“When we talk of ICT in disability & development, the emphasis should also be on availability and affordability of technology,” Javed Abidi, Chairperson, DPI

November 20, 2013
Source: DPI

Today, the linkage between disability and development is getting increasingly recognised in light of the growing discourse on the post-2015 development agenda. However, not many are talking about the role of technology and ICT in this whole discourse. Accessibility is a huge concern in the disability rights movement, especially so in the countries of the global South. DPI is acutely aware of the gap between this discourse and people with disabilities in the global South.


DPI has joined hands with G3ict in their global survey on ICT accessibility and implementation of Article 9 of CRPD across 72 countries that have ratified CRPD. Our recent survey in 2013 shows that only 50% of the surveyed countries have a definition of accessibility which includes ICT but only 25% define, promote and monitor standards. Again, only 12% of the surveyed countries have a systematic mechanism to consult with people with disabilities and their organisations for drafting, implementing and monitoring ICT laws and polices.


This shows a huge gap in the implementation of Article 9.


Also, when one talks of ICT accessibility, more often than not the discourse is limited to the developed nations and to websites and other electronic media.  The realities of the global South, where 80% of people with disabilities live, are very different. Millions do not have access to Internet or even electricity. Thus, we need to define our discussion with these realities in mind. Mobile penetration in most developing countries is much higher than Internet. We have to talk of disability in telephony.


Another very important aspect of ICT accessibility is that of cost and availability. Softwares or assistive devices crucial for ICT accessibility may be easily available and affordable for a person in the developed countries. But when we talk of people in the global South, these are either not available or if they are, they are not affordable. Not many in these countries can even afford a 50 dollar assistive device.


Therefore, any discourse on ICT accessibility and implementation of Article 9 of CRPD has to take these factors into consideration.


Technology is a great equalizer but for this to be a reality for the 800 million people with disabilities in the global South, we must ensure their voices and their realities are given due importance.


About DPI: Disabled People’s International was established in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, and was the world's first successful cross-disability endeavour to convert the talk about full and equal participation of persons with disabilities into action.  DPI is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada and has a presence in more than 130 countries through its Member National Assemblies (MNAs) spanning across 7 regions: Africa, Arab, Asia-Pacific, CIS, Europe, Latin America and North America & Caribbean.


The MNAs are focused on capacity building, and empowerment of people with disabilities in their countries and over half of them are based in the developing world. DPI's focus is particularly on those in developing countries who form 80% of the world's one billion people with disabilities and 20% of the world's poorest and most disadvantaged people.