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News from the IDA on the ICT Report for Post 2015 MDGs

New action-oriented report from Broadband Commission for Digital Development, G3ICT, IDA, ITU, Microsoft, the Telecentre.org Foundation and UNESCO

“The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework”

Geneva/New York, 24 September, 2013 – A new report demonstrates how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), have become a positive force of transformation and a crucial element of any personal development, empowerment and institutional framework for inclusive development.

While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) represent a concerted effort to address global poverty, there is a striking gap in the current MDGs and their inclusion of persons with disabilities. The estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities are still excluded from equitable access to resources (education, healthcare, etc.) and as a result persons with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of poverty. In spite of the conclusion of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, disability remains largely invisible in most mainstream development processes. The High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development (HLMDD) of the sixty eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, taking place today in New York, provides a historic opportunity to rectify this omission and will discuss the issues that should be reflected in the post-2015 framework for development.

 “The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework” contributes to a better understanding of the extent to which ICTs can 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 measuring progress towards the achievement of a disability-inclusive development agenda.

“We all know the importance and convenience that technology can have in our lives, but for many persons with disabilities, this can have even greater significance,” stated Mr. Yannis Vardakastanis, Chair of the International Disability Alliance, on the occasion of the report’s launch. “It can mean living more independent lives, and being able to access the same information, goods and services that others take for granted.” 

This report is the result of 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), Microsoft, the Telecentre.org Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The content is based on the information gathered during a global consultation on ICT, Disability and Development, carried out from 20 May to 17 June 2013 in support of the preparatory process of the HLMDD. The consultation gathered over 150 expert inputs from relevant organizations and key individuals stemming from over 55 countries and representing multiple categories of stakeholders, including governments, academic institutions, organizations of persons with disabilities, civil society organizations, the private sector and regional and international organizations.

“The report rightly notes that social and economic exclusion can no longer be discussed in merely economic terms, that the main guiding framework is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and that inclusion is a matter of human rights,” stated IDA Chair, Mr. Yannis Vardakastanis. He further stated, “Accessible I.C.T. and assistive technology can be an equalizing and positive factor that can help to guarantee equal access to the same educational, employment and life opportunities that others enjoy. IDA welcomes this report and the initiative of ITU and partners to move the ICT inclusion agenda forward.”

The report highlights that when ICT are available, affordable and accessible, they significantly can improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society. 

 Web services constitute the access technology with the greatest impact in promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all areas of development (e.g. social networking, teleworking, online educational classes, telemedicine). 

 Mobile devices and services constituted the second-most valued ICT during the consultation. In particular, the use of mobile phones is instrumental in allowing the independent living of persons with disabilities (e.g., SMS, captioned telephone, mobile banking services, and emergency services access).

 Television is the third-ranked ICT in the assessment, specifically for its use as a tool to access government services and information (e.g. news broadcast informational and educational programmes).
Regarding the challenges to overcome, some barriers are universal while others affect specific areas of development. 

 The cost of assistive technologies, which is comprised of the cost of the technology as well as the cost of assistive technology assessment, training and support services, is still one of the main barriers that prevents many persons with disabilities to fully access healthcare services, benefit at all educational levels, be competitive on the labour market and live independently. 

 A lack of access to ICT accessibility technologies is a pervasive barrier that is further reinforced by the lack of policies which foster widespread availability of accessible ICT and the lack of effective implementation of the aforementioned policies. 

 Limited availability and use of ICT in general greatly constrains the use of ICT as a solution to tackling development challenges.

Addressing these barriers requires the collaboration of the main stakeholders involved in each sector, as well as concrete actions to be undertaken by each group of stakeholders and relevant indicators to monitor progress.

 Governments can 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, educational, economic and other domains. One priority action is the inclusion of accessibility requirements in procurement policies. In addition, governments can foster a greater awareness of the UN CRPD as a comprehensive and integral instrument which highlights the importance of ICTs and accessibility for the enjoyment of one’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. This entails updating disability legislation to include ICTs in the legal definition of accessibility. Through regular consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities, they can improve the provision and quality of accessible ICT.

 Private sector entities can 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. Another priority action is to address the shortage of IT professionals with ICT accessibility skills (in-house training, industry gatherings and publications). Lastly, the private sector can further remove attitudinal barriers towards hiring persons with disabilities and promote accessible and inclusive workplaces. Through these contributions, employers can greatly contribute to a society where persons with disabilities can participate in work life, and have increased independence.

 Civil society organizations have a key role in raising policymakers’ awareness of the remaining accessibility barriers, becoming more active in the work conducted by international standards organizations. Furthermore, they also have the ability to bring about social progress and economic growth by raising the awareness and building the capacity of persons with disabilities and their relatives in using 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 for ensuring that the international development framework is disability-inclusive. 

 The UN system and other international organizations must implement operational activities to meet disability-inclusive development goals, complemented by the monitoring and evaluation of development efforts at the global, regional and national levels. Also necessary are performance reviews to assess whether development policies, programmes and projects are effective and results-driven. It is imperative to ensure that this analysis is quantitative and supported by consistent data, and that such analysis is designed with the participation of persons with disabilities, in order to make sure that the correct factors are measured. Lastly, the UN must ensure that it keeps implementing awareness-raising activities and mobilization campaigns in order to create a demand for national governmental action.

 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/or harmonize international standards and provide recommendations related to accessible ICT. To achieve this, standards development bodies must facilitate the participation of relevant experts and delegates with disabilities. Furthermore, these organizations can contribute to the promotion of R&D focused on developing specific ICT-enabled solutions for persons with disabilities. International standards organizations must also raise policy makers’ awareness of accessibility barriers to be addressed.

The report was released in tandem with a High-Level side event to the HLMDD, “The UN delivering as one in enabling a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

An Executive Summary of the report’s findings can be found at: www.itu.int/accessibility
Download the full version of the new report at:
www.itu.int/en/action/accessibility/Pages/hlmdd2013.aspx.

For more information on IDA, visit: www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/en
For more information, please contact:
Ellen Walker, ewalker@ida-secretariat.org
International Disability Alliance (IDA)
 
INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY ALLIANCE (IDA)
Member Organizations:
Arab Organization of Disabled People, Disabled People’s International,
Down Syndrome International,
European Disability Forum,
Inclusion International, International Federation of Hard of Hearing People,

Latin American Network of NGO's of Persons with Disabilities and their Families, Pacific Disability Forum,
 World Blind Union, World Federation of the Deaf,

World Federation of the DeafBlind,
World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry