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International Workshop “Accessibility and the contribution of International Standards”
Geneva, Switzerland 3 November 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues

Welcome to this World Standard Cooperation workshop “Accessibility and the contribution of International Standards”

As many of you know World Standards Day was dedicated this year to Accessibility.

This was a way to gain greater recognition for the contribution that international standards can play in bringing the benefits of the modern society to the 650 million people globally that are affected by some kind of disability.

WSC is a partnership between my organization, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

This strategic partnership helps us to respond to the demand for international standards as technologies converge and innovation brings new ways to work sustainably, economically, environmentally and socially.

The WSC is keen to increase its dialogue with different stakeholders in this area: governments; industry; regulators; disability organizations; and standards developers. By working together we can raise awareness about the economic and social benefits of international standards.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides us with a global legal and policy framework for and accessibility and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Member States now need to ensure that their national information infrastructure including telephony, emergency services, the Internet and broadcasting are all accessible. Universal Design principles, which make new technologies accessible for persons with disabilities, are now imperative.

This is not a simple task and so it is necessary to share experiences amongst all stakeholders. We hope this workshop will provide such an opportunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Providing accessible ICTs for persons with disabilities is not a ‘fringe issue’. 10% of the world’s population are persons with disabilities, many living in developing countries, plus a growing elderly population, especially in developed countries. Persons with disabilities now have the right to be included in new technological advances. This represents a huge and growing market that industry needs to address, not only on humanitarian grounds, but also because it has a huge and growing commercial potential.

ITU as the lead UN Agency for ICTs has a key role to play in getting this message across.

I am very pleased to announce that at the recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Mexico ITU adopted the first ever Resolution on ICTs and accessibility which endorses and reinforces the actions we have initiated in recent years.

ITU will continue to strive to facilitate the active participation of persons with disabilities in our work, for example by providing captioning and sign language, and wheel chair access etc. And all our new standards have to be checked to ensure they meet accessibility criteria. Many of the new ICT devices to assist persons with disabilities need international standards to ensure interoperability.

Finding solutions to these challenges is not a simple matter. To assist us in providing these solutions ITU has launched a voluntary fund that will also provide fellowships for disabled colleagues to cover the costs they incur in travelling to and participating in our meetings. Please contact me if you are interested in contributing to this fund.

So ITU is very pleased to join our WSC partners in supporting this workshop and similar events and activities around the world. Nothing is more rewarding than to help improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, and build a truly inclusive digital society.

During this workshop we will hear from different stakeholders on the important contribution international standards can play in achieving this objective.

I wish you an informative and enjoyable event.


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Updated : 2010-11-09