At the climate change summit in Glasgow, Gabrielle Peters, a disabled policy analyst from Canada warned: “Disabled people won’t survive climate change if it isn’t in the plan for us to do so. And you can’t plan without us.” According to the United Nations, only 20 per cent of persons with disabilities worldwide could evacuate immediately without difficulty in an emergency. This is an ugly truth in Africa where people living with various disabilities do not have access to basic human rights like healthcare, communication, education, safety and employment. As a result, persons with disabilities (PwDs), have higher rates of poverty, lower rates of education and fewer employment opportunities than others. Among those most impacted are persons with visual impairment. Independence, self-sufficiency and confident mobility has long been unattainable for most visually impaired persons across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where 87 per cent of the world’s 285 million affected people live. The same is true in Rwanda. Most of the country’s 57,200 people with visual impairment live on the margins of society. Now, a host of new technologies, from digital to artificial intelligence is becoming available globally to assist PwDs. But most of these technologies are too expensive or not yet available in LMICs, and they may fail to address local cultural and environmental contexts. For example, many smart phone apps to support people who are deaf or blind require high speed internet connections absent in rural areas. It is up to innovators in LMICs to lead the development of innovative solutions through direct engagement with affected communities. One example is a recently released smart white cane (SWC), made and designed in Rwanda.. It signals the emergence of a technology-for-disability sector in Rwanda, which will join other African innovation hotspots in Kenya, South Africa and Egypt. Such innovations are widely needed. Approximately 26.3 million people in Africa are visually impaired. Of these, an estimated 20.4 million have low vision and 5.9 million are blind--about 15.3 percent of the world’s blind population. In Rwanda, a high percentage of persons with visual impairment must either depend on family members or beg for a living. Although secondary education became accessible to blind students in the late 1990s, very few children can attend the country’s single school for the visually impaired. Currently, the number of visually impaired either studying in or graduated from university number no more than 50. Furthermore, according to the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), discrimination towards persons with visual impairment persists, and an unknown number are being hidden, neglected, and discriminated against by their families. But the SWC is now in the hands of 40 members of the RUB, including several who helped to design the high-tech walking stick. It uses ultrasonic ranging to detect obstacles and conveys distance information through vibrations. It has sensors, which can help the user to differentiate day and night. The GPS functionality allows identifying the geographic location of the user. This feature also facilitates to track the smart white cane in case it is lost. It has reflectors that inform other road users that the cane user needs special assistance. While the smart white cane will not solve all problems facing persons with visual impairment, it can provide increased confidence and dignity, independence and mobility, enabling its users to expand their social and economic activities. Like the SWC itself, the process of its development was innovative. The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Rwanda Accelerator Lab partnered with Beno Holdings, a Rwandan technology company, and with the RUB to design the SWC. Members of RUB tested and previewed the SWC at key points in its development. Their insights focused on easy operability, practicality of use on public transport or cars, being light to carry, and being waterproof. They noted the value of both vibration and sound for people that have both hearing and vision impairment. Because moving at night is quite dangerous, they asked for the SWC to be able to differentiate day and night. Rwanda’s SWC joins a small but growing set of adaptive technolies for disability in Africa. Senso, a South African start-up has created a bracelet paired with four sensors that allows persons with hearing impairments to be alerted to specific sounds such as a door opening, a baby crying or a car window breaking. Tech Era in Ghana has developed a platform that allows students with visual impairments to practice past exam questions. It relies on 3G networks and uses text recognition and voicing. In Kenya, Safaricom’s mobile banking service uses Jitambulishe (identify yourself), a voice biometric service that sidesteps the need to type a pin or password. Home-grown innovators in Africa are opening up possibilities for their communities, family members and friends living with varied abilities. In Rwanda, the UNDP Accelerator Lab is helping to lead the way, with an approach of sensing, exploring and testing solutions, led by people closest to the problem. Across the continent, a number of start-ups and NGOs are doing the same. The solutions and the communities they aim to help develop deserve our attention and support. The writer is a Senior Fellow of Aspen New Voices and a Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Rwanda. Twitter: @GomeraM The views expressed in this article are of the writer.