Debate on Improving ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
Middle East, January 30 2017
TEHRAN, IRAN: Recommendations of a two-day expert meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Organization, the State Welfare Organization, UNECSO, and academia and NGOs working in the field of disabilities, will be presented to Iranian policy makers to foster greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economy and the social milieu.
The meeting on January 24 was a joint initiative of the UNESCO Tehran office and the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, on the development of a national policy to introduce ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities.
It discussed national policies and plans to employ information and communication technologies (ICT) in empowering the disabled and the need to keep them updated.
“Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential of making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities, allowing them to enhance their social, political and economic integration in communities and society, by enlarging the scope of activities available to them,” said Esther Kuisch Laroche, director of the UNESCO in Tehran.
“Removing barriers to accessing ICT by persons with disabilities is of paramount importance. In today’s world, no one should be excluded from using mobile phones, the Internet, TV, computers, electronic kiosks and their myriad of applications and services, including in education and cultural activities or for e-government or e-health services, to cite just a few examples.
Being excluded from these ICT-enabled applications implies being shut out not only from the information society, but also from accessing essential public services, as well as from the opportunity to live an independent life,” she said, un.org.ir reported.
Sadollah Nasiri Gheydari, secretary general of the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, stressed that practical action plans should be implemented to employ ICT technology to enhance social inclusion of the physically challenged.
He referred to the newly developed Nation Plan of Action for the implementation of SDG 4 (Education) and said this could be used as a “very good example.”
Nasrollah Jahangard, head of the ICT Organization, said the field of ICT accessibility for the disabled is new and “we need to use the best global practices and successfully implemented projects as models to develop our own national policies.”
1.5m With Moderate to Severe Disabilities
According to the SWO, about 2% (1.5 million) of the Iranian population, including 400,000 in rural areas, are living with moderate to severe disabilities. Statistics show 8% of Iran’s population comprises seniors, and 40,000 disabled are added every year.
With rates of disability increasing, rehabilitation and social inclusion have become an integral part of healthcare and other services.
The high number of traffic accidents, aging population and the increase in chronic health conditions, as well as the nation’s proneness to natural disasters are factors contributing to a growing demand for rehabilitation and related services.
“Around 11.5 million in Iran suffer from some form of disability,” Gheydari said.
“Nearly 90% of disabled children across the world are out of school due to lack of access to proper equipment,” and this goes against international conventions. Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, program specialist at the Communication and Information Sector in UNESCO headquarters, introduced UNESCO’s model policy on inclusive ICTs in education for persons with disabilities, which was published in 2014, and the guideline on the inclusion of learners with disabilities in open and distance learning.