Technology can revolutionise the lives of people with disabilities but it can also create new barriers. New information and communication systems offer enormous potential for improving the opportunities for participation for people with disabilities.
However, particular attention needs to be paid to accessibility questions, so that these new technologies do not constitute new sources of social exclusion. People with different types of impairment (physical, sensory, psychological, mental) experience different types of barriers to communication and information. Mainstream products and services, such as computer software, computer interfaces and telephones do not always cater for users with special requirements.
Since new technologies will more and more shape everyday life in the future, there will be an ever-increasing need for the ability to handle these technologies in order to be able to cope with everyday life.
However, many people with disabilities are at risk of being excluded due to newly created obstacles and barriers caused by inappropriate technology design or provision – a form of social exclusion that is undoubtedly a denial of basic human rights.
Driven by its mandate to protect and promote human rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field) adopted the Resolution Res AP (2001)3 “Towards full citizenship of persons with disabilities through inclusive new technologies” in October 2001. This Resolution takes as a starting pint the right of all individuals, including persons with disabilities, to equality of opportunity, freedom of choice, independent living, full citizenship and active participation in the life of the community. This includes the right to access to and use of technology.
It recommends drawing up national strategies to ensure that persons with disabilities benefit from the manifold opportunities of new technologies, particularly in the priority policy areas: education, vocational guidance and training, employment, social integration and environment, training of stakeholders, prevention, identification and diagnosis, medical rehabilitation, research and development, and electronic government.
All products and services for people with disabilities should take account of the following principles: availability, accessibility, affordability, awareness, appropriateness, attractiveness, adaptability, usability, and compatibility.
To that end, a co-ordinated set of measures should be develop, applying the following instruments: legislation and regulations, design for all, user involvement, standardization, centres of excellence, public procurement policies, evaluation, international exchange of information, and international follow-up.
This Resolution on new technologies complements earlier recommendations on the accessibility of the built environment: Resolution Res AP(2001)1 on universal design.
The Council of Europe will continue to strive for the protection of human rights and the promotion of social cohesion by creating barrier-free and inclusive societies in Europe.
The text of Resolution ResAP(2001)3 “Towards full citizenship of persons with disabilities through inclusive new technologies” is available by clicking here.
For the text of the Resolution and its Explanatory Memorandum click here