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Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology, Inclusive Design

Innovation Spotlight: Creating universal access to safe and appropriate sanitation, through innovating accessible toilets for people with disability.

An African male in a blue shirt smiling at the camera

Harrison Kamau

Communications and Engagement Executive

This blog is part of our weekly #InnovationSpotlight - exploring the stories of ventures within our GDI Hub Accelerate portfolio. Here we meet Sylvia, who completed our Kenyan Based Innovate Now Accelerator.

"Talking about going to the toilet almost seems like a taboo in many African societies." We talk about it in hushed tones, and this is something that we should speak about freely."

Sylvia Nyaga.

Sylvia Nyaga
Sylvia Nyaga

Sylvia remembers living with her grandfather, who was a person with mobility challenges. As a young child, she did not understand what it meant for him not to have assistive technology that would help him around the house. She later learned that the lack of assistive technology was hard on him, and he often had to use a bucket as a toilet, since he could not use the regular toilets. With this newly found knowledge, she set to work on a design that could be used by people with mobility challenges. This was the beginning of Syna consultancy.

Syna Consultancy is a social enterprise committed to delivering fair and inclusive sanitation solutions. While their mandate has transformed over the years, their major objective is to ensure universal access to safe and appropriate water and sanitation, with special emphasis paid to the needs of underprivileged communities.

One of their best-selling products is the UTULAV toilet, an idea that was born following a chat between the Syna team and the parents of a disabled child. Hearing of the challenges with existing infrastructure, the team began to develop a solution that would help countless families facing similar challenges every day.

“My child has a reason to smile. We used cans before, but now we have a reason to smile. "

Everlyne Syombua.

The UTULAV toilet
The UTULAV toilet

The Utulav toilet support frame includes wheels for mobility. This compact form is easily disassembled and light, allowing for easy carrying and movement. This toilet includes a simple waste disposal system that can be used safely and hygienically, reducing interaction with waste, and promoting hygienic practices. It also has an airtight valve to ensure that no odours are emitted from the waste. The design has been developed for effectiveness within informal settlements, where space is a premium.

Veronica Nyabonyi says that she used to sit on the floor of a pit latrine. This caused her a lot of health issues, but she is now happy that she has better health thanks to using the UTULAV toilet.

Sylvia Nyaga is pleased that, as a participant in the Innovate Now accelerator program, she has had the opportunity to communicate with others who share her passion for developing innovative solutions for people with disabilities in the area of assistive technology. Moving forward, Sylvia would like to scale her innovation and have it accessible to more people with disabilities across the globe.

About Innovate Now

Innovate Now was launched in 2019 as part of the £40 million, UK Aid funded, AT2030 program, led by Global Disability Innovation Hub. "Implemented through a consortium of partners including Amref Health Africa (lead implementing partner 2019-2021) and Kilimanjaro Blind Trust (Live Labs implementing partner and new lead implementing partner)." (“Innovate Now, Africa's first Assistive Technology accelerator reignited .”) Today’s Innovation Now is a partnership between the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), ICT Norway and Norad, bringing a new wave of momentum in the African innovation space.