Power of technology to promote inclusion and accessibility to realize equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shaping sustainable development

UN Enable – United Nations Enable – International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2014

Throughout human history, technology has always impacted the way people live. The Industrial Revolution ushered in a new age of technology that raised the standards of living of people around the world and their access to goods and services.

Today, technology is built in to every facet of daily living. The emergence of information and communications technologies have dramatically increased connectivity between people and their access to information, and further raised living standards.

basketball-672 42ICTs have indeed changed the way people live, work and play. However, not all people benefit from the advances of technology and the higher standards of living. This is mainly because not all people have access to new technologies and not all people can afford them.

Today, there are over 1 billion people living in the world with some form of disability. Around the world, persons with disabilities not only face physical barriers but also social, economic and attitudinal barriers. Furthermore, disability is associated with twenty per cent of global poverty, of which the majority live in developing countries. In spite of being the world’s largest minority group, persons with disabilities and the issue of disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development frameworks and its processes.

Since 1992, the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The observance of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) provides an opportunity to further raise awareness of disability as a cross-cutting development issue.

The theme of this year’s commemoration, “Sustainable Development: The promise of technology” is timely, as it marks the conclusion of the period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) in 2015 and the launching of the new development framework of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The 2014 commemoration of IDPD will work to harness the power of technology to promote inclusion and accessibility to help realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of sustainable development for all!

Three sub-themes chosen will focus on the promise of technology in:

  • Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals
  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Responses
  • Creating Enabling Work Environments

Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) that have been recently proposed to succeed the MDGs, will work to address all three dimensions of sustainable development — environmental, economic and social.

India-wheelchair41-672-46Disability is referenced in various parts of the draft proposal on the SDGs; more specifically in goals related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as in data collection and the monitoring of the SDGs. (http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1618).

All SDG goals concern persons with disabilities. Technology can greatly impact the achievement and outcome of the goals for persons with disabilities, and in reality for people everywhere.

The Day can be used to promote the impact and benefits of assistive technology, accessible information and communications technology, technological adaptations and other policy and programmatic measures to improve the well-being and inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.

Disaster risk reduction and emergency responses

Statistics and evidence show that the mortality rate of persons with disabilities in a populations going through disaster situations is as high as 2 to 4 times, compared to the non-disabled population.

Red Cross response to Hurricane Sandy (Photo New Mobility)

Red Cross response to Hurricane Sandy (Photo New Mobility)

Persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response (including shelters, camps, and food distribution), and recovery efforts. The Day will be used to highlight available technologies to support inclusive disaster risk reduction and emergency response, as well as emphasize the importance of making such technology accessible for all.

Additionally, the potential of innovative and assistive emerging ICT technologies will be explored, such as early-warning, location and navigation applications that could save the lives of persons with disabilities in disaster and emergency situations.

Creating Enabling Work Environments

The right to work is a fundamental human right. However, persons with disabilities are often not considered in employment due to negative perceptions regarding their ability to contribute or the high cost of accommodating their disability or inaccessible workplaces.

rollstuhlfahrer mit bewerbungsunterlagen

Often, employers are unaware of the valuable contribution persons with disabilities can make in a diverse workplace, through the use of adaptive and assistive technologies, and other reasonable accommodation measures.

With the use of the right technologies, persons with disabilities are able to fully perform in their jobs.

When employers undertake measures to identify and eliminate barriers to the employment, advancement and retention of persons with disabilities, they promote a workplace culture based on fair practices that safeguard allow persons with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect and to enjoy equal terms and conditions of employment.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities can be used to draw attention to the available technologies and measures that can be adopted to create work environments that are open, inclusive and accessible to allow persons with disabilities to fully participate and contribute to the workforce.