Creating a disability inclusive response to development challenges such as COVID-19 requires the use of digital solutions that are accessible to all. That’s why the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) chose to focus its network meeting on April 20th on: Digital Solutions for Disability Inclusion.

Three speakers highlighted three inspiring examples of how digital technology can support greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. While the RehApp and AKTIBU app aim to improve the quality and availability of community based rehabilitation services, Hable One aims to make smartphones accessible to all.   

RehApp – a tool for community based rehabilitation workers

The first speaker, Léa Guignard, Programme Development Officer at Enablement, introduced the RehApp, a mobile app for community based rehabilitation workers which is developed by Enablement and over 70 disability experts. Enablement is a Dutch non-profit specialised in Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and Disability Inclusive Development (DID) that works with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The RehApp is specifically designed and freely available for fieldworkers in low- and middle-income countries to offer effective rehabilitation services to people with disabilities within the community: assess their abilities and inabilities, design rehabilitation interventions, provide care and support and refer appropriately. It can be used without internet access in any setting once it is downloaded.

Léa explained how the RehApp consists of different chapters which are designed according to the WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The RehApp offers fieldworkers basic information on possible causes, signs and symptoms related to a specific impairment and provides practical intervention options at personal, relational and societal level. The RehApp ensures that fieldworkers always have relevant and practical information at hand.

So far, it is available in English. Over the next three to five years Enablement plans to add 15 new chapters, create a dedicated website and make the app available in Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, French, Khmer, Nepali, Portuguese, Tajik, and Vietnamese.

For more information, please visit the RehApp webpage.

AKTIBU – enhancing access to rehabilitation services through a digital solution

The second digital solution was presented by Inge Groenewegen, CBR Adviser, and Willie Houben, Organisational Development Adviser from the Liliane Fonds. They spoke about enhancing access to rehabilitation services through people-centered app-based screening and telerehabilitation. Many health facilities in the Philippines have limited capacity for providing rehabilitation services. The restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic made access to health services even harder and thus increased the need of teleconsultation services and referral for medical services, provision of telemedicine and telerehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities.

Currently, their partner organisation NORFIL in the Philippines, with support from the Liliane Foundation, is developing the AKTIBUapp, a screening tool for families and caretakers of children with disabilities. Apart from this app-based screening program, it offers a password-protected assessment tool and telerehabilitation function for local healthcare workers and rehabilitation professionals. There is a collaboration with local government units for screening, referral and other primary care services and local partner organisations of NORFIL support the implementation of Community Based Rehabilitation. Also, they have a partnership with service providers in target sites for the delivery of rehabilitation services and assistive devices.

Since the app is still being developed, Inge and Willie took the opportunity to have a dialogue with the audience about possible challenges they might face when implementing rehabilitation services through technology. Watch this video by Morick Mauricio from NORFIL for a further introduction on the AKTIBU app.

Hable One – making smartphones and tablets accessible to everyone

The final speaker of the day was Ayushman Talwar, co-founder of Hable, which mission it is to make mobile technology accessible for people with a visual impairment. Every person that is blind should have the opportunity to reap the same benefits of the smartphone as anyone else.

Hable is all about empowering people and giving them control over their own lives. They do this by providing assistive technology through Hable One, a smartphone- and tablet assistant which makes it much quicker and easier for people with a visual impairment to navigate their phone. Hable One is designed to assist a smartphone or tablet with a simple and intuitive interface, which can be used as a wireless keyboard or as a remote to control every function in a smartphone.

Ayushman initiated a group discussion and was curious to hear the audience’s response to questions like ‘What are the best ways to make assistive technologies scalable?’. To learn more on Hable One, visit the Hable One webpage and scroll down to watch their video.

Towards the end, while enjoying some delicious homemade drinks and snacks at A Beautiful Mess where the event was hosted, the audience was invited to discuss challenges and possible digital solutions within particular areas such as digital accessibility, online diagnosis, inclusive education and effective networks within health systems.

We look back at a very inspiring and fruitful network meeting and we were very happy to, after over two years of online meetings, see everyone in person again! We are very grateful for the positive energy everyone brought to this network meeting.

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