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UN Expert Group Meeting on Building Inclusive Society and Development

Thanks to the Disability team at the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities for sharing a copy of the report of the meeting hosted by the United Nations Expert Group on Building Inclusive Society and Development through Promoting ICT Accessibility: Emerging Issues and Trends.

The report notes that policy focus areas for the post-MDG period after 2015 are sustainability, equity and inclusive development. It notes further that persons with disabilities should enjoy all fundamental freedoms and the right to participate, on the basis of equality, in development. This depends on all societal systems being accessible and that policies and laws are in place to address barriers to participation by persons with disabilities in development.

With regard to accessible built environments, the report notes that governments are tending to use “sectoral approaches rather than comprehensive plans to promote accessible environments”. It provides a list of policies from a selection of countries including South Africa’s Standard Code of Practice – Accessibility of buildings to disabled persons (SABS) and the Standard Code of Practice for the Application of the National Building Regulations. The report provides a further list of common issues covered by these and other codes ranging from access routes, communications, elevators and numerous other building design elements that should be considered in making an environment accessible.

Further matters related to the built environment that are covered by the report include the European Union’s requirements and guidelines for accessible built environments and the International Organization for Standardization’s guidelines on accessibility and usability of the built environment.

Numerous issues are discussed in relation to the accessibility of internet-based communication for people with disabilities. The report also provides an overview of guidelines that seek to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which focus on accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision, people who are deaf or suffer hearing loss, people with learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, speech disabilities, limited movement, photosensitivity and various combinations of these.

The report concludes with a number of options for the way ahead. This section stresses that improved accessibility on all fronts depends on recognising accessibility, not so much as a matter of regulatory compliance, but as a means of realising sustainable development.

WEB LINKS FOR THIS ARTICLE

Click here to view the UN Expert Group Meeting report.