Kofi Annan: Make the Internet available to everyone
Access to information technology creates opportunity for all, especially persons with disabilities, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a message for the International Day of Disabled Persons, observed on 3 December under the theme "E-accessibility".
Mr Annan's message reads as follows:
The theme of this year's observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, "E-accessibility", reminds us of the need to make the Internet available to everyone.
This is a welcome change. As information and communication technologies spread across the world, drawing in more and more users every day, most websites remained inaccessible to the millions of people who have difficulty manipulating a mouse, or who are visually impaired and need a "screen reader" or large fonts to read the page. Slowly, Governments and the private sector have been recognizing the economic and social benefits of making websites fully accessible, and have been putting in place changes involving software and hardware alike.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is expected to be approved by the General Assembly later this month, can give additional impetus to this trend. States that choose to become party to the Convention will thereby commit themselves to taking steps to provide "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". The Convention urges private businesses and mass media to do the same with their services.
On this International Day, let us pledge again to do our utmost to achieve the vision of an inclusive, people-centred, development-oriented information society. And let us redouble our efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their human rights and play their full part in the economic, social and political lives of their societies.
Over 10% of the world's population suffers from a variety of disabilities and ICTs have great potentials for making significant improvements in the lives of these persons as they can compensate for physical or functional limitations, thus allowing them to enhance their social and economic integration in communities by enlarging the scope of activities available to them. UNESCO works with its partners to promote the use of ICT for including people with disabilities in strategies for information and knowledge access.
Recently, UNESCO co-organized with the Society for the Advancement of Library and Information Science (SALIS) and the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) a Workshop on Information Literacy Competency Development for Library and Information Science Professionals and Special Educators at MSSW in Chennai, India (6-10 November 2006).