The estimated 1 billion people worldwide who live with disabilities are still denied equitable access to education, information, health care, job opportunities and civil engagement as technological solutions and their benefits are not fully explored. As a result persons with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, according to a report just published by the ITU, UNESCO and other partners: “The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework.”
The report was produced with collaborative input from the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT), the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UNESCO, Microsoft, and the Telecentre.org Foundation.
As the international community prepares to adopt new development goals to address global poverty, ahead of the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is worth noting that the report can signals that the current MDGs failed to address the needs of persons with disabilities.
In spite of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, disability remains largely sidelined in most mainstream development processes. The High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development (HLMDD) of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, taking place in New York, provides a historic opportunity to “support dignity, rights and well-being as essential conditions for equality and justice of persons with disabilities. Disability is a development issue that we must address to achieve all internationally-agreed goals,” states Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.
“The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework” contributes to a better understanding of the extent to which ICTs enable and accelerate the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities. It lists challenges that are still to be addressed while outlining concrete actions to be undertaken by each group of stakeholders and a set of indicators to help measure progress towards the achievement of a disability-inclusive development agenda.
The content is based on the information gathered during a global consultation on ICT, Disability and Development. The consultation gathered over 150 expert inputs from relevant organizations and key individuals from over 55 countries and representing multiple categories of stakeholders, including governments, academic institutions, organizations of persons with disabilities, civil society organizations, and the private sector, as well as regional and international organizations.
The report highlights that
· When ICT are available, affordable and accessible, they significantly improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society, particularly Web services, mobile devices and services, and television.
· Regarding the challenges to overcome, some barriers are universal while others affect specific areas of development such as cost, accessibility of and access to ICT.
· Overcoming these barriers requires the collaboration of stakeholders in every sector, as well as concrete actions by each group of stakeholders while relevant indicators to monitor progress need to be developed.
Governments need to play a key role in stimulating the introduction of ICT-enabled solutions adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, increasing the availability of accessible ICTs and promoting the affordability of assistive technologies in social and educational programmes, business, and other areas.
The UN system and other international organizations should continue implementing operational activities to meet disability-inclusive development goals, complemented by the monitoring and evaluation of development efforts at the global, regional and national levels.
Private sector organizations need to contribute by increasing research and development efforts, incorporating universal design principles at the earliest stage possible and recruit persons with disabilities in product development departments to develop accessible ICT. The private sector can further remove attitudinal barriers towards hiring persons with disabilities and promote accessible workplaces. Through these contributions, employers help create societies where persons with disabilities can lead productive and independent lives.
Civil society organizations have a key role in raising policymakers’ awareness of the remaining accessibility barriers, and should become more active in the work conducted by international standards organizations. Furthermore, they can bring about social progress and economic growth awareness-raising and capacity-building among persons with disabilities and their relatives regarding the use ICT to facilitate their own economic and social inclusion. Finally, advocating for the mainstreaming of the use of the universal design principle in all development efforts is crucial to ensure that the international development framework is disability-inclusive.
International standards organizations can also play a special role in enabling a disability-inclusive development agenda by providing a neutral platform from which to develop and harmonize international standards and provide recommendations related to accessible ICT and their applications.
The report is released during the High-Level side-event to the HLMDD “The UN delivering as one in enabling a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”, taking place today, from 1.15 to 2.30 pm at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
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