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 Wednesday, October 20, 2010
New Resolution: Accessibility for people with disabilities, including age-related disabilities

A new resolution sets out ways for ITU to mainstream people with disabilities in all its work. Entitled “Telecommunication/information and communication technology accessibility for persons with disabilities, including age-related disabilities”, the resolution recognizes a number of international agreements. These include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires States Parties to adopt appropriate measures to provide access for persons with disabilities - on an equal basis with others - to ICT, emergency services and Internet service; Resolution 70 of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (Johannesburg, 2008), Resolution 58 of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (Hyderabad, 2010); the Tunis Commitment, made at the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 2005), and the Phuket Declaration on Tsunami Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities. 

The World Health Organization estimates that ten per cent of the world's population (more than 650 million people) are people with disabilities. This percentage may increase because of the greater availability of medical treatment, enabling sick or injured people live longer. Increased life expectancy in general means that there are more elderly people with the disabilities that come with age. Also, people may acquire disabilities through accidents, wars and the circumstances of poverty.

ITU is already collaborating with external entities and bodies concerned with this subject, and adopt a comprehensive action plan to extend access to telecommunication/ICT to people with disabilities. The experiences, views and opinions of people with disabilities have to be taken on board when developing and progressing ITU work.

The Secretary-General and Directors of the Bureaux will have to coordinate accessibility-related activities between the ITU-T, ITU-R, ITU-D, and ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are taken into account. Of course, the financial implications of providing access will need to be considered. Within ITU, it may be possible to expand the fellowship programme to enable delegates with disabilities to participate in the work of the Union. Another useful step will be to identify, document and disseminate examples of best practices among ITU Member States and Sector Members.

Member States and Sector Members can help by developing guidelines to enhance the accessibility, compatibility and usability of telecommunication/ICT services, products and terminals. They can also introduce telecommunication/ICT services that are appropriate for people with disabilities, both in terms of technology and cost.

Reports on this matter will be submitted to the ITU Council and to the next Plenipotentiary Conference. A special trust fund has been set up by ITU to support activities relating to this resolution, and Member States and Sector Members are invited to contribute.