UN Convention on Disabilities adopted

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

The Plenary of the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006. The treaty is now open for signature and ratification. If 20 countries sign and ratify, the treaty will enter into force.

I have included highlighted extracts from the new convention below, showing its impact on the ICT industry.

I believe this convention is important because:

  • The adoption is symbolically important as it shows that all 192 members of the UN understand that the human rights of persons with disabilities are important and need to be spelt out.
  • It is likely that most State Parties will sign and when they do they are under an obligation to ‘take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access…’. This means that they need to ensure adequate legislation at a consistent level across the globe.
  • It will provide a legal framework for persons with disabilities to ensure they are properly treated.

I would recommend that people read the full text because it is a good distillation of the rights of anyone with a disability.

I have one small quibble. Article 49 says the convention should be made available in accessible formats. I have to say that although the convention is available in Word format, in several languages, and in HTML in English I would not consider it really accessible. The HTML has very little structure built into it; it is about 35 pages and it has only two proper headings and all the articles (about 60 of them) are not headings but defined as ‘strong’, which is helpful for sighted readers but not very helpful for people with vision impairments. The Word documents are marginally better but do not include a table of content which would make it much more accessible to everyone.

So I suppose the question is, will the UN as an organization sign the convention or be bound by it? Particularly as Article 49 only applies to this convention and not to any other documents produced by the UN.

Extracts from the convention

The extracts below are from the convention that can be found at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/convtexte.htm. I believe that my HTML is more accessible than the original document, comments appreciated.

Article 1

The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and 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.

Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Article 9

To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.

Article 21
Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:

  1. Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost;
  2. Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;
  3. Urging private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;
  4. Encouraging the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities;
  5. Recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages.

Article 49
Accessible format

The text of the present Convention shall be made available in accessible formats.