There are approximately 1 billion people living with some form of disability around the world. This represents 15 per cent of the global population.
It is within this context, that the International Day of People with Disabilities is observed on the 3rd of December every year.
This event aims to raise awareness for the need to equal rights of persons with disabilities and to remove of all types of accessibility barriers that still exist in our society today.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – adopted in 2006 – is the international treaty that defines the global framework of collaboration to build a fully accessible and inclusive global society.
Under this Convention, disability is seen as an evolving concept that results from the interaction between persons with impairments, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
This year’s celebration, which has the theme – Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all – also marks the countdown to the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development to be held in New York on 23 September 2013.
This meeting will seek to strengthen efforts to ensure accessibility for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.
ITU has been actively involved in contributing to the work of the Convention by presenting the contribution that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are already making to include people with disabilities in all aspect of society.
Today, thanks to the use of ICT-enabled applications, persons with disabilities can increasingly participate, communicate, learn and contribute to society in unprecedented ways.
This is the direct result of the excellent and continuous work done by national governments, private companies and universities, individual experts and associations representing persons with disabilities over the last few decades.
However, there are still many barriers that need to be removed, specifically with in the ICT sector.
ITU is already working to ensure that ICTs are fully accessible for persons with disabilities. Concretely, ICT accessibility means that the design of ICT products such as computers, mobile telephony and TV are adapted to the specific challenges faced by persons living with disabilities, so everybody can enjoy services, content and applications by customizing their personal devices to their specific needs.
ITU leads several policy-related efforts to ensure that accessible ICTs are available and affordable for persons with disabilities.
ITU has partnered with the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) to support governments’ implementation of the ICT elements of the CRPD. ITU and G3ict, with the support of Microsoft and other contributors, have developed the e-Accessibility Toolkit for Policy Makers to support ICT regulators and policy makers develop their own e-Accessibility policies.
The ITU-Telecentre.org Women’s Digital Literacy Campaign, which Microsoft also supports, has trained nearly 400,000 women on the use of computers and modern technology to improve their livelihoods.
The campaign also focuses on women with disabilities and provides basic ICT literacy, along with materials that can be used to support engagement in a range of economic activities such as handicrafts, agriculture and tourism.
To commemorate this day, ITU participated in the panel session titled – Digital Accessibility: a new frontier for Disability Rights – which was held at the UN office in Geneva and organized by G3itc and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador based in Geneva.
ITU also raised awareness on the UNITE project that will assist countries to develop ICT accessibility policies on affordable ICT access for daily life, education, employment and health.
Inclusivity and accessibility to ICTs for all in society is a fundamental goal of ITU and forms part of our organizations mandate to connect the world.
For more information on ICTs and accessibility as well as the continued work of ITU in this area, visit www.itu.int/accessibility to download ITU’s latest reports on ICT accessibility.
José María Díaz Batanero is coordinator of intersectoral activites at ITU’s Corporate Strategy Division. An ICT engineer with over 10 years of international experience, his key areas of focus are green ICTs and accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities. José María is a citizen of Spain and a proud father of two girls.