Why Learners with disabilities?

📅 23rd June 2020

We were honoured to be joined by Joshua Josa, head of the USAID’s disability Inclusion portfolio, who framed the challenge for us at the start of the event.

More than 93 million children globally have a disability and that number grows to be more than 300 million if we include the youth population. At least 90% of those living in low resource settings do not attend school. Even for those who do attend school, there is still a massive gap in learning outcomes.

The reasons for this are attributed to a multitude of barriers that amplify one another – lack of transportation, infrastructure, inadequate teacher training and learning supports, lack of quality learning resources and above all else individuals’ negative attitudes and beliefs about persons with disabilities.

Unfortunately, COVID19 and following school closures,  have exacerbated these challenges. Countries are all left with similar questions on how to provide safe, equitable and inclusive access to continuous distance learning opportunities, even as schools remain closed, while also supporting parents and teachers in their new and complicated roles.

Fortunately, with any crisis there comes an opportunity to make a positive change!  This pandemic offers great potential for that profound cultural shift in the education system to happen and for people to embrace the principles of Universal Design for Learning for the benefit of all. If done well, EdTech can be an equalizing and enabling force for equitable and inclusive education.

Who were our pitchers and how are they responding to COVID-19?
The Deaf Reach Programme

Sarah Shaikh

Run by the Family Services Relief Foundation, the Deaf Reach Programme is providing learning support and resources distributed on loaded computers to deaf learners and their families in response to COVID-19.

Catholic Relief Services

Kerri Agee and Kosal Sean

Catholic Relief Services develop toys and games for early learners in Cambodia, with adaptations for children with disabilities designed to improve fine motor skills, social skills and reinforce pre-primary learning. They are working with the Ministry of Education In Cambodia to distribute these games as widely as possible and develop resources to support their use within families whilst schools are not in session.

The video of Catholic Relief Services’ pitch had technical problems.


GraphoGame is a literacy app developed initially for learners with dyslexia. Now it is available in many languages around the world, they want to make sure it is accessible to those affected the most by COVID-19 by translating the app into 3 local languages –  Swahili, Cinyanyi and Afrikaans.

We’d also like to extend our special thanks to our panellists on the day:

Deepti Raja – Disability and Development Specialist @World Bank

Freya Perry – Inclusive Education Portfolio @FCDO

Joshua Josa – Disability Inclusion Portfolio @USAID

And of course, our Action Committee who joined us on the day to offer feedback and support to our pitchers. They include individuals from The World Bank, USAID, Overseas Development Institute, The Global Disability Hub, Access Mantra.

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