Globally, there’s a lack of access to tools and devices that support children with disabilities such as hearing, mobility or cognitive aids. Also referred to as assistive technology, these devices 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 tools and devices 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. Also referred to as Assistive Technology (AT), 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 focusing on three key activities to ensure disability-inclusive supplies are available and accessible worldwide: (1) ensure current supplies are inclusive; (2) introduce new AT products to programmes worldwide, and (3) improve advocacy efforts to gain a global consensus for AT.
- UNICEF is currently analyzing its products in the Supply Catalogue to ensure they can be used by persons with disabilities. One example is the School-in-a-Box kit, where each item is being reviewed to understand how suppliers can modify it to be more inclusive.
- To introduce new AT products to programmes, UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop guidance for AT manufacturers and suppliers, and humanitarian and development staff who procure supplies. This includes a procurement manual with quality measure checks to ensure each AT item meets the needs of persons with disabilities, and the Assistive Product Specification 27 (APS), a guide-book with specs for 27 prioritized AT 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.
93 million children
live with one or more disabilities worldwide
10+ new assistive technology products
to be included in UNICEF’s supply catalogue, including wheelchairs and hearing aids
2 new publications developed by UNICEF and WHO
setting the standards for the procurement of assistive technology products
Disability-friendly supplies 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!”