Promoting disability-inclusive education through accessible digital textbooks in sub-Saharan Africa

07 June 2024
Webinar screenshot
Credit: UNICEF ESARO

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is celebrated annually in the month of May with the main aim of creating awareness on the need for digital access and inclusion for persons with disabilities. This year, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Office (ESARO) and UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa jointly organized a KIX Africa 19 Hub regional webinar on promoting inclusive education through Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADT). The webinar was held on May 16, 2024 and brought together stakeholders and experts from governments, the KIX network, UN organizations, donor organizations, civil society organizations, and local education groups working in the field of digital technology and inclusive education in Eastern and Southern Africa region. 

With financial support from the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), three countries in the region Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda implemented some years ago a project which focused on promoting inclusive education through the application of Assistive Technologies and the adaptation of accessible digital materials. Notably, the initiative won the Zero Project Award 2024 as it was recognized for its innovation, impact, and scalability for improving learning for children with disabilities. 

During the webinar, the Rwanda Education Board shared progress on the ADT as the government continues to support production of accessible textbooks for use in the schools. UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Region (LACRO) was able to share the journey of ADT in some countries of the region. The webinar also provided an opportunity to share current trends and innovations around ADT, with a particular focus on opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Signvrse, a company that works on producing digital solutions for person with disabilities, shared examples of innovation on AI, including one software that interprets text and speech into lifelike sign language avatars with real-time precision. UNICEF-HQ shared of an initiative on pilot testing of the first AI-generated prototype in Uruguay from June- December 2024. Participants from different countries expressed interest and enthusiasm in joining the piloting of the prototype to ensure that generated resource capture the needs of children with disabilities in the region. 

To view the recording of the webinar, please click here