Inclusive supplies making a difference for children living with disabilities

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities we highlight our work in Assistive Technology and a new momentum to bring inclusive supplies to children worldwide.

Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, December 2020: Aseel, 8, on her wheelchair and her two younger sisters.
03 December 2020

Aseel, age eight, was left partially paralysed after undergoing surgery at eight months old. She has spent most of her life finding ways to adapt and experience a normal childhood. But as a refugee living in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, she struggled to stay engaged in the classroom since the stroller she was using as a make-shift wheelchair was hurting her back.

UNICEF staff noticed her challenges, and, via disability-focused programming, a wheelchair of appropriate size and design was provided to Aseel to help her be included in school activities.  

“It’s not only my daughter. There are also others
who need help even more. Some have lost a limb, or need hearing aids, or even glasses.”

Ali, Aseels’s father

A new momentum for inclusive supplies

In recent years, UNICEF has been building the momentum to improve the situation for the nearly 240 million children who live with one or more disability worldwide. Through four overarching strategies, UNICEF aims to expand access to assistive technology and make the world a better and more inclusive place for children like Aseel. 


1 - We are introducing more assistive technologies to programming

By identifying and working with assistive technology companies, we strive to ensure that quality and appropriate products are available in the UNICEF Supply Catalogue. This includes working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to create new guidance on how, what, and where to procure and use the technology. 

On 7 October, a boy with a hearing impairment wears a Solar Ear hearing aid in the eastern city of Mutare, capital of Manicaland Province.
Hearing aids and wheelchairs are key technologies UNICEF aims to include in its supply catalogue. These new products will be of appropriate sizes for children to use in different settings UNICEF works in – like remote, hot, humid, dry and dusty environments.

2 - We are incorporating inclusive features into UNICEF standard supplies

With an enormous procurement power of US$ 3.8 billion annually (2019) and expertise in managing the largest humanitarian warehouse for children in the world, UNICEF has an opportunity to further scale inclusive supplies. By amending our standard supplies to incorporate inclusive features (for example, improvements to the School-in-the-Box for the visually impaired, as demonstrated in this film) we can make a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of children with disabilities around the world. 

A clock with Braille raised dots that is part of UNICEF's School-in-a-Box kit.
UNICEF has been working to ensure each item in the iconic School-in-a-Box kit is continuously reviewed to understand how the suppliers can modify it to be more inclusive. An early example includes adding braille to the clock used for teaching the time to support children with vision impairments.
The latrine slab delivered by UNICEF in emergencies, to which tactile stripping (textured bubbles) were added for the visually impaired.
UNICEF has also reviewed the latrine slab delivered in emergencies to ensure the visually impaired can safely use the toilet. As a result, tactile stripping (textured bubbles) was added for the visually impaired. These modifications can make a tremendous impact to the users and come at a low- to no-cost for UNICEF and the suppliers. The newly adapted products are now ready for distribution, with over 1,000 recently shipped to five countries (as of 24 Nov 2020)

3 - We are working with partners to innovate disability-friendly products  

Through our work in product innovation, we are bringing new disability-friendly products to programming. These items have gone through a comprehensive innovation process to ensure the right product at the right price is available for children. 

A standard latrine to which UNICEF's disability-friendly squatting plate add-on was attached to provide support to persons with disabilities.
UNICEF worked with the private sector to innovate an add-on product that attaches onto standard latrines to provide support to persons with disabilities. The 'Disability-friendly Squatting Plate Add-on in Emergencies' was first piloted in refugee camps in Angola and Bangladesh, directly supporting children with disabilities as well as people with chronic illnesses, older people or pregnant women. It is now added to the UNICEF supply catalogue and will be implemented in current and future emergencies

4 - Via global partnerships like ATscale, we can amplify our efforts

Through key partnerships we can amplify the momentum to bring assistive technology to millions of people. Along with the International Disability Alliance, USAID, Norad, and others, UNICEF is a founding partner of ATscale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, whereby organizations work together on funding strategies and programmes with the vision that every person can access and afford the life-changing assistive technology they need.

Logos of the organisations that are part of the AT Scale initiative.
ATScale Global Partnership for Assistive Technology
The partnership launched in 2018 with the ambitious goal of catalysing action to reach 500 million more people with life-changing assistive technology by 2030. The mission, as a cross-sector partnership, is to catalyse change, amplify existing work, and coordinate and mobilise global stakeholders with unified strategies to increase availability of and access to affordable and appropriate assistive technology.

The impact of disability-friendly supplies

Disability-friendly supplies have a direct impact on the well-being of children. 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 - like the one given to Aseel - can increase the chances of participating in school.

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. 


Learn more about UNICEF’s work in assistive technology.