“When we talk of ICT in disability & development, the emphasis should also be on availability and affordability of technology,” Javed Abidi, Chairperson, Disabled People’s International (DPI).
Today, the linkage between disability and development is getting increasingly recognised in light of the growing discourse on the post-2015 development agenda. However, not many are talking about the role of technology and ICT in this whole discourse. Accessibility is a huge concern for the disability rights movement, especially so in the countries of the global South.
DPI had joined hands with G3ict, ITU Sector Member, in their global survey on ICT accessibility and implementation of Article 9 of CRPD across 72 countries that have ratified CRPD. Our recent survey in 2013 shows that only 50% of the surveyed countries have a definition of accessibility which includes ICT and only 25% define, promote and monitor standards. Again, only 12% of the surveyed countries have a systematic mechanism to consult with people with disabilities and their organisations for drafting, implementing and monitoring ICT laws and polices.
Even when one talks of ICT accessibility, more often than not the discourse is limited to the developed nations. The realities of the poverty ridden global South, where 80% of people with disabilities live, are very different. Millions do not have access to computers or Internet or even electricity. Thus, we need to define our discussion with these realities in mind. Mobile penetration in most developing countries is much higher than Internet. We have to talk of disability in telephony.
Another very important aspect of ICT accessibility is that of cost and availability. Softwares or assistive devices crucial for ICT accessibility may be easily available and affordable for a person in the developed countries. But when we talk of people in the global South, these are either not available or if they are, they are not affordable. Not many in these countries can even afford a 50 dollar assistive device.
Technology is a great equalizer but for this to be a reality for the 800 million people with disabilities in the global South, we must ensure that their voices are heard and their realities are given due importance. It is therefore, heartening to note the commitment that ITU is showing towards accessibility. The tremendous reach that ITU has in the sector gives the disability movement hope for the future.
About DPI: Disabled People’s International was established in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, and was the world’s first successful cross-disability endeavour to convert the talk about full and equal participation of persons with disabilities into action. DPI is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada and has a presence in more than 130 countries through its Member National Assemblies (MNAs) spanning across 7 regions: Africa, Arab, Asia-Pacific, CIS, Europe, Latin America and North America & Caribbean.
The MNAs are focused on capacity building, and empowerment of people with disabilities in their countries and over half of them are based in the developing world. DPI’s focus is particularly on those in developing countries who form 80% of the world’s one billion people with disabilities and 20% of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged people.
Javed Abidi is the pioneer of the cross-disability movement in India. He has successfully led several path breaking advocacy initiatives in India, including the drafting and enactment of the Disability Act of 1995, inclusion of disability as a separate category in Census 2001, India’s ratification of CRPD in 2007, and setting up of a separate Department of Disability Affairs. With his election as DPI’s World Chair in October, 2011, Abidi is now also focused on the global disability movement. He strongly believes that the voice of disability should always first focus on the global South where nearly 800 million of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities live. Javed can be contacted at: email@example.com.
This blog post is part of a series of stories linked to the ICT consultation in support of the 2013 High Level Meeting on Disability and Development, organized by ITU, together with other relevant partners in the area of ICT accessibility. Find out more about the consultation at www.itu.int/accessibility