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Banner Smart Accessibility Awards 2012

European Disability Forum

Persons with disabilities in the Information Society

The Information Society bears significant opportunities to improve the inclusion of persons with disability but simultaneously has the potential of creating new barriers. Information and communication technologies (ICT)  offer new opportunities for everyone but it is more significant for persons with disabilities, as they use technological assistance to accomplish daily tasks and  activities to a greater extent. With technological equipment adapted to the abilities of everyone, disabled end-users would be able to participate and be included in society on an equal basis with others. ICTs are gateways to access education, work, leisure or political and social life. However, if ICTs are not accessible then persons with disabilities face new obstacles and new forms of discrimination.

What is e-accessibility?

By e-accessibility EDF understands access to mainstream ICT products and services by the widest possible number of people, regardless of their age or disability, in accordance with the concept of Design for All/Universal Design.

However, persons with disabilities, a very heterogeneous group, may still need  special services or goods in some cases. It is therefore important to also support the development of assistive technologies as well as ensure compatibility and interoperability between assistive and mainstream technologies.

E-accessibility in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)

The UN CRPD recognizes accessibility as both a general principle and a standalone provision.

Accessibility is presented as a general principle (Article 3).  This is the first time that a human rights treaty includes general principles.  This article is of universal application and should be interpreted for the entire text of the Convention. Not living up to the accessibility requirement under the UN CRPD would be incompatible with the objective and purpose of the Convention. It defeats the purpose and the spirit of the Convention as the other articles depend on accessibility for their implementation.

The overall purpose of Article 9 “Accessibility” is to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. The Convention is very clear on what States Parties should do to fulfill this obligation: they shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to [...] information and communication technologies, services and systems and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. Along with Article 9, Article 21 states the freedom of expression and opinion, which includes the "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas" with appropriate ICT means. Similarly, Article 30  provides that cultural and recreational activities (cultural life, recreation, leisure and sports) should also be accessible on an equal basis with others. This includes the obligation to ensure that TV programmes and services, movies, theatre and other cultural activities are accessible for all users.

Key principles to ensure equal access to ICT right to users with disabilities

  • Design accessible mainstream ICT right from the onset
  • Follow the Design for All/Universal design concept and its principles
  • Deliver usability for an easy use of ICT products and services by all
  • Deliver interoperability between ICT mainstream and assistive technologies
  • Provide affordability of accessible ICT equipment and service, including the price of buying assistive technologies
  • Propose opportunity of choice between several products or services of the same category

Further information

EDF website: www.edf-feph.org

EDF key documents on e-accessibility for persons with disabilities: