STS: Assistive Technology and Children’s Rights

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, established the rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities. The CRPD is a benchmark document recognizing that persons with disabilities are persons with rights, able to make decisions about their own lives (even if requiring support to do so) and are active members of the society. CPRD Article 7 obliges States Parties to take all necessary measures to ensure that children with disabilities can enjoy the same human rights as any other child. This means that all of the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also apply to children with disabilities.

For many children with disabilities, enjoying the rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the CRPD and CRC is only possible through the use of Assistive Technology (AT). For example, enjoyment of the right to play (CRPD Article 30, CRC Article 31) may require using a wheelchair to move within an accessible playground, with adapted equipment and a modified sand tool that enables playing with the sand while using the wheelchair. In order to exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 12), an augmentative and alternative communication device incorporating the necessary vocabulary may be needed. From this perspective, Assistive Technology is a rights enabler.

The CRPD recognizes the importance of AT. Indeed, it sets forth a general obligation of signatories to undertake research, development and promote the availability of Assistive Technologies (Article 4). It also refers to the Assistive Technologies that may be required to ensure/realise the enjoyment of the enshrined rights in several of its articles. It may thus be argued that the CRPD also establishes the right to AT.

Typically, the route by which these AT rights enablers are acquired by children who need them is through the AT service delivery system. This system must also respect children’s rights. For example, when assessing children for AT, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 3) and children should be given the opportunity (and the means) to express their views freely (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 12). A child-centred AT service delivery process should thus be followed.

In the Special Thematic Session on “Assistive Technology and Children’s Rights”, we welcome presentations addressing the different links between AT and children’s rights. Topics include, but are not limited to,

  • Research and development of AT that may enable children’s rights;
  • Children’s rights and ethical issues in AT service delivery;
  • Child-centred co-design of Assistive Technologies;
  • Innovative ideas on how to include children’s voices in all phases of AT service delivery (assessment, fitting, follow-up and outcomes evaluation);
  • AT personnel training to empower and enable children with disabilities;
  • Children’s perspectives on AT – their experiences, preferences and aspirations;
  • Case studies that provide examples of AT enabling children’s rights.


  • Pedro Encarnação, Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal
  • Albert Cook, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Angharad Beckett, Centre for Disability Studies and School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK

Information: sts02 at aaate2023 dot eu