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Blog Post 10 December 2021

Helping to address the needs of disabled people in the energy access sector

Last Friday (3 December 2021) was International Day of Disabled People (or International Day of People with Disabilities). The annual event is hosted by the United Nations (UN) to recognise and raise awareness of the diverse experiences of disabled people. This year’s theme was ‘fighting for rights in the post-Covid era’.  

The UN estimates that there are over one billion disabled people worldwide, and over 80% of these people live in developing countries. Disability inclusion is essential to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The global Covid-19 crisis is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion, and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative.  

The energy access sector

As co-Secretariat of the Efficiency for Access Coalition, a global coalition to accelerate energy access through high-performing appliances, Energy Saving Trust has been working to help address the needs of disabled people, who also require energy access. In recent years, the energy access sector has helped to create technologies that cater for disabled people, but it still has a long way to go. In fact,  of the one billion people who require access to assistive technologies, 90% of them lack access.

Here are a few organisations helping to address the needs of disabled people in the energy access sector. 

Global Disability Innovation Hub

The Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub, an organisation spotlighted in an Efficiency for Access report earlier this year, created a set of inclusive design standards that incorporate some of the best practices from the 2012 London Paralympics. The standards focus on some of the key design principles used to create the ‘most accessible Games ever’. Learn more about GDI and their inclusive design principles

Efficiency for Access Design Challenge

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students to help accelerate clean energy access. A team from Makere University, who took part in last year’s competition, designed a solar-powered aquaponic system specifically tailored to disabled people in Uganda. This solar powered solution is not only a more affordable and reliable way of growing fish and vegetables (the main source of income in rural areas in the country), but also designed with disabled people in mind. Learn more about the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge. 

GSMA’s Assistive Technology Programme

Earlier this year, we hosted a webinar exploring how energy access programmes can address the needs of disabled people. During the webinar, Dr Clara Aranda-Jan, insight manager at GSMA, spoke about the GSMA Assistive Tech Programme. GSMA works with the mobile industry and key stakeholders to address the digital inclusion gap of disabled people and identify innovation opportunities for making mobile technologies enablers of assistive technologies. Learn more. 


SolarEar developed the first solar-powered rechargeable hearing aid that includes the option to purchase a solar charger and universal rechargeable batteries. They have been designed for use in off-grid settings in low to middle income countries and are affordable in comparison to models built for use in high income countries. The design also protects the hearing aid from moisture in humid environments, which are common in these countries. Learn more about SolarEar in the Efficiency for Access report

Useful resources

Why not explore these resources and get involved? Head to Efficiency for Access’s Twitter page to learn more about how the energy access sector can address the needs of disabled people. 

Last updated: 9 December 2021