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Alexandre Gorelik, Director, the UN Information Center in Russia

Access to ICT for the Disabled: Increased Impact by Global Practice

Everybody may be knowing about the digital gap. Admittedly, the end of 20th age e‑revolution put the industrialized and developing countries far apart. Yet the digital gap may fully apply to the distance that has emerged between ordinary people and the handicapped.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marked a shift in the very view of the problem, with the emphasis being made not on the paternalistic approach or alternatives specifically for the disabled, but the key stakeholders’ responsibility for universal access to ICT. Many countries have implemented packages designed to stop any discrimination in this area. The EU is debating the European Disability Act. The National Broadband Plan on universal access to the Internet has been submitted to the US Congress. A similar campaign is intensively underway in China.
The UN agencies are faced with the challenge: how to facilitate governments implementing the above UN Convention? UNESCO, for one, is developing its own ICT access policy, with the recommendations to cover three areas, i.e. education, e‑government and mass media. Various international organizations suggest generally logical ideas. The UN G3ict expert group has defined the self-assessment framework with the relevant guidelines for review of a specific national progress regarding commitments under the UN Convention.
Russia, rater, is taking its first steps in this direction. A new national GOST standard: The Internet Resources: Requirements to Access for the Visually Disabled, has been put in practice. A special issue of the Info Society journal has just seen light, which is wholly devoted to access to ICT. The international portal has been launched. Translation of the WCAG into Russian has advanced indeed.
The UN/Russian office has rallied efforts with some NGO, experts and firms to promote the universal design and lobby for some urgent steps.

Of critical importance are the political directions. Yet the universal access to ICT is barely noticeable in the 2008 Info Society Development Strategy for the Russian Federation. Currently, it is important to ensure the three-years’ action plan of the Strategy contain a section on this issue. There are also other immediate challenges to secure full-scale social integration of the disabled.

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