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Supplies and Logistics

Supplies for children with disabilities

© UNICEF/UNI180607/Zahri

During the next strategic period 2018 -21, UNICEF intends to increase prioritization of 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 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 products (AP) & impairment groups

Assistive products (AP), 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, APs can mean the difference between exclusion and inclusion. The following impairment groups may be supported by these examples of APs:

  • 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 APs 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 Guide: March 2018 
UNICEF has issued an Assistive Products guide which addresses needs in four impairment groups: mobility, vision, hearing, and communication.  It provides details of some assistive products currently available on the market and information on when and how they are to be used. It covers a range of devices, from low-tech (e.g., walking sticks, pencil grips) to more complex (e.g., specialized computer software/hardware or motorised wheelchairs). This publication provides practical information to guide UNICEF, partner agencies and Governments in procurement planning and provisioning of assistive products. The information is designed to help with decision-making on the most appropriate assistive products to meet programme objectives and realize the rights of children with disabilities.  

Assistive Products for Children with Disabilities (APCD) Forum, July 6 – 7, 2015 Copenhagen
UNICEF’s first APCD Forum brought together staff, stakeholders and manufacturers to raise awareness, inspire and exchange knowledge on assistive products that can bridge equity gaps for children with disabilities. A final report is available here.

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 APs.
  • 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.


Key highlights from the UNICEF global survey on Assistive Technologies for Children with Disabilities (PDF)

Key highlights from the UNICEF global survey on Assistive Technologies for Children with Disabilities (WORD)

UNICEF-WHO joint paper on assistive technology for children with disabilities (PDF)


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