The "Age of digital inclusion: how technology can support the inclusion of persons with disabilities" event explores the important role accessible information and communication technology can play in ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities. It explores the global frameworks that support e-inclusion, such as Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Accessibility. It also explores the interlinkages between research, universities and industry in driving innovation for social and digital inclusion. It examines digital inclusion in the Arab region and some of the challenges and opportunities Arab countries face, especially in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It also showcases some of the Arab regional initiatives to support digital inclusion, including ESCWA’s Arab Digital Inclusion Platform.
Technology and the inclusion of persons with disabilities
- The session explored the important role accessible information and communication technology can play in ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
- It examined international conventions that emphasize e-accessibility, which Arab countries have committed to, including Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- It explored the interlinkages between research, universities, and industry in driving innovation for social and digital inclusion.
- It called for the adoption of “Inclusive Design” as an important approach to building our physical and digital environments to ensure social inclusion.
- Finally, it emphasized the important role of regional Arab initiatives in e-Accessibility, including ESCWA’s “Arab Digital Inclusion Platform” which supports policy makers and stakeholders to ensure digital inclusion.
Ms. Mirna El-Hajj Barbar, Programme Management Officer, welcomed the participants to this special event and presented its opening. She noted that it is estimated that persons with disabilities constitute 15% of the world's population, and this group is considered one of the most marginalized groups. Persons with disabilities are excluded from many opportunities such as education, health and employment. In addition, disability interacts with other factors such as gender, migration, and the gap between urban and rural areas, which exposes these people to face additional causes of marginalization, such as women with disabilities or refugees with disabilities.
Hence the focus on digital inclusion, or digital accessibility, given that information and communication technology has great potential to support the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities.
A comprehensive review of international disability inclusion conventions and frameworks were presented, which ensure the rights of persons with disabilities and highlight the importance of information and communication technology in the implementation of these frameworks to reach comprehensive accessibility and inclusion and achieve sustainable development goals, especially with regard to equality among all members of society. It was noted that digital inclusion is critical and requires informed action so that all stakeholders can address the barriers faced by persons with disabilities and meet their needs.
This pillar discussed technology and its impact on access to information and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.. It also focused on the results of a recent study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the right to access information in Jordan and Lebanon. It also discussed inclusive design, and the importance of adopting it in the development of digital technology. The stages of digital technology development from conceptualization, adaptation to inclusive design were also highlighted.
The presentation highlighted the importance of cooperation and interdependence between research and innovation centers and industry in the field of technologies, as this has become necessary to ensure and support accessibility and equality for persons with disabilities and access to various means of communication. In addition, the importance of including people with disabilities in planning and implementation processes was emphasized.
The presentation addressed the objectives and components of the Arab Digital Inclusion Platform. One of the most important outcomes of this initiative is that it is placed in the hands of policy makers in Arab countries special templates for developing digital accessibility policies and technical guidelines for their implementation, in addition to a set of interactive tools produced in order to facilitate the process of using these templates that depend on international standards for digital accessibility.