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Regional Assessment


 ICT Accessibility Assessment for Europe Region: 
Main Findings & Recommendations

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) carried out a regional review to assess the ICT accessibility for persons with disability in the Europe Region focusing on the countries' commitments in terms of general regulations and policies, implementation, and current state of ICT accessibility across the region. This assessment is an important part of the implementation of the ITU Regional Initiative on “Accessibility, affordability and skills development for all to ensure digital inclusion and sustainable development"

The assessment covered 46 Member States with data collected through questionnaires and desktop research. It is designed to provide ITU members and stakeholders from the European region with a holistic vision regarding the current implementation status on ICT accessibility laws, regulations, policies and strategies. 

Key Findings: ITU Member States’ commitments

The ITU member states agreed to inaugurate ITU Target 2.9 “Enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunications/ICTs for persons with disabilities in all countries”. The following progress has been made by member states:
1. The UNCRPD has been signed by 45 and ratified by 44 countries from ITU Europe region.
2. The UNCRPD Optional Protocol has been signed by 43 and ratified by 29 of the 46 countries.
3. The Marrakesh Treaty has been signed by 20 and ratified by 6 out of the 46 countries.
4. Anti-discrimination and equality law has been adopted by the majority of the countries. However, the definition of disability varies across national legislations and still often stem from the context of social security legislation rather than anti-discrimination law.
5. Sign Language has been recognized by 23 countries of which 3 countries have incorporated it into their national constitutions.
6. Website Accessibility laws or statutory requirements have been adopted in 41 countries, 27 EU Member states have transposed the EU Web Accessibility Directive and the 3 EEA countries and Switzerland are also expected to transpose this directive.
7. Electronic Communication laws or regulations have been adopted by the majority of countries, universal services and access to emergency services have been largely provided through the single European emergency number 112, access to SMS for persons with disability is provided by 22 EU Member States, text/or video relay services for the deaf and hard of hearing are available in 10 countries.
8. Audiovisual Media Services including subtitles have been required and provided in 27 countries, live subtitles in at least 21 countries, audio subtitles in at least 10 countries, audio description in 17 countries, signing in 24 countries, live signing in at least 23 countries, must carry on obligation has been confirmed by half of the member states.
9. Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement of ICT products & services are estimated to be enshrined in law functionality by over 30 countries with non-EU/EEA countries also have reported the application of these requirements in national procurement laws.
10. Accessibility requirements for products and services are estimated to be regulated by one-third of the countries (a lot of room for improvement in this area).
11. Accessibility requirements for ICT accessibility in education are estimated to be in place in more than half of the member states.

Key Findings: ITU Member States’ implementation capacity

Strong commitment on behalf of member states has been found in the following areas:
1. Development, promulgation, enforcement and monitoring of the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of ICT products and services.
2. Facilitating the use of sign languages and Braille in official interactions.
3. ICT Accessibility training for stakeholders.
4. Awareness campaigns on ICT accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities.
The implementation process should be strengthened in the following areas:
1. Promotion of the design, development, production and distribution of accessible ICTs and ICT systems at an early stage.
2. Facilitation and promotion of universal design of ICT products and services for all.
3. Engagement and participation of persons with disabilities and representative Organisations of Persons with Disabilities in the design of accessible and inclusive e-Government services.
4. Employment of qualified staff in sign language and/or Braille and digital accessibility in the education sector.
5. Promotion of the adoption of ICT accessibility in education and including ICT accessibility contents in higher education curricula.
6. Promoting research and development of universally designed ICT products, services and equipment.
7. Promoting the use of emerging technologies (Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Big Data, Cloud Computing) to drive innovation in designing and developing accessible and inclusive ICT products and services.

Key recommendations

1. Establish firm and forward-looking regulatory and strategy frameworks for ICT accessibility.
2. Raise awareness and provide training to all stakeholders on ICT accessibility’s developments, innovations and trends.
3. Engage representative organisations of persons with disabilities in the regulatory and implementation process of ICT accessibility.
4. Develop accessible ICTs, products, information environments and services in accordance with the principles of universal design.
5. Promote the creation of a market for accessible ICTs through mandatory ICT accessibility procurement policies and harmonised standards.
6. Ensure equitable access to education and skills through accessible ICTs.
7. Ensure proper legal and regulatory commitments including effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
8. Provide accessible broadcast television and catch-up or on-demand services with access services (subtitling, audio subtitling, audio description, signing, etc.).
9. Provide affordable and equitable access to electronic communications and emergency services for all. 

The full report of the assessment will be launched at ITU-EC Forum “Accessible Europe: ICTs 4ALL" which outcomes will be used as a key document for Accessible Europe 2021, a regional needs assessment and tool for directing targeted technical assistance to the countries in need, as well as an input document to discussions on ICT Accessibility under the EU Presidencies 2021 and a preparatory process leading towards the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21).

Please be noted the finding is based on data collected in Q4 2020 through questionnaires and desktop research.