ICTs open new avenues for the empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

April 29, 2013

UNESCO releases its Global Report on “Opening New Avenues for Empowerment: ICTs to Access Information and Knowledge for Persons with Disabilities”, calling for a better understanding of the benefits to society by empowering persons with disabilities to use ICTs.

The new UNESCO Global Report highlights 18 recommendations to all stakeholders – from decision-makers to educators, civil society and industry – on how concretely to advance the rights of people with disabilities to access information and knowledge using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Assistive Technologies (ATs). It is built on the notion of Knowledge Societies which are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory to all members of society, including persons with disabilities.

The report uses as its primary resource regional studies commissioned by UNESCO in five regions (Africa, Arab Region and North Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as Latin America and Caribbean). It introduces additional material and outcomes of the consultative meetings to build an overview and critical understanding of the use of ICTs to access information and knowledge and to inform both policies and practice, with regard to people with disabilities.

The Global Report calls Governments to adopt a holistic approach - the use of ICTs should not be seen as an end goal by itself, but rather as an important means of empowerment of persons with disabilities, and a way to achieve international goals and commitments. The broader view includes regulation and competition, inclusive policies and design of devices, services and applications that are of relevance to persons with disabilities.

The outcomes of the five regional reports show that there are no easy solutions as not all disabilities are equal and the status of implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities varies across and within countries. The report gives a particular emphasis on policy and how it is an enabling practice; a complementary focus gives insight on the ways in which ICTs are enabling tools for innovative practice by the different stakeholders.

Although current and emerging ICTs and ATs are being made more accessible, affordable and relevant to the needs of persons with disabilities, the current global economic crisis is putting significant resource constraints on policy interventions. Furthermore, the number of persons with disabilities is continuing to grow around the world totalling now more than one billion people. It means that 15 per cent of the world’s population are still struggling with integration and access to information, education, health care, as well as a lack of job opportunities. Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO stresses that “this is unacceptable, and UNESCO is taking a stand. To tackle these challenges, UNESCO has led a number of initiatives, … to empower persons with disabilities thanks to information and communication technologies”. For this reason, UNESCO’s report calls to use innovative ICTs and ATs in ways that are cost efficient, and offer productive as well as sustainable outcomes.


HE Mr Miguel Angel Estrella, UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador in his foreword states that “the more totalitarian and repressive societies are, the more restricted access to information and knowledge is, as well as the application of rights to self-expression and opinion. … It is a duty of all authorities to establish an enabling environment and provide services to those who require them, people with disabilities in mind”.
The report is a result of collaborative action among researchers, public and private organizations, governmental bodies and civil society.

Additionally, links to further resources and case studies are introduced. A special section gives an overview of Internet resources that focus on persons with disabilities, communication and information, education and ICTs. The links are organized by categories, such as policies, education, accessibility, tools, capacity-building and research.

It is expected that the report and the proposed recommendations would guide UNESCO and its Member States in developing strategies and policies, in building capacity and creating content, as well as in raising awareness about the importance of addressing disability in a holistic manner.

Web link to UNESCO Global Report: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002197/219767e.pdf

Web link to CI website: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/access-to-knowledge/access-for-people-with-disabilities/

CI website and introduction to the Global Report: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/publications-and-communication-materials/publications/full-list/unesco-global-report-opening-new-avenues-for-empowerment-icts-to-access-information-and-knowledge-for-persons-with-disabilities/