ICTs – using technology to creatively transform lives

Professor Tim Unwin

With the potential to open up new areas of employment, ease communications and foster networks, information and communication technologies (ICTs) can transform the lives of those with disabilities far more than they can the lives of those considered more able.

Global commitments to ensuring universal access have all too often failed to address sufficiently the specific needs of people with particular disabilities. The CTO is therefore committed to championing the interests of people with disabilities, seeking to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged by the increasing expansion of ICTs across the world. As Secretary-General of the CTO, Professor Tim Unwin uses every opportunity to advocate the principles of universal access and the need for governments, the private sector and civil society organisations involved in ICTs to ensure that people with disabilities are able to use the technology creatively to enhance their lives.

The CTO is establishing advisory groups drawn from members and leading international experts to take forward its activities and initiatives in all of its focus areas. As part of its commitment to sharing information widely among its members, the CTO’s website provides ready access to the most important literature in the field, links to key websites and details of mobile applications relevant to the focus.

In order to develop a shared understanding of the most important issues for the CTO to take forward on the theme of ICTs and people with disabilities, it hosted a Ministerial Summit on e-Accessibility together with the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Paralympics held in London in August 2012. The summit provided a platform for delegates to discuss how countries can turn the rhetoric of their policies into practical actions that will help people with disabilities make a real difference in their lives.

With high-level delegations from countries including Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, South Africa and the UK, the summit concluded with agreement around eight action points that are necessary to take this agenda forward.

These action points included: the addition of e-inclusion on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) agenda; policies ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to ICTs and accessible information; an e-inclusion policy and champion in every Commonwealth country; sharing examples of existing good practice in the Commonwealth and beyond; government and business use of ICT procurement to encourage inclusive design; the Accessible Technology Charter; and effective training programmes on e-inclusion for governments, the private sector and civil society.

The CTO is excited to be working closely with member countries to build on this important agenda in practice, and welcomes the involvement of interested parties in crafting multi-stakeholder partnerships to develop effective interventions with and for people with disabilities.

About the author:

Professor Tim Unwin is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation


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