The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The theme established by the United Nations for this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons is accessibility to information technologies, its aim being to raise appreciation among Governments, private entities and the public of the significant benefits to persons with disabilities and society when they are empowered with increased access to information technologies.

Access to information and communication technologies creates opportunities to everyone in society, but perhaps no-more so than for persons with disabilities. No longer do the societal barriers of prejudice, infrastructure, and inaccessible formats stand in the way of participation.

A group of visually impaired people on the streets of Brasov

When available to everyone, information technologies foster individuals to reach their full potential, and for persons with disabilities it allows them to play their part in society’s development.

Persons with disabilities are at a considerable disadvantage by not being able to access information technologies. For instance, as education becomes increasingly dependent on information technologies, not being able to access the Internet for example limits the learning potential of persons with disabilities.

 

Several places already have legislation and regulations requiring websites to be fully accessible

Several places already have legislation and regulations requiring websites to be fully accessible. At the international level, standards and guidelines on website accessibility are being developed. Once adopted and ratified, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will require entities ensure that persons with disabilities can access information technologies. It specifies that measures should be introduced to eliminate obstacles and barriers to information and communications, and to promote access for persons with disabilities to information and communications technologies, including the Internet.

Making information technologies available to persons with disabilities is not only a matter of human rights, it also makes good business sense. Studies suggest that accessible websites appear higher up the page rankings of search engines and can save costs on web maintenance. It also allows companies access to a largely untapped customer base. Many websites, however, remain inaccessible for the visually impaired and the blind.

 

A recent study of the FTSE 100 companies in the United Kingdom showed that around three-quarters of company websites did not achieve basic levels of accessibility. By not making their websites accessible, UK companies are forfeiting £80 billion in lost revenue.

For the International Day of Disabled Persons the Association of the Blind organized Sunday, December 2006, starting at 12:00, a series of public information, sensibility and awareness raising actions regarding the visually impaired people and the problems they face on daily basis. The actions which included distribution of informative and educative materials in the city center by the association’s volunteers part of the community awareness campaign launched by the Brasov Association of the Blind this summer.

We would like to remind you that the Brasov Association of the Blind currently implements several projects which aim to improve the county’s visually impaired people’s access to information technologies, all these projects being started in 2006.

From these projects, most of them national premiers, we would like to mention the branch’s website, available in Romanian and English, the internet café and electronic reading room, available for free to the association’s members and the permanent information technology courses for visually impaired adults.