- October 25, 2023


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes the importance of assistive technology to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and fully participate in society. The CRPD has defined the obligations of States Parties to promote the use, research, development, production, and distribution of assistive technology, making it affordable and widely available for persons with disabilities. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) is building on this jurisprudence by issuing concluding observations with concrete recommendations for States Parties to take measures for ensuring access to assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. The Committee has undertaken more than 100 State reviews throughout the course of its 28 sessions (as of July 2023) and made recommendations involving assistive technologies in its concluding observations. This article analyzes these concluding observations, focusing on assistive technology-related recommendations for Global South countries.

CRPD Jurisprudence on assistive technology: 

States parties have several obligations with regard to assistive technologies under the CRPD under Article 4, including undertaking and promotion of research and development of or new technologies, incorporating information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies that are suitable for persons with disabilities. It also prioritizes technologies at an affordable cost. States are also to provide accessible information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices, and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities. This obligation is further elaborated in other Articles of the Convention, which may explain why the CRPD Committee has not focused observations around assistive technology related to this Article.  

Article 20 speaks about facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable costs. This includes providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities. The Article also requires States to encourage entities that produce mobility aids, devices, and assistive technologies to consider all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.  

Concluding observations under this Article highlight barriers to access, particularly in countries with limited resources. The Committee recommended eliminating barriers and establishing an enabling environment for acquiring affordable and quality assistive devices and technologies (Bangladesh, para 20). It urged States parties to ensure the availability, distribution, and affordability of assistive technologies including appropriate information and training on how to use and maintain them, including through promoting local repairs (Nepal, para 32; Myanmar, para 40) and establishing targets to provide universal access to appropriate orthopaedic, technological and other assistive devices (Philippines, para 37). States were advised to eliminate restrictions, providing government and tax subsidies, and waiving taxes and customs charges (Japan, para 44; Mongolia, para 33). The Committee has also encouraged States to develop local industries to manufacture assistive devices. In African countries, the Committee’s focus was on measures to remove barriers to the use of assistive technology, such as lack of awareness, training, and funding, including partnerships with local, national and international partners to ensure the affordability of necessary mobility aids, assistive devices and technologies for persons with disabilities, especially in rural areas (Djibouti, para 36; Senegal, para 36). The Committee recommended Latin American countries (El Salvador, para 41; Paraguay, para 52; Argentina, para 40; Peru, para 41) to ensure that assistive technology is available at affordable prices. Importantly, the Committee has made several recommendations focused on the importance of consultation: programs on mobility, assistive devices and production facilities should be designed in close collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities (India, para 43; Ethiopia, para 58; Angola, para 34; Niger, para 34; Moldova, para 39 and Bangladesh, para 42).  

Article 24 obligates states to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to inclusive education systems at all levels, including the provision of necessary support, such as assistive technologies, to facilitate their effective education.  

In the context of inclusive education, the emphasis has been on the provision and availability of augmentative and alternative communication (India, para 51), inclusive digital access, and modes and means of communication including Easy Read, communication aids, and assistive and information technology and providing students with disabilities with assistive compensatory aids (Laos, para 45; Republic of Korea, para 50; Angola, para 40). Recommendations also included about establishing disability service units in schools to facilitate the provision of inclusive digital access, communication aids, and assistive and information technology (Indonesia, para 53) and increase data collection on information and communications technologies, to inform inclusive education policies (Albania, para 40). The Committee has also recommended undertaking measures, including by encouraging public private partnerships to ensure the provision of assistive technologies in education (Kenya, para 44) 

Article 26 imposes responsibilities upon States Parties to promote the availability, knowledge and use of assistive devices and technologies designed for persons with disabilities, as they relate to habilitation and rehabilitation. States have received recommendations enhance procurement policies for a wider supply of assistive devices (Philippines, para 45) and to expand provision of assistive devices and technical aids taking into account the priority assistive products list of the World Health Organization (Kuwait, para 51). States have also received recommendations to bring health related assistive devices under health insurance schemes (Rwanda, para 48).  

In relation to adequate standard of living and social protection, Article 28 mandates State Parties ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to appropriate and affordable services, devices, and other assistance for disability-related needs. Article 29 imposes responsibilities upon the States to facilitate the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate to ensure the right to participate in political and public life.  

In terms of international cooperation under Article 32 the Convention emphasizes providing, as appropriate, technical, and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies. Despite specific references to assistive technology within these Articles, concluding observations and recommendations under these Articles do not refer to barriers in accessing assistive technology. 

In contrast, the Committee made a significant number of recommendations relating to assistive technologies under Article 9 related to accessibility, Article 19 on living independently and being included in the community, Article 21 related to freedom of expression and opinion and access to information and Article 27 related to work and employment even though these Articles do not explicitly mention assistive technologies. However, access to assistive technology is clearly an important precondition to the enjoyment of these rights. On Accessibility, the Committee recommended to strengthen measures, including public procurement to grant access by persons with disabilities to information and communications technologies, including by the provision of low-cost software and assistive devices for all persons with disabilities, including those living in rural areas for (Nepal, para 18 and Uganda, para 16). Under Article 19, Bangladesh, para 40; Sudan, para 40; Uganda, para 39 and Morocco, para 39 received assistive technology-related recommendations, focusing on legal, political and budgetary measures for assistive technology. Noting the importance of assistive technology to the right to express and access information, the Committee highlighted the importance to ensure assistive technology for children (Indonesia, para 49), and the importance of low cost software and assistive technologies even in rural areas (Iraq, para 40; Iran, para 43, Kenya, para 40 and Türkiye, para 45).  

Focus on underrepresented groups: 

CRPD Committee jurisprudence has highlighted the situation of underrepresented groups of persons with disabilities in general. However, there is limited explicit attention to assistive technology concerns for underrepresented groups. Concerned for persons with disabilities from indigenous communities, the Committee made recommendations where inequalities in access to necessary assistive technologies disproportionately harm Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities (Australia, para 40). The Committee has expressed concern for barriers experienced by women and children with disabilities, in obtaining, using and maintaining mobility aids, assistive devices and assistive technologies and services (Bangladesh, para 41; Latvia, para 32). Barriers experienced by underrepresented groups including older persons with disabilities, persons with deafblindness and persons with developmental and cognitive impairments have not yet featured in Concluding Observations.  


According to the global report on assistive technology, one in three people or more than 2.5 billion globally need at least one assistive product. Between 3% to 90% of people reported they had access to assistive products, with this range impacted by each country’s socioeconomic development. When compared to the gaps in accessing assistive technologies, CRPD Committee jurisprudence may therefore seem limited. A question that arises is how the OPD movement is prioritizing the reporting of barriers related to accessing assistive technology during the whole process of country review (alternative report, pre-session, framing of and replies to list of issues, private briefing, and constructive dialogue). It is true that in a situation of competing priorities, AT may not emerge as a priority area around reporting for OPDs more concerned with other aspects of CRPD implementation, especially when societal barriers still remain which create multiple barriers to participation. 

We recommend that OPDs should report on the availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability, and quality of assistive technology services under relevant CRPD Articles, including those which may not explicitly include assistive technology. Access to assistive technology is an key component of any disability inclusive policies, as has been observed in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.  OPDs must support the building of CRPD Committee jurisprudence on the issue by focusing on meaningful consultation of organizations of persons with disabilities in all aspects related to assistive technology, including related to international cooperation and technology transfers under Article 32, with specific attention to the inclusion of underrepresentation groups in accessing these services. At the same time, OPDs should continue to advocate for the implementation of the Global Report on AT and leverage global advocacy including Human Rights Council resolutions which includes the recognition of AT. 

This article is drafted based on the research findings of IDA-GDI Hub Assistive Technology User Fellows. The fellows examined 100 concluding observations made by the CRPD Committee and extracted assistive technology related recommendations to see how the Committee is contributing to the evolution of assistive technology jurisprudence in the Global South. The findings presented in this article reflects the thoughts and insights of AT user Fellows and may not reflect the position of International Disability Alliance.