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United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Empowering Persons with Disabilities through ICT's                                                                                                                                

Unesco's Pavilion at ITU Telecom World 2009

5-9 October 2009, Geneva, Switzerland          
   
Empowering Persons with Disabilities through ICTs
ICTs improves the quality of life of persons with disabilities by providing access to information and knowledge, new employment and socialization opportunities  
Diagram of a central circle labeled "Empowering Persons with Disabilities Through ICT's" surrounded by 5 inter related circles labeled "Inclusive Education, Culture, Social and Human Sciences, Communication and Information and Science". Also represented are the ideas of the creation, utilization, preservation and dissemination of information.

UNESCO at ITU Telecom World 2009      

ICT applications and services in education, science, culture and communication and information.        
The rapid development and application of ICTs in various societal areas has already shown the tremendous potential to improve access to information and knowledge and to open new learning opportunities.
ICTs provide opportunities for flexible learning, for sharing information and for networking with disability advocates in other countries, for facilitating employment and self-sufficiency and most importantly, for increasing independence.
ICTs are particularly effective tools in the outreach to marginalized communities both in terms of accessing information and knowledge and encouraging the participation in the development of ICT content and applications of people with disabilities.
Even in the absence of a well coordinated and well-planned infrastructure, ICTs can offer to people with disabilities new opportunities to compensate for physical and functional limitations, access knowledge by adapting media to their impairment, and enhance social and economic integration.
By supporting UNESCO's efforts in empowering persons with disabilities through ICTs, our partners will not only enhance existing partnerships with UNESCO, but also strengthen their international recognition and reputation in helping people with disabilities effectively use ICTs.
In the last decades, the world has witnessed radical changes, in no small part because of the rapid advancement in information and communication technologies (ICTs) which have opened new avenues for development around the world.
ICTs have great potential to improve the quality of life, for example in accessing education and healthcare, and provide new employment opportunities. For persons with disabilities, they hold many additional promises.
About 10 per cent of the world's population has a disability of one or the other form'. While their living conditions vary, persons with disabilities show the experience of being exposed to discrimination, social exclusion, and poverty, as the following data demonstrate:
•    Over 80 per cent of persons with disabilities live in isolated rural areas in developing countries2:
•    62 million children of primary school age cope with disability3;
•    186 million children with disabilities have not completed their primary school education4;
•    Unemployed rate amount in developing countries to 90 per cent of persons with disabilities of working age and in developed countries to 70 per cent.
At the same time, the rights of persons with disabilities are increasingly recognized. This shift to the human rights perspective, which is taking place in all economic and social systems, has been endorsed by the United Nations.
Indeed, the empowerment of persons with disabilities, particularly through effective use of ICTs, is not as a charity, but the fulfillment of fundamental human rights as stated in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights1, highlighted that "all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity".
International legal instruments2 recognized the need to promote, protect and ensure that people with disabilities would enjoy the full and equal recognition of their rights.
UNESCO is committed to the implementation of the Plan of Action33 adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 that includes two important areas for persons with disabilities, namely access to information and knowledge and capacity building.                                                                                                                                                                    

UNESCO's role

Establishing ICT policies and tools for persons with disabilities based on human rights, not charity
UNESCO promotes the concept of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory.
UNESCO also promotes better understanding of issues related to disability and mobilizes support for the recognition of the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, and of the benefits of their integration in society.
In this context, UNESCO fosters effective utilisation of ICTs which are accessible, adaptive and affordable.
UNESCO fosters international commitment to supporting measures that facilitate the lives of persons with disabilities and ensure their inclusion in society.
Together with its partners, such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the multistakeholder Dynamic Coalition on Disabilities and Accessibility (DCAD), and DAISY Consortium, UNESCO advocates for the rights and needs of persons with disabilities as well as promotes best practices.
The extent to which persons with disabilities can have access to and benefit from ICTs also depends on the overall political and economic environment.
UNESCO recognizes the need to:  
•    prepare national policies and strongly encourages local governments to introduce specific legislation to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities,
•    define government's aspirations as to services for persons with disabilities, including equal access to the Internet and educational opportunities,
•    develop national standards for services, such as ICT accessibility guidelines and evolving mechanisms to ensure that these standards are maintained,
•    train key professionals (hard, software developers, social workers, teachers, interpreters, etc.),
•    adapt digital media to the nature of disabilities,
•    enhance social and economic integration,
•    collect statistical data,  
•    carry out research, and  
•    assign ministerial responsibility for disability issues.
Particular attention is given to issues related to universal design for all which aims to ensure and provide a certain level of accessibility for persons with disabilities in the Internet. The presentation of content on the Internet and the design of Internet should be able to accommodate the needs and demands of those with disabilities, based on standards for accessible design, which benefit all at the same time.
Why should persons with disabilities be empowered through ICTs?
It increases the independence of persons with disabilities
ITU Telecom World 2009 is a major event for the global telecom and ICT sector bringing together the key players from industry from around the world. The event provides a great opportunity to promote the notion of knowledge societies where everybody can create, access, use and share information and knowledge as well as equally benefit and contribute to the societal development.
Empowering persons with disabilities through ICTs is the primary thematic focus of the UNESCO Pavilion at ITU Telecom World 2009.
The UNESCO's Pavilion will be organized in the following thematic areas illustrating ICT applications and services for persons with disabilities:
•    Education (inclusive education)
•    Culture (access to world heritage, museums, cultural industries)
•    Science (scientific networking)
•    Social and Human Sciences ( social inclusion, human rights)
•    Communication and Information (access to Information and knowledge, ICTs applications,   including libraries, archives, web based educational solutions, and public media).
The Pavilion will be a showcase for UNESCO's and its partners action to empower persons with disabilities through effective utilization of ICTs.
It will provide space for displaying hardware, software and successful applications mobilizing new, action oriented partnerships and furthering cooperation among stakeholders.
A number of special events will be organized by UNESCO and its partners such as:
•    Presentation related to special themes
•    Demonstration of various ICTs devices and applications, particularly for educational, scientific, cultural and communication and information purposes
•    Press meetings  
•    Private meetings
•    Workshops/Roundtables  
•    Case and websites presentations  
•    Entertaining events.
Why support and sponsor UNESCO's efforts at Telecom World '09?
UNESCO is pleased to offer institutions from the academia, civil society and the private sector the possibility to become a sponsor, co-exhibitor or pavilion member of the UNESCO Pavilion at ITU Telecom World '09 to present their projects for harnessing the power of ICT for empowering persons with disabilities.
As a UNESCO Pavilion partner and member have the opportunity to present their strategies and projects in ICT applications in education, the sciences, culture and communication and information, and to network and build new partnerships.  
UNESCO provides not only room to exhibit devices, applications and projects in an attractive and designed environment, but also space and timeslots for organizing events such as project presentations,   open discussions on specific themes, press meetings, partner meetings, informal gatherings events.
Benefits for partners include the following:
•    Prominent space in the UNESCO Pavilion
•    Room and timeslots for presentations in the Pavilion
•    On-site branding, recognition and acknowledgement at scheduled events
•    Logo inclusion in on-line and offline promotional material
•    Possibility to display publications
•    International recognition, partnership and reputation in helping people with disabilities.
If you have any questions, please contact us at the following e-mail address: i.kasinskaite@unesco.org
We thank you for your interest in UNESCO's work empowering persons with disabilities through ICTs.
1 http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/unsystem.shtml

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