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The Model ICT Accessibility Policy Report released by the International Telecommunication Union has recognised that despite the unprecedented growth in mobile and Internet use worldwide, very few nations have acted to ensure that persons with disabilities are part of the technology revolution.

The report which is jointly published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) notes that although many countries have information and communication technology (ICT) laws, policies and regulations that generally support the principles of universal access to ICT, the needs of the disability community are different and require a deliberate additional focus on ICT accessibility by legislators, policy-makers and regulators aimed at removing barriers to ICT use.

The policy framework was launched at the Accessible Americas meeting organized by ITU, UNESCO, Brazil and the National Secretariat for the Promotion of the Rights of People with Disabilities of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidential Cabinet of the Brazilian Republic (SDH) in S√£o Paolo, Brazil.

Bearing in mind the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in using many mainstream ICTs, the report is designed to guide national policy-makers and regulators in creating their own ICT accessibility policy frameworks in consultation with persons with disabilities. It focuses on different aspects of ICT accessibility, namely amendments to the existing ICT legal framework, public ICT access, mobile communications, television/video programming, government websites and public procurement of accessible ICTs.

ITU is working with all stakeholders towards global ICT accessibility and affordability in all countries and regions and by all peoples, including persons with disabilities,” says ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Tour√©. “There is no doubt that ICTs can enable and accelerate access to resources such as education and health care for persons with disabilities leading to their greater social, economic and political inclusion.

“The report contains concrete steps that can be taken to make meaningful rules and regulations to ensure that ICT accessibility becomes a reality on the ground,” says Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “It helps regulators and policy makers to become action-oriented.

“ITU’s leadership in promoting ICT accessibility plays an important role in realizing the promises of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, says Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of G3ict. “The report, which is the result of seven years of cooperation between ITU and G3ict, offers easy to use policy frameworks inspired by existing good practices and available technologies from around the world. It also emphasizes the critical importance of involving relevant stakeholders in developing and monitoring ICT accessibility policies with the active participation of persons with disabilities.” Mr Leblois added: “It is our hope that the model policies presented in the report will help accelerate the accessibility of essential ICT products and services for citizens of all abilities.

The Model ICT accessibility policy report is developed for ICT policy-makers, regulators and other stakeholders active in ICT and/or disability issues, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), organizations of persons with disabilities, and parliamentarians.

The report has been prepared pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in line with the ITU and G3ict ICT Accessibility Policy Toolkit for persons with disabilities.

At the last World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC 2014) held in April this year, ITU Members reaffirmed, by adopting Resolution 58, the need for accessible ICTs for persons with disabilities through the development of national legal frameworks, laws, regulations and policies. Likewise, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Busan, Republic of Korea, October-November 2014, established the Connect 2020 Agenda which includes four high-level goals: growth, inclusiveness, sustainability and innovation, and partnership. The goals are accompanied by a set of targets, among which “Enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunications/ICTs for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries by 2020”.

Digital Inclusion is part of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector’s activities designed to promote ICT accessibility and use for the social and economic development of people with specific needs, including indigenous peoples and people living in rural areas: persons with disabilities: women and girls: and youth and children.

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