and product innovation activities. Through this intensified focus, supplies become a driver and catalyst in mainstreaming disability across all of UNICEF policies and programmes in development and humanitarian action.

 UNICEF’s supply-related activities for children with disabilities have two broad areas of engagement: Assistive technology (AT) products, which help enable people living with disabilities to participate more fully in their community and lead more independent lives. Accessible design in construction which enable more people to use buildings and facilities (e.g., schools, early childhood education centres, UNICEF offices).

Assistive technology (AT) products & impairment groups

Assistive technology (AT) products, devices, equipment or tools are designed to help people in different impairment groups. For children with disabilities, especially those who live in low-resource or emergency situations, AT products can mean the difference between exclusion and inclusion. The following impairment groups may be supported by these examples of AT products:

  • Mobility: specifically designed prostheses, wheelchairs or adapted cutlery that help users maneuver in the world.
  • Vision: specially designed eyeglasses, Braille systems or learning materials adapted with sound or textures. 
  • Hearing: products like hearing aids and sound amplification devices.
  • Communication: boards with symbols, and letters to convey meaning or devices with synthetic speech.
  • Cognition: picture based instructions, adapted toys and games, automatic reminders.

Affordable, appropriate, adaptable

UNICEF’s work in procurement and product innovation around ATs aim to make them:

  • More affordable: Low-maintenance designs and locally-made solutions.
  • More appropriate product specifications that improve quality of robustness, durability.
  • More adaptable to accommodate individual differences of children as they grow.

Universal design

Universal design (or inclusive design) is an approach that will be increasingly apparent in UNICEF-procured products and construction projects. Universal design does not change the functionality of products, buildings or facilities – but rather, it means that more people can use all of these things. Adaptations to existing products, for example, the addition of a magnifying glass at the end of rulers, or adding textures to two-dimensional maps and posters means that more children will be able to use them as tools for learning.


Assistive Products for Children with Disabilities (APCD) Forum, July 6 – 7, Copenhagen
UNICEF hosts its first-ever global meeting of staff, stakeholders and manufacturers raise awareness, inspire and exchange knowledge on AT products that can bridge equity gaps for children with disabilities. Leading disability organizations and suppliers headline the two-day gathering. For more information click here or please contact kgodony@unicef.org.

Press release

Global data on AT products by impairment groups: coming Q3, 2015
UNICEF and the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) are planning an online global data base of assistive products and technologies which address needs in five impairment groups: mobility, vision, hearing, communication and cognition. It will be the first of its kind and accessible by any individual or organization seeking information on AT products on the market.

Did you know?

  • Around one in seven people live with a disability, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Only 1 percent of the world’s people in need of a wheelchair have access to one.
  • There are 360 million people worldwide who could benefit from hearing disability devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.
  • In developing countries, less than 3% of people who need hearing aids have them.
  • In developing countries, women and children are less likely than adult men to possess ATs.
  • The right to assistive technology is central in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Articles: 9, 20, 21, 24, 26, 29 and 32). Obligations such as taking “all necessary measures” or “appropriate measures,” which may include assistive technology implicitly, are found in an additional 17 articles.




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