SDG10 | Youth
February 25, 2014

#ZeroCon14 for a world without barriers

By Ingrid Heindorf

More than 400 leading parliamentarian and civil society representatives of the disability rights movement will gather at the third Zero Project Conference, to be held from February 27th to 28th in Vienna.

Under the motto “No one can enjoy a human right to which one does not have access,” the international initiative Zero Project mobilized its worldwide network of more than 1,000 disability experts in spring 2013 to map the state of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to find innovative practice and policy solutions on accessibility.

This year’s outcome is remarkable.  Zero Project experts surveyed the state of implementation of the CRPD in over 130 countries and the findings are published in the Zero Project Report 2014.

The Zero Project’s CPRD survey confirms that highly developed countries dominate in ICT accessibility. However, it appears that ICT accessibility is not only a question of budget, but also of the attitudes and mindsets of decision makers. In addition, the CRPD survey found that the accessibility of emergency early warning systems is severely restrictedAn inspiring Innovative Practice in this field is the easy to understand accessible evacuation manual in DAISY multimedia format for persons with intellectual disabilities from Japan, implemented by ATDO.

Many of the 54 Innovative Practices utilize apps and software.  For example, EMT Madrid in Spain has made public transport more accessible through the use of ICT and Augmented Reality-applications. Some Innovative Practices consist of online e-book libraries, audio books and various types of alternative formats that are at the heart of education and training projects. Other Innovative Practices employ online maps or improve the accessibility of mainstream maps to include the blind and persons with learning difficulties to provide access to the latest and most comprehensive data. For example,, is an online map that indicates whether a location is wheelchair accessible.

Considering policies are excellent tools for promoting social change, the Zero Project researched and selected 15 Innovative Policies. Most of the Innovative Policies focus on universal design.  Norway’s non-discrimination law, for example, promotes a strict application of the universal design. An increasing number of policies are addressing access to information and communication. For example, Qatar enacted a comprehensive eAccessibility policy in 2011 that addresses the key ICTs issues. Since 2011, the first 20 assistive technology solutions for Arabic were introduced, 1,100 people with a disability and 950 professionals were trained, over 60 websites became more accessible and telecoms providers now offer 50% discount on tariffs to persons with disabilities.

In terms of products and services, policy makers have begun to issue accessibility standards and norms. Ireland’s easily applicable Standard SWiFT 9:2012 Universal Design for Energy Suppliersillustrates to managers how to communicate with 1.6 million energy customers. It includes written, face-to-face, telephone and video communication, and electronic and web-based communication. It is the world’s first accessibility standard to be adopted in the energy sector.

However, standards and compliance should be mandated by law. Only a few countries require the application of universal design and establish that inaccessibility is a matter of discrimination. The Innovative Policy from Norway established universal design as an enforceable legal standard. In particular, the obligation to provide universally designed ICTs has been legally enshrined, without any reference to disproportionate burden. To ensure compliance, reviews and inspections should be used.

Yet a large majority of the one billion persons with disabilities live in the Global South and policies for low-income contexts are needed. Countries in the Global South have begun to develop minimum accessibility standards that, as in Uganda, contain context-specific guidance on accessible water wells for example and include provisions on the accessibility of services. In such a context, a strategic approach can make the most of limited resources. For example, the Innovative Policy from Colombia, Plan Vive Digital, creates Internet access for rural populations while implementing specific measures to overcome the digital exclusion of persons with disabilities. By 2014, more than 800 centers will provide tools promoting accessibility and offer 1.2 million people with disabilities opportunities to use ICTs.

Appropriate training for all relevant stakeholders is needed to ensure that professionals can confidently act as experts in matters of accessibility and that standards are properly applied. Innovative Policies from Kuala Lumpur and Berlin require accessibility expertise amongst planners, who are obliged to submit a concept of accessibility. Under the Innovative Policy from Hong Kong/China, 81 appointed Access Coordinators raise staff awareness on accessibility issues within the different policy departments and 3.600 Access Officers give persons with disabilities on-site assistance in each venue. Together, they establish an efficient communication platform between government departments and public venues.

All Zero Project Debates at the forthcoming conference in Vienna are webcast via Live Stream.

More information about ITU´s activities on accessibility is available at

ITU is working with the Zero Project to promote accessibility and will participate in the Vienna Conference where it will present two workshops: “Advancing ICT accessibility through public policy: best practices to leverage ICT accessibility through national policies and regulatory frameworks,” and “How to scale up ICT accessibility: recommendations to replicate and scale up good practices and policies at the national level” on February 28th. The mission of the Zero Project is to work For A World Without Barriers, according to the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Ingrid Heindorf, Human Rights Officer and Coordinator of Geneva Liaison Office, World Future Council (WFC), Switzerland

Ingrid is Human Rights Officer of the World Future Council and the Coordinator of the WFC’s Geneva Liaison Office, from where she coordinates the Zero Project’s policy research and conference organisation. Previously, she worked at the UNESCO Chair for Religious Pluralism and Peace, and collaborated with † Professor Pier Cesare Bori, Chair of Human Rights and Moral Philosophy, both at the University of Bologna. She holds a Master’s Degree (with honours) in International Relations

  • Was this article Helpful ?
  • yes   no
Send this to a friend