- March 11, 2024

National Union of Disability Organizations in Rwanda (NUDOR), African Disability Forum and International Disability Alliance (IDA), in collaboration with ATScale, hosted a workshop titled “In-depth Workshop on Assistive Technology for Rwandan OPDs from 16-18 October 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda that showcased the transformative power of assistive technology for persons with disabilities and provided tools for advocacy to realize its full potential. The workshop was delivered under the project “Boosting AT User Engagement and Knowledge, Globally and Locally” being co-delivered by IDA and ATScale. The workshop aimed to strengthen capacities of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) in assistive technology and to highlight the importance of persons with disabilities participating in design, delivery and policymaking related to assistive technology. 29 people including 12 participants representing seven disability constituencies such as persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with deafblindness attended the workshop from urban and rural areas on Rwanda. Staff members from the IDA Secretariat, persons with disabilities themselves, facilitated the sessions. 

The workshop covered fundamentals of assistive technology, policy framework in line with the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), financing models of AT including social protection schemes and assessment tools to measure access to AT. Participants were engaged in a series of group activities and interactive discussions to depict the Rwandan situation of access to assistive technology and to work out an advocacy action plan for enhancing access to AT for the Rwandan citizens. On the final day, the participants met in exchange with representatives from UNICEF. The exchange meeting created the path for OPDs and UNICEF to work together on assistive technology in Rwandan context.  

The participants identified a number of gaps that accounted for limited access to AT in Rwanda. Major gaps include absence of national policy framework to guarantee access of all persons with disabilities to assistive technology progressively, lack of local production, an unclear supply and distribution chain, lack of awareness, shortage of skilled personnel, high cost, and non-adaptability in rural and sub-urban areas. 

The workshop concluded with a two- to three-year advocacy plan that calls for OPD engagement in policy activities with government agencies, including to establish an independent authority to guarantee AT access Other priorities included advocacy to boost funding under social protection schemes, establishment of a standardization body to ensure product quality, encouraging investors to produce assistive products locally, setting up mechanisms for collecting data, and development of the capacity of OPDs, AT users, AT technicians, and service provider staff. 

Beth Mukarwego Nasiforo, Chairperson of NUDOR, emphasized the significance of the workshop and called for raising awareness among all stakeholders in the AT sector including persons with disabilities about the impact of AT on dignified life, independence, productivity and meaningful participation in Rwandan context. 

The program gave the participants and their organizations more leverage towards informed engagement on AT, which will help to build the AT movement inside Rwanda's national framework. 

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