When COVID-19 burst into the lives of people around the globe, it brought many changes and led to the enforcement of various measures to control and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. As a result of the restrictions on movement, the closure of institutions and interruption to basic social services, and the need for physical distancing, children and adolescents face new challenges related to their comprehensive health care, development, well-being and education. These challenges particularly affect those children and adolescents who are excluded from society because of socio-economic circumstances, disability or migratory situation, or because they belong to an indigenous community or live in a rural area.
Furthermore, among these population groups, the pandemic context has most affected children and adolescents with disabilities and their families, who are facing increased isolation, vulnerability and stress. We identified the need to support these young people and families and explore new ways of reaching out to them in this time of COVID-19. Our aim was to encourage mutual help to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on this population group, which is so often exposed to numerous restrictions, segregation and exclusion, even in normal circumstances.
To respond to this situation, UNICEF designed A House with Many Windows, an initiative that includes a series of inclusive virtual meetings to provide containment and help strengthen support networks for children and adolescents with disabilities and their families. Existing digital communication networks and platforms were used for these recreational meetings. Accessible formats based on universal design were used for activity instructions and materials shared with meeting participants to ensure inclusion for all.