[Dateline: New York/Bangkok | Author: DPI/DESA/ESCAP/iSeek]
The world is observing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday, 3 December.
This year’s celebration is one of particular importance to the UN as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol entered into force and its first Conference of States Parties was also held.
Around 10 percent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with disabilities and of those, 80 percent live in poor countries.
The entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Secretary-General said, “was a turning point”. He recalled that when the first Conference of the Parties convened in October this year, participants immediately began considering how the Convention could serve as a tool to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The General Assembly has stressed the importance of including persons with disabilities in all processes in achieving the MDGs.
“This progress has been made possible thanks to the active participation and leadership of persons with disabilities, by ensuring that they have access to – and are included in – all aspects of our work,” said the Secretary-General in a statement on the day.
The CRPD - the first human rights treaty of the 21st century – aims to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. It establishes strong equality and non-discrimination guarantees in all areas of life. It also protects the political, civil, economic, cultural and social rights of persons with disabilities.
On the fundamental issue of accessibility, the Convention requires States to develop minimum standards on all aspects of accessibility of facilities and services. These standards touch on transportation, information and communications and various other areas.
“The United Nations remains committed to this approach,” assured the Secretary-General, adding: “The renovation of our Headquarters complex through the Capital Master Plan will bring our facilities up to the latest standards of accessibility. These advances are long overdue.”
To date, the Convention has 136 signatories and 41 ratifications, while the Optional Protocol has 79 signatories and 25 ratifications.
The Secretary-General urged governments and all stakeholders to ensure that persons with disabilities and their organizations are an integral part of all development processes. “In this way, we can promote integration and pave the way for a better future for all people in society,” he said. “We need to do much more to break the cycle of poverty and disability,” noted Mr. BAN.
The Secretary-General will formally open the Day at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Conference Room 4, after which he will give introductory remarks for three events – a seminar, multimedia presentation and a concert – to mark the day.
Activities to mark the day
Seminar on digital accessibility
Following the official opening, the 2008 observance will be kicked off by a meeting of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) specialists and representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities. Participants at the seminar entitled, “Implementing the Digital Accessibility Agenda of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Challenges and Opportunities for Signatory States,” will discuss how to best implement the ICT accessibility mandates contained in the Convention. They will also explore ways to ensure that persons with disabilities have a greater access to the digital world.
The seminar in Conference Room 4, from 9:40 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.,is jointly organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), in cooperation with the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UNDESA/GAID), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
From 1:30 to 2 p.m., field experts will deliver a multimedia presentation on assistance to survivors of landmines and explosive remnants of war in the context of the CRPD.
The event in Conference Room 4 is under the general topic: "Protecting and Promoting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Advocacy through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Experience, Perspective and Tools from the Field."
During the event, survivor assistance experts from Sudan will describe their efforts to assist landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities and explain how their work is influenced by and aligned with the CRPD. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will present a new advocacy toolkit to encourage states to sign, ratify and implement the CRPD.
The CRPD opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. This event coincides with the opening for signature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which also includes provisions to assist persons who have been disabled by these weapons.
The event is co-hosted by UNMAS of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Office for Rule of Law and Security Institutions and the DESA. The event is opened to staff. DPKO staff members are encouraged to attend.
The Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium at Headquarters will be the venue for a special live performance by Hungarian classical pianist, Tamas Erdi and “Rudely Interrupted,” a remarkable indie rock band from Melbourne, Australia, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30p.m. It is jointly organized by the Permanent Missions of Australia and Hungary, in cooperation with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and DESA. UNTV will be producing a piece on the band for its feature series, 21st Century.
UN, Republic of Korea team up to improve ICT access for persons with disabilities
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has teamed up with the Government of the Republic of Korea to improve access to information and communication technology (ICT) for persons with disabilities, through training of policy-makers from developing countries in the region.
In late September, the regional commission and its subsidiary, the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT), in conjunction with the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO) organized a four-day regional training workshop in Incheon, Republic of Korea.
It was attended by representatives of governments from Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam, as well as ICT accessibility experts from the International Telecommunication Union, Germany, the USA, Japan, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea.
Asia and the Pacific is home to millions of people living with disabilities. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities emphasizes among other things the importance of the accessibility to ICT, noted Ms. Thelma Kay, Director of ESCAP’s Social Development Division at the opening of the workshop.
“Improving ICT accessibility can involve anything, from designing government web sites to work seamlessly with software to assist the visually impaired, to making sure specialized equipment to facilitate access is affordable,” said Ms. Hyeun-Suk Rhee, Director of APCICT.
Participants discussed and adopted ICT accessibility guidelines for persons with disabilities, especially women and children, drafted by ESCAP and KADO. The meeting also agreed to develop implementation strategies in the countries represented.