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Enabling Access to Education through ICT - A Conference in Delhi

Posted by Prasad Krishna at Sep 03, 2010 01:20 PM |
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The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Bangalore in cooperation with the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICT (G3ICT), a flagship advocacy organization of the UN Global Alliance on ICT and Development (UN-GAID), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), UNESCO, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment and the Deafway Foundation is organizing an international conference "Enabling Access to Education through ICT" in New Delhi from 27 to 29 October 2010. The event is sponsored by Hans Foundation.

How can accessible information and communication and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities be best deployed in schools and universities?

Background

Education is a fundamental right for all persons. In the information society, access to knowledge and information is of vital importance to ensure that all persons are able to participate as creative and productive members of the society. The UNCRPD recognizes that persons with disabilities also have a right to education and life long learning. Countries around the world have recognized the importance of education and have identified universal primary education as one of the millennium goals to be achieved by them within 2015. While definitive steps are being taken to achieve and promote universal inclusive education, there are still some grey areas remaining with respect to addressing the special needs of some groups like disabled children.  The World Health Organisation estimates that 70 per cent of the world’s disabled live in developing countries like India. The advancement of persons with disabilities is impeded by several factors such as an inadequate legal framework for protecting their rights, lack of financial and skilled human resource to carry on their activities, high cost of assistive technologies, lack of training and capacity building activities, the absence of large networks of disability groups to share resources with each other and above all the lack of awareness and a collective intent on the part of educational institutions to enable the right to education for persons with disabilities. India alone is a large country with 18 official languages and many more regional variances and for any technology and content to reach the masses it has to be made available in several Indian languages. All these factors combined together make it difficult for persons with disabilities to exercise their right to education in developing countries.

The specific focus of the conference will be to look at various technologies, tools and practices which are necessary to bring education, especially distance and online education within the reach of all children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities in India are often left out of mainstream schools due to a variety of reasons, primarily the lack of awareness amongst educational organizations and teachers, near absence of infrastructural resources and lack of training in this regard. It is believed that barely two per cent of the 70 million disabled persons have access to education in India. Technological advancement in the form of assistive technologies, ubiquitous Web, multiple platforms, social networks, online libraries and digital resources, etc., have now made it possible for disabled persons to access information in accessible formats. It is therefore, important that students, teachers and educational institutions are adequately equipped to leverage the power of the Internet and ICTs to enable inclusion for persons with disabilities.

The present conference will focus on highlighting existing problems and challenges for students and educational institutions in developing countries, showcase ICT based solutions which are presently being adopted in different countries, point to existing knowledge resources and emerging trends in education.  This conference is unique in so far as it is probably the first one of its kind on such a large scale in India and involves participation of various UN organizations such as the WIPO, UNESCO, ITU and the G3ICT. Amongst the various deliverables of the conference is also to document some best practice case studies on the use of ICTs in education for the disabled in neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand, evolve a set of recommendations for educators on best practices, as well as to evolve a draft for a White paper on education and ICTs for persons with disabilities for governments and educators in different countries.

A print version of the E-accessibility toolkit for policymakers which was jointly brought out by the G3ICT and ITU earlier this year will be launched for the first time at the conference.

Dates: October 27, 28 and 29
Venue: Magnolia Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Download the agenda

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