Approximately six-hundred and fifty million people around the world live with some form of disability – including both physical and cognitive – with a high percentage of these individuals living in developing countries. This also includes the continuing rise in the number of elderly people living in society today.
This accounts for around 10 per cent of the world’s total population.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide a unique means to expand access to key public services as well as greater progress towards digital inclusion for all people.
Throughout the world, persons living with some form of disability are already benefiting from the advantages that ICT-enabled applications provide.
However, much more needs to be done.
To achieve ITU’s mandate – to connect the world – a truly inclusive information society, where everyone is able to use and benefit from ICTs, must be encouraged at a both a national and international policy level.
This mandate is also fully in line with Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which promotes the use of ICTs to enable everyone to participate fully in society, on an equal basis with others.
It is in this context that a new Article covering the issue of ICT accessibility is currently being discussed and reviewed at the #WCIT12 and is on track to formal inclusion in the next edition of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) treaty currently under revision in Dubai.
Article 8B added to the ITRs at the conference currently states that “Member States are encouraged to promote access for persons with disabilities to international telecommunication services taking into account relevant ITU-T Recommendations“.
As Phosa Mashangoane, who is General Manager of Consumer Affairs with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa said – when he spoke so passionately from the floor – “this is for all of us, not just for those who are disabled, but for those of us who will surely experience age-related disability; it is a chance to safeguard all our futures while also supporting those living with disabilities”.
Ensuring the accessibility of ICTs is not just limited to addressing the needs of people with disabilities. Instead, it is a responsibility that the entire ICT sector needs to consider comprehensively. The ultimate goal is to make sure those products, services and facilities are usable by every individual in our global community.
Article 8B and the new Resolution agreed to at WCIT-12 will provide the solid foundation to achieve this goal and demonstrates that full digital inclusion is a real possibility.
Visit www.itu.int/accessibility to find out more and get involved in ITU´s activities in the area of ICT accessibility.
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