Assistive Products and Inclusive Supplies
Globally, there’s a lack of access to assistive products that support children with disabilities such as hearing, mobility or cognitive aids. Also referred to as assistive technology, these products are crucial to help children participate in society.
Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in society, facing daily discrimination that bars them from enjoying their rights and participating on an equal basis with the rest of society.
Globally, there’s a lack of access to products that support children with disabilities, such as hearing aids, mobility aids (i.e. wheelchairs or crutches) or cognitive aids that help people with memory, attention or other intellectual challenges. Today, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive products.
Also referred to as assistive technology, these devices are crucial to help children participate in society and access essential social services. With a limited number of disability-inclusive items in the UNICEF Supply Catalogue, UNICEF is embarking on an urgent mission to bring a disability lens to our products.
UNICEF is working to ensure assistive and inclusive supplies are available and accessible worldwide, including introducing new assistive products to programmes, and increasing advocacy efforts to gain a global consensus for assistive technology.
This includes introducing 24 new products into the Supply Catalogue, among them eight different types of wheelchairs in child and adult sizes, and five different hearing aids. UNICEF is now able to offer a full range of paediatric wheelchairs and hearing aids to government partners and development programmes, a first for a UN agency.
UNICEF also worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop guidance for assistive technology manufacturers and suppliers, and humanitarian and development staff who procure supplies. This includes a procurement manual with quality measure checks to ensure each item meets the needs of persons with disabilities, and the Assistive Product Specification 26, a guide-book with specs for 26 prioritized assistive products that describes the quality requirements for manufacturing.
To increase advocacy for assistive technology, UNICEF is organizing three high-level workshops under the AT2030 Programme, a global programme supported by UK aid to bring focus to AT. The workshops bring representation from governments, UNICEF and development partners. The first two took place in South Africa and Tajikistan in late 2019. As a precursor to the third workshop in Jordan (which was postponed due to COVID-19), UNICEF, in collaboration with WHO and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), hosted a webinar on assistive technology in September 2020. Read the summary of the key takeaways from the workshop.
240 million children
equivalent to 1 in 10 of the world's children live with one or more disabilities worldwide.
24 new assistive products
included in the UNICEF Supply Catalogue, including wheelchairs and hearing aids.
2 new joint UNICEF-WHO publications
setting the standards for the procurement of assistive technology products.
Assistive and inclusive products have a direct impact on the well-being of children with disabilities. Assistive technology supports their inclusion into society, thereby increasing the opportunities for education and employment. For example, a proper use of hearing aids leads young children to improved language skills. Or, an appropriate wheelchair can increase the chances of participating in school.
UNICEF aims to contribute to 500 million people gaining access to AT by 2030, which is the goal for ATscale, the global partnership for assistive technology. By bringing an inclusive-focus to our supplies, children with disabilities can access tools and devices to help them participate in society and restore their rights as children.
“Before I had the wheelchair my brother used to push me on a stroller. The wheelchair helped because before I had to bend down all the time. Now I am able to pay attention to the teacher. My back does not hurt anymore and I am starting to get better at school.
Riding is so much fun!”
Join the Assistive Technology Advocates network
Assistive Technology Advocates (AT Advocates) is an established network of assistive technology professionals brought together by UNICEF and WHO.
The network includes UNICEF and WHO colleagues, professionals from non-profit agencies and disability-related organizations as well as government officials working across education, rehabilitation and health.
Our mission is to collect, collaborate and disseminate information on innovative practices and learnings from the emerging assistive technology landscape.
We host quarterly webinars on different topics ranging from inclusive and accessible assistive technologies, education, rehabilitation and more. If you wish to join our network please email firstname.lastname@example.org.