Report: Digital inclusion of persons with disabilities lagging behind

The new report, titled “Model ICT Accessibility Policy Report,” has found that despite the unprecedented growth in mobile and Internet use worldwide, very few nations have acted to ensure that persons with disabilities are part of the technology revolution.

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The report, released in São Paulo, Brazil, was jointly published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict).

The report noted that although many countries have information and communication technology (ICT) laws, policies, and regulations that generally support the principles of universal access to ICT, the needs of the disability community are different and require a deliberate additional focus on ICT accessibility by legislators, policy-makers, and regulators aimed at removing barriers to ICT use.

Bearing in mind the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in using many mainstream ICTs, the report is designed to guide national policy-makers and regulators in creating their own ICT accessibility policy frameworks in consultation with persons with disabilities.

It focuses on different aspects of ICT accessibility, namely amendments to the existing ICT legal framework, public ICT access, mobile communications, television/video programming, government websites, and public procurement of accessible ICTs.

“ITU is working with all stakeholders towards global ICT accessibility and affordability in all countries and regions and by all peoples, including persons with disabilities,” said ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré.

“There is no doubt that ICTs can enable and accelerate access to resources such as education and health care for persons with disabilities leading to their greater social, economic and political inclusion.”

Axel Leblois, president and executive director of G3ict, said ICT accessibility plays an important role in realizing the promises of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The report, which is the result of seven years of cooperation between ITU and G3ict, offers easy to use policy frameworks inspired by existing good practices and available technologies from around the world. It also emphasizes the critical importance of involving relevant stakeholders in developing and monitoring ICT accessibility policies with the active participation of persons with disabilities.”

Leblois added: “It is our hope that the model policies presented in the report will help accelerate the accessibility of essential ICT products and services for citizens of all abilities.”

The Model ICT accessibility policy report is developed for ICT policy-makers, regulators and other stakeholders active in ICT and/or disability issues, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), organizations of persons with disabilities, and parliamentarians.

The report has been prepared pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in line with the ITU and G3ict ICT Accessibility Policy Toolkit for persons with disabilities.

At the last World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC 2014) held in April this year, ITU members reaffirmed, by adopting Resolution 58, the need for accessible ICTs for persons with disabilities through the development of national legal frameworks, laws, regulations, and policies.

Likewise, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Busan, South Korea established the Connect 2020 Agenda which includes four high-level goals: growth, inclusiveness, sustainability and innovation, and partnership.

The goals are accompanied by a set of targets, among which “Enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunications/ICTs for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries by 2020”.

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