A teenage girl is trying to score a goal during basketball practice in preparation for a game at their training center in Balkh, Afghanistan.
#BeInclusive

Research and Evidence on Children with Disabilities

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INTRO


 

There are 240 million children with disabilities in the world


No child should be left behind. Yet UNICEF research indicates that among 240 million children with disabilities globally half have never attended school; up to one-third do not eat enough of the right food. Children with disabilities disproportionately represent many of those children left behind.  

Behind those statistics are countless stories, ambitions and obstacles faced every day by children with disabilities. UNICEF’s mission is to include all children with disability in education, health, emergency response, social protection, family and community life.

For this reason, at the Global Disability Summit 2022, UNICEF commits to generating new evidence through research. It commits to establishing a Global Research Agenda and Platform for children with disabilities, and to progressively mainstream disability in all research, to increase investment in inclusion for all children.

UNICEF has a long track record of research and evidence on children with disabilities. Our innovative research at the Office of Research, Innocenti, the Centre of Excellence on Data for Children with Disabilities, and from Region and Country Offices around the world, demonstrate an accomplishment of research and evidence generation spanning decades.  

On this page, we showcase examples of research and evidence from the past five years that focus on children with disabilities.

 

Students at the Center for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation in Sarajevo learn math with the help of their teacher computer applications.

ASSISTIVE TECH


Appropriate assistive technology has a direct impact on the well-being of children by supporting their functionality and inclusion into society, thereby increasing the opportunities for education, employment and social engagement. It is a key enabler of participation. 

Assistive technology like wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses give people with disabilities the chance to overcome barriers and demonstrate what they can do, rather than what they cannot. Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF

 

Link to publication on Assistive Technology for Children with  Disabilities: Creating Opportunities for  Education, Inclusion and Participation A discussion paper
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Assistive Technology for Children with Disabilities: Creating Opportunities for Education, Inclusion and Participation A discussion paper

Appropriate assistive technology can be a powerful tool to increase a child’s independence and improve their participation. It can help children become mobile, communicate more effectively, see and hear better, and participate more fully in learning and play activities. Assistive technology supports children to access and enjoy their rights and participate in things they value - and it bridges the disparities between children with and without disabilities.
Link to publication on Assistive Technology in Humanitarian Settings: Overview of Research Project
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Assistive Technology in Humanitarian Settings: Overview of Research Project

There are 240 million children with disabilities in the world; half of them are out of school. Many are invisible, stigmatized, hidden by their families and abandoned by their governments. Children with disabilities, especially in humanitarian settings, are among the poorest members of the population and one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in society. With only an estimated 1 in 10 children with a need for assistive devices having access, UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti undertook a study to better understand the nature and drivers of Assistive Technology (AT) access in humanitarian settings. This document provides a synthesis of the project’s various reports and papers: (1) a thematic literature review summarizes the academic evidence base regarding the provision of AT in humanitarian settings, including the nature and scale of provision and barriers and facilitators of access and provision; and (2) three case studies of countries affected by crisis to triangulate the findings of the literature review and fill identified knowledge gaps with real-world examples: Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the State of Palestine.
Link to publication on Global Report on Assistive Technology
Report

Global Report on Assistive Technology

This Global Report on Assistive Technology captures for the first time a global snapshot illustrating the need, access to and the preparedness of countries to support assistive technology. More than 2.5 billion people require one or more assistive products, and this is expected to grow to over 3.5 billion by 2050 as the global population ages.
Global Report on Assistive Technology Hero Image
Article

UNICEF and WHO launch the first Global Report on Assistive Technology

The first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) is launched today by The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The report, produced in collaboration with UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, shares evidence-based best practice examples and 10 key actionable recommendations on improving access to assistive technology for every child.
Link to publication on Meeting AT needs in humanitarian crises: The current state of provision
Journal Article

Meeting AT needs in humanitarian crises: The current state of provision

Humanitarian coordination systems increasingly recognize and aim to respond to the needs of people with disabilities within populations affected by crises, spurred on by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which was adopted in 2006. Many agencies state their aim to meet the requirements of the CRPD using a “twin track” approach: ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream provision, alongside targeted support for their needs, which may include the need for Assistive Technology (AT). However, there is very little evidence of AT provision in humanitarian settings, which is a specific and urgent need for many people including the elderly and people with disabilities, and an implicit requirement of Article 11 of the CRPD and World Health Assembly resolution on improving access to assistive technology.
Link to publication on Accessibility to digital technology: Virtual barriers, real opportunities
Journal Article

Accessibility to digital technology: Virtual barriers, real opportunities

The potential of digital technology to assist persons with disabilities has always been known. The capabilities of digital devices have been improving so impressively for so long, that the assumption that in parallel the same is happening with accessibility is common. Unfortunately, accessibility for persons with disabilities is neither certain nor constant, and in fact, a conscious and systemic effort is required to ensure that the potential of digital technologies for inclusion is realized.
Link to publication on Childhood and Assistive Technology: Growing with opportunity, developing with technology
Journal Article

Childhood and Assistive Technology: Growing with opportunity, developing with technology

Assistive technology is instrumental for the development and participation of children with disabilities by enabling their communication, mobility, and self-care. Technology also allows each child to explore the worlds of family relationships, friendships, education, play, and household tasks, enhancing their quality of life and that of their families. However, for the vast majority of children with disabilities, inadequate or no access to assistive technology excludes them from education, health, and social services, resulting in lifelong consequences to their participation in civic life and employment.
Link to publication on Inclusive education: The case for early identification and early intervention in assistive technology
Journal Article

Inclusive education: The case for early identification and early intervention in assistive technology

This paper starts by presenting the argument that inclusive education for learners with disabilities is often not possible without their access to fit-for-purpose assistive technology (AT), as the barriers to their education are often environmental.
Link to publication on Social protection and access to assistive technology in low- and middle-income countries
Journal Article

Social protection and access to assistive technology in low- and middle-income countries

To overcome widespread barriers and lack of support, persons with disabilities face significant disability-related costs, including assistive technology (AT), that drive them to or maintain them in poverty and undermine their socio-economic participation. In many countries, social protection systems are a gateway to accessing assistive devices either through health insurance, integration in Universal Health Coverage (UHC) packages, subsidies, cash transfers or direct provision. However, the broader issues of access to AT (lack of awareness, information, availability, human resources, etc.) are compounded by barriers to social protection. In low- and middle-income countries globally, less than 20% of persons with significant disabilities, who are likely to need AT, receive disability benefits. This paper reflects on the relation of AT and disability-related costs, the evolution of the role of social protection in line with the CRPD, and the different social protection mechanisms used at the national level to provide access to AT. It further highlights some of the key issues to be tackled by social protection systems to enhance access to AT, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries.
Young students with disabilities are receiving inclusive education at Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Keji, an Islamic boarding school in Ungaran, Central Java Province, Indonesia.

COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has increased vulnerabilities for children with disabilities due to their greater healthcare needs, higher dependence on community-based and specialized services, difficulties in adopting general public-health prevention measures, accessing personal-protective equipment and accessing critical messaging. The pandemic response catalyzed improvements in remote education access, yet it did not always consider accessibility issues for children with disabilities. 

 

COVID-19 meant disruptions of learning support for children with disabilities in at least 50% of the world.

 

Link to publication on Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 3: Children with Disabilities
Publication

Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest Issue 3: Children with Disabilities

This digest focuses on the emerging evidence of the impacts of COVID-19 on children with disabilities, drawing from UNICEF Innocenti’s Children and COVID-19 Research Library, launched in 2020.
Link to publication on Children with disabilities: Ensuring their inclusion in COVID-19 response strategies and evidence generation
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Children with disabilities: Ensuring their inclusion in COVID-19 response strategies and evidence generation

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, children with disabilities were among the most disadvantaged, facing increased exposure to abuse and discrimination and reduced access to services in many parts of the world. Understanding these pre-existing vulnerabilities can help anticipate how the COVID-19 pandemic could sharpen existing inequities and can shed light on where targeted efforts may be required. The publication below draws on pre-COVID data to highlight how children with disabilities face greater risks in the midst of this pandemic. It documents what has happened to services for children and adults with disabilities across the world and includes examples of what has been done to address disruptions in services. It also discusses the challenges in generating disability-inclusive data during the pandemic.
Link to publication on Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19
Report

Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines in 2020, there was predictable disruption in the provision of both mainstream and disability-specific services for children with disabilities. This report presents findings from an online survey that looks into the situation of these children and their families at the height of quarantine restrictions. It also proposes key recommendations to ensure that their rights are upheld during the pandemic.
Two visually impaired girls, Shelly López and Yulisa Esteban Lorenzo (both 8 years old) are laughing at a joke one of their teacher told them.

INCLUSIVE EDUCATION


Inclusive education has been promoted internationally for years but significant data and evidence gaps have affected planning, design and implementation of inclusive education policies and systems. Children with disabilities are very often invisible and miss improving their learning and life opportunities. 

 

Link to publication on Towards Inclusive Education: The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries
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Towards Inclusive Education: The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries

The paper aims to reduce the global knowledge gap pertaining to the impact of disability on school attendance, using cross-nationally comparable and nationally representative data from 18 surveys in 15 countries that are selected among 2,500 surveys and censuses. These selected surveys administered the Washington Group Short Set (WGSS) of disability-screening questions, covering five functional domains of seeing, hearing, mobility, self-care, and remembering, and collected information on educational status.
Link to publication on Methodological Guidelines for Education Sector Analysis. Volume 3
Report

Methodological Guidelines for Education Sector Analysis. Volume 3

Based on the feedback received from governments and development partners and in response to emerging education sector trends and changing contexts, this third volume covers the thematic areas of inclusive education for children with disabilities, risk in relation to education system’s resilience, the relevance of which the COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated, effectiveness of the educational administration (institutional capacity), and stakeholder mapping and alignment (political economy).
Link to publication on Mapping of Disability-Inclusive Education Practices in South Asia
Report

Mapping of Disability-Inclusive Education Practices in South Asia

Despite overall progress in education attainment globally, children with disabilities remain one of the most excluded from education. They are less likely to participate in and complete their education compared to their peers without disabilities.
Link to publication on Caregivers’ Guide to Inclusive Education
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Caregivers’ Guide to Inclusive Education

Parents or caregivers of children with disabilities play a crucial role in supporting their child’s learning. This includes navigating the education system and supporting their child’s participation in an inclusive school. They may face various challenges, which have been amplified even more due to the remote learning and other COVID-19 restrictions. This guide for caregivers aims to (1) help them understand their rights and national inclusive education laws; (2) identify challenges and barriers they are facing in supporting their child’s learning needs and (3) find solutions that can help them to overcome these challenges. It is part of a set of resources to support the marginalized caregivers of children with disabilities with inclusive education.
Link to publication on Teachers’ Guide to Supporting Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities
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Teachers’ Guide to Supporting Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities

Teachers play an important role in making sure that all children feel safe, supported and included at school. Marginalized caregivers of children with disabilities face various challenges in navigating newly-emerging inclusive education settings. Teachers can learn about the specific needs of children from their caregivers and help caregivers to identify the best ways and materials to support their child’s learning. This guide for teachers aims supports them to engage with caregivers in (1) identifying their children’s individualized learning needs; (2) identifying the challenges in meeting these needs and (3) identifying solutions in to address these challenges. It is part of a set of resources to support the marginalized caregivers of children with disabilities with inclusive education.
Link to publication on Resources to Support Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities: Guidelines for Implementation
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Resources to Support Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities: Guidelines for Implementation

Support from caregivers is critical for children’s learning both at home and at school. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption of education systems globally created additional expectations for parents to support their children’s learning at home. This particularly affected the most marginalized children as the crises exacerbated already existing inequalities in education. This document introduces the approach and purpose of a set of resources to support the marginalized caregivers of children with disabilities with inclusive education. It presents lessons learned from proof-of-concept pilots in Armenia and Uzbekistan, followed by step-by-step guidelines on how to adopt and adapt the resources for education ministries and others who want to implement them in their education system.
Link to publication on School Guide to Supporting Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities
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School Guide to Supporting Marginalized Caregivers of Children with Disabilities

Inclusion is most effective when schools create a culture that celebrates diversity and builds on the strengths of each student. Family engagement may look different from school to school, and it is important for schools to support families in a variety of ways, not just relying on one method. This guide aims to help schools to (1) identify specific needs faced by marginalized families of children with disabilities; (2) identify challenges they face to meeting these needs and (3) identify solutions in the form of resources that address these challenges. It is part of a set of resources to support the marginalized caregivers of children with disabilities with inclusive education.
Girl touches the hands of her caregiver

DATA


Data on children with disabilities is at the core of research about them, for them, with them. Without data we can never know the scale or nature of issues. With data we have the power to understand, to act, to improve, to include, to build a foundation of knowing what works for children with disabilities. 

UNICEF is in the inception stage of establishing a dedicated Centre of Excellence on Data for Children with Disabilities to enhance the ability of stakeholders to make timely and data-driven decisions affecting children with disabilities. 

Compared to children without disabilities, children with disabilities are: 57% less likely to have children’s books in their households, 32% less likely to read books
or be read to at home.

 

Link to publication on Seen, Counted, Included: Using data to shed light on the well-being of children with disabilities
Publication

Seen, Counted, Included: Using data to shed light on the well-being of children with disabilities

Millions of children with disabilities around the globe continue to be left behind, despite the near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the call for action embedded in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the clear mandate set by the Sustainable Development Goals.
Link to publication on Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19
Report

Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines in 2020, there was predictable disruption in the provision of both mainstream and disability-specific services for children with disabilities. This report presents findings from an online survey that looks into the situation of these children and their families at the height of quarantine restrictions. It also proposes key recommendations to ensure that their rights are upheld during the pandemic.
Link to publication on Guidance: Including children with disabilities in humanitarian action
Publication

Guidance: Including children with disabilities in humanitarian action

The purpose of this guidance is to strengthen the inclusion of children and women with disabilities, and their families, in emergency preparedness, response and early recovery, and recovery and reconstruction.
Link to publication on The State of the World’s Children 2013. Children with disabilities: From exclusion to inclusion.
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The State of the World’s Children 2013. Children with disabilities: From exclusion to inclusion.

Children with disabilities and their communities both benefit if society focuses on what those children can achieve, rather than what they cannot. The girls and boys to whom this edition of The State of the World’s Children is dedicated are not problems. Given opportunities to flourish as others might, children with disabilities have the potential to lead fulfilling lives and to contribute to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities – as the personal essays in this volume attest.
Link to publication on Children and Young People with Disabilities Fact Sheet
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Children and Young People with Disabilities Fact Sheet

This Fact Sheet on children with disabilities provides a global snapshot of the key issues affecting the lives of children with disabilities and an overview of evidence currently available.
Link to publication on Pulau 2017 Disability Report
Report

Pulau 2017 Disability Report

An analysis of 2015 Census of Population, Housing and Agriculture.
Syaiful, 12, a child with a physical impairment, is pushed in a wheelchair by his best friend Kevin Saputra, 9, a child with a visual impairment, as they play outside near Syaiful's house in Banyumas, Central Java, Indonesia.

STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION


Children with disabilities experience exclusion in every aspect of their lives because of stigma and discrimination in many forms including stereotyping, low expectations, harassment, isolation, abandonment, and violence. Research plays a key role in identifying, understanding and addressing the complex socio-cultural practices and social norms that influence negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviour needed to tackle stigma and discrimination. 

 

Link to publication on Baseline Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices Study
Publication

Baseline Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices Study

A C4D Strategy for Early Childhood Development and Children with Developmental Delays and Disabilities for Palestine
Link to publication on Reducing stigma and discrimination against children with disabilities
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Reducing stigma and discrimination against children with disabilities

Children with disabilities face widespread stigma and discrimination based on deeply rooted negative perceptions about disability. These attitudes and beliefs reflect what is known as “ableism”; a value system that discriminates against people with disabilities based on the idea that certain ways of appearance, functioning and behaviour are essential for living a life of value.
A boy on crutches walks towards Hamourieh where an evacuation exit from eastern Ghouta has been opened.

HUMANITARIAN ACTION


There is little evidence about children with disabilities in humanitarian settings, especially on measuring and ensuring barrier removal and inclusive access to humanitarian programmes and services. Humanitarian action accounts for over half of UNICEF’s total annual spend, and it continues to increase. It constitutes an important operational and policy focus for research.  

 

Link to publication on Document Mapping Available Assistance to Children with Disabilities in Yemen
Report

Document Mapping Available Assistance to Children with Disabilities in Yemen

This report serves as key evidence to guide a fit-for-purpose response to the needs of children with disabilities. During a conflict, especially protracted ones such as in Yemen, the number of children with disabilities increases due to conflict related injuries and poor nutrition among others. Infrastructure and basic services on which they depend are destroyed or compromised and their full participation in society is weakened. UNICEF upholds the rights of children with disabilities at the core of its mandate. This reflects the organizational commitments linked to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In Yemen, UNICEF is committed to include and mainstream children with disabilities into all its programming, for inclusive humanitarian and development action.
Link to publication on Children With Disabilities in Situations of Armed Conflict
Report

Children With Disabilities in Situations of Armed Conflict

During armed conflict, children with disabilities are caught in a vicious cycle of violence, social polarization, deteriorating services and deepening poverty. Global estimates suggest there are between 93 million and 150 million children with disabilities under the age of 15.1 Given that disability is often not reported due to stigma there is reason to believe actual prevalence could be much higher. Although efforts to ensure the fulfilment of their rights have improved, girls and boys with disabilities continue to remain among the most marginalized and excluded segment of the population. This is amplified during situations of armed conflict. The barriers to full participation they face on a day-to-day basis are intensified and compounded when infrastructure is destroyed, and services and systems are compromised and made inaccessible. This results in the further exclusion and marginalization of children with disabilities, and prevents them from accessing schooling, health and psychosocial support, or a means of escape from conflict.
Link to publication on Including children with disabilities in humanitarian action
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Including children with disabilities in humanitarian action

Worldwide, one in every 10 children has a disability – and the proportion is even higher in populations affected by armed conflict or disasters. Children and adults with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in any community affected by crisis. Exacerbating this situation, they often are excluded from humanitarian assistance. But while crises put children with disabilities at risk, they can also create opportunities. Damaged buildings and infrastructure can be rebuilt better and more accessible than before. Programmes and services set up to help people deal with and recover from the crisis can be designed to include children with disabilities from the outset. UNICEF has developed guidance to help make sure that children and adolescents with disabilities are included in all stages of humanitarian action – from preparing for emergencies to recovering from them. Including Children with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action consists of six booklets full of practical actions and tips.
A 10-year old girl stands in front of school benches, next to a destroyed school in Lazil, Haiti, after the earthquake on 14 August 2021.

EVIDENCE GAPS


Robust knowledge of evidence gaps is critical for identifying and prioritizing research needs, and provides a cornerstone to UNICEF’s research agenda on children with disabilities. Our evidence and gap maps (EGMs) provide a comprehensive database of peer-reviewed and grey literature on the theme of inclusion and rights of children with disabilities.

Link to publication on Effectiveness of Inclusive Interventions for Children with Disabilities in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Protocol for an evidence and gap map
Publication

Effectiveness of Inclusive Interventions for Children with Disabilities in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Protocol for an evidence and gap map

Of the nearly 1 billion people with a disability, 80% live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and 240 million are children. Children with disabilities remain one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in society. This protocol to the Evidence and Gap Map on the Effectiveness of Inclusive Interventions for Children with Disabilities Living in LMICs aims to identify the available evidence on inclusive interventions to improve access to health, education and social services for these children, and enable them to participate fully in society by addressing discrimination, improving living conditions, incorporating mainstreaming approaches and promoting empowerment. It highlights gaps in the evidence to prioritize future research and evaluation agendas; identifies contextual factors related to various populations and settings; and provides a database of peer-reviewed and grey literature in this area.