Preliminary findings of the third edition of the CRPD Progress Report on ICT Accessibility will be released by G3ict - the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, in cooperation with DPI - Disabled People's International, on the occasion of the General Assembly's High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Underlining the urgency for the United Nations to adopt a post-2015 development agenda inclusive of persons with disabilities, the CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report includes the latest data measuring the degree to which 72 States Parties are implementing the accessibility provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The report, developed jointly by the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) and Disabled People's International (DPI), offers disability advocates, governments, civil society and international organizations benchmarks for country laws, policies, and programs pertaining to accessible and assistive Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Results cover 65 percent of the world population.
While noting some progress in implementing core dispositions of the CRPD, the report documents significant deficits in promoting policies and programs to make essential services accessible to persons with disabilities around the world. For example:
● 50 percent of countries - compared to 31 percent in 2012 - now have a definition of accessibility which includes ICTs or electronic media in their laws or regulations in compliance with the definition of accessibility in CRPD Article 9, but only 25 percent define, promote and monitor accessibility standards for ICTs.● In 2013, about 73 percent of the countries have dispositions to consult persons with disabilities in the development of disability-related policies and programs, but only 12 percent have a systematic mechanism to involve Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) working in the field of ICT accessibility for the drafting, designing, implementation, and evaluation of laws/policies.● Only 31 percent of the countries have government funds allocated to programs in support of ICT accessibility in both 2012 and 2013, indicating a lack of progress,● In 2013, only 31 percent of the countries report that they have public procurement policies promoting ICT accessibility, meaning that a majority of countries continue to buy equipment or services which may be inaccessible to persons with disabilities; and● In relation to the above, only 35.6 percent of countries in 2012 provided services to the general public, including through the Internet, in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities, while 40 percent of countries report providing such services in 2013.
The accessibility of the information infrastructure, a vital area of ICT accessibility with the greatest impact on the largest population of users, is lagging behind ratifying countries' general commitments to the CRPD: More than 80 percent of countries in 2013 report no or minimum levels of implementation of policies or programs promoting accessibility in critical areas such as mobile telephony, web sites, fixed telephony, transportation public address systems, television or Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs).
Javed Abidi, Chairperson of Disabled People's International stated: "Depriving persons with disabilities from equal access to essential ICT-based applications and services violates the core dispositions of Article 9 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and creates an unsustainable economic and social development gap in our digital age."
Table: Accessibility Policies for Specific ICT Technologies, Products and Services by Level of Implementation
|Are there any dispositions among Country laws, regulations and government supported programs promoting digital accessibility, the use of ATs or provisions from reasonable accommodations in the following areas of ICT?||No||Minimum||Partial||Substantial||Full|
|ATM or Kiosks||69%||21%||7%||0%||3%|
|Fixed Line Telephony||65%||14%||13%||6%||1%|
|Public Building Displays||64%||26%||7%||1%||1%|
|Digital Talking Books||64%||17%||14%||3%||1%|
|Transportation Public Address Systems and Services||59%||25%||12%||4%||0%|
A second critical gap, which speaks to the role of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the CRPD, involves the support of DPOs. States Parties' policies are inconsistent with Article 4 (i) 3 of the CRPD and reflect a lack of respect for the participation of persons with disabilities: About 67 percent do not offer financial support for DPOs and NGOs for their work in developing policies and programs. Yet, regression analysis across 72 countries data sets reveals that the participation of persons with disabilities is a common denominator among countries with the most successful ICT accessibility implementations.
A third vital area of information and ICT accessibility related to the CRPD, and which remains low among surveyed countries, involves awareness raising and capacity building for persons with disabilities and key stakeholders. While 53 percent of the countries promote awareness-raising and training programs about the CRPD, a mere 10 percent provide mandatory training programs for future professionals about digital access for persons with disabilities;
This is inconsistent with Article 8 of the Convention and reflects a lack of understanding of the relationship between digital access rights and the capability of countries to engage in capacity building and inclusive development efforts to reflect CRPD dispositions.
Knowing how much progress is actually accomplished by CRPD ratifying countries in ICT accessibility is an essential step for all stakeholders in order to address gaps and opportunities in their own countries. While most countries are generally aware of their basic obligation to implement ICT accessibility, they have not: (1) translated essential CRPD dispositions into actual policies or programs, and (2) included persons with disabilities in the foundational countrywide policy development processes and capacity-building necessary to achieve valued outcomes. As a result, more than one-fifth of the world's population may be vulnerable to a digital divide.
Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of G3ict said: "This 2013 edition of the CRPD ICT Accessibility Progress Report, which covers two third of the world population, documents critical global gaps in ICT accessibility. Those facts call for the United Nations post-2015 agenda to incorporate ICTs as a critical success factor for the inclusion of persons with disabilities."
Each of the critical areas of the Convention cited above present opportunities for improvement by ratifying countries, particularly in relation to their capacity for implementation and involvement of persons with disabilities and other stakeholders. Bridging those vital gaps requires more than Governments work and resources. It requires a long-term partnership between the public sector, industry, DPOs and NGOs.
The full report, with detailed data and analysis, will be available as a free download on the G3ict and DPI websites by November 15, 2013.