According to UN estimates, there are 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. The factors that contribute to increasing this number include war and destruction by natural as well as human causes; poverty and unhealthy living conditions; and the absence of knowledge about disability, its causes, prevention, and treatment. The Internet provides new possibilities for social inclusion and for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities.
Frameworks for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities
In order to maximise technological possibilities for people with disabilities, there is a need to develop the necessary Internet governance and policy framework. The main international instrument in this field is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by UN in 2006 and signed by 159 countries (April 2014), which establishes rights that are now in the process of being included in national legislation, which will make them enforceable.
Awareness of the need for technological solutions that include people with disabilities is increasing with the work of organisations that teach and foster support for the disabled community, such as the IGF Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability, the Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter, and the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet.
The lack of accessibility arises from the gap between the abilities required to use hardware, software, and content, and the available abilities of a person with a disability. To narrow this gap there are two directions of policy actions:
- Include accessibility standards in the requirements for the design and development of equipment, software, and content.
- Foster the availability of accessories in hardware and software that increase or substitute the functional capabilities of the person.
In the field of Internet governance, the main focus is on web content, as it is in rapid development and constitutes a kind of infrastructure. Many web applications do not comply with accessibility standards due to a lack of awareness or perceived complexity and high costs (which is far from today’s reality). International standards in web accessibility are developed by W3C within its Web Accessibility Initiative.
In addition, the Internet Rights and Principles (Section 13) and the Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability (DCAD) address the specific issue of rights of persons with disabilities. The DCAD Accessibility Guidelines (2015) – produced during the 10th Internet Governance Forum in Brazil, detail steps to be taken to improve and support these rights.