June 25, 2020
More than 93 million children globally have a disability, and at least 90 percent of those residing in countries with high poverty levels do not attend school. Each time we exclude them from education opportunities or resources, we lose the impact they could have on their communities and our world.
That’s why All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) launched the UnrestrICTed Challenge, a global competition calling on local and global solvers to collaborate to ensure the best Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions reach children with disabilities in low-resource contexts.
“The quality of learning and of the social and emotional development that children with disabilities acquire in school depends heavily on how teachers, principals and others design environments to enable accessibility,” said Kerin Ord, global sector education lead at World Vision, an ACR GCD partner. “Without equitable policies, trained teachers, informed and engaged parents, and invested stakeholders, the educational and social development of children with disabilities is often interrupted or worse, unaddressed.”
Children with disabilities remain among the most marginalized in access to education, a challenge further compounded by poverty, inaccessible environments, social isolation, and conflict and crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic. As the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls for inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030, more must be done—and quickly—to ensure learning environments are designed to be accessible with appropriate tools and resources for children with disabilities to realize their full potential.
“The UnrestrICTed Challenge, with its focus on scalable ICT solutions to support learning for children with disabilities, is timely,” said Rosemary McKay, A/g Assistant Secretary at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, an ACR GCD partner. “Amidst this COVID-19 crisis, all children should have access to learning opportunities.”
The UnrestrICTed Challenge calls for scalable solutions that are proven to improve literacy for children with disabilities and can be scaled and tested in low-resource contexts. Solutions also must be grounded in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is based on the premise that there is great variability in how children learn, and that barriers to learning are in the design of the environment, not in children.
UDL supports several modalities for inclusive education, including sign language video captions and glossaries for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as text to speech, audio narration, keyboard navigation, and braille-ready formats for students with print disabilities. It also supports alternative layouts and texts for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
ACR GCD will prioritize submissions for the UnrestrICTed Challenge that focus on Nepal, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, and Rwanda. Other eligible contexts include Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Malawi, and the Philippines. Solutions that have already been implemented in these contexts are preferred, but solvers may also propose solutions that were tested in similar contexts that can be successfully transitioned to scale.
The UnrestrICTed Challenge will progress through four stages, beginning with an expression of interest where solvers can register to contribute their scalable, evidence-based UDL solution that improves the language and literacy skills of children with disabilities. Technical or contextual experts—including local Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs), and other organizations of the eligible countries—are also encouraged to register to contribute their expertise to the co-design process during stage 2 of the challenge.
The co-design process will bring together selected solvers and technical and contextual experts for virtual workshops to develop concept papers detailing the context-specific approach, pathway to scale, and evaluation requirements. Concept papers will be judged by a committee at stage 3. Awards of up to $1 million will be issued to solvers with winning concept papers at the final stage of the competition.
Together, let’s ensure the best ICT solutions reach children with disabilities around the world.
Join the UnrestrICTed Challenge!