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UNESCO Global Report: Opening New Avenues for Empowerment

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at Aug 31, 2013 09:00 PM |
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We prepared a report on higher education for persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region for UNESCO some time back. The report has been compiled into a global report. Nirmita Narasimhan was the project coordinator from the Centre for Internet and Society.
UNESCO Global Report: Opening New Avenues for Empowerment

Given here is a cover page of the report. Photo by UNESCO.


(by Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO)

Over one billion people – approximately 15 percent of the world’s population – live with some form of disability. Facing a wide range of barriers, including access to information, education, health care and a lack of job opportunities, persons living with disabilities struggle every day to be integrated into society.

This is unacceptable, and UNESCO is taking a stand. To tackle these challenges, UNESCO has led a number of initiatives, including the 2013 Global Report, to empower persons with disabilities thanks to information and communication technologies. Our position is clear – information and communication technologies, along with associative technologies, can widen access to information and knowledge, so they must accessible to all.

Building on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Global Report addresses strong recommendations to all stakeholders – from decision-makers to educators, civil society and industry – on how concretely to advance the rights of people living with disabilities. These recommendations draw on extensive research and consultations. Studies launched in five regions have allowed UNESCO to understand more clearly the conditions and challenges faced by persons with disabilities around the world.

To empower persons with disabilities is to empower societies as a whole – but this calls for the right policies and legislation to make information and knowledge more accessible through information and communication technologies. It calls also for applying accessibility standards to the development of content, product and services. The successful application of such technologies can make classrooms more inclusive, physical environments more accessible, teaching and learning content and techniques more in tune with learners’ needs. We need the commitment of all Government and stakeholders to make this a reality for all persons living with disabilities. To build the inclusive knowledge societies we need for the century ahead, we cannot leave anyone aside. We must do everything to replace exclusion and discrimination with inclusion and empowerment – for this, we must harness the full power of information and communication technologies. This is our shared commitment, and this Global Report will help us move forward.


(by HE Mr. Miguel Angel Estrella, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador)

Communication and information are essential for the development of people and societies. It is thanks to the networks of connections which are established freely between individuals that a society is able to advance, as well as the personal development of individuals which makes it possible to increase the collective benefit of all those who form a society. In light of this, special attention should be paid and necessary products and services should be created for persons with disabilities. The more totalitarian and repressive societies are, the more restricted access to information and knowledge is, as well as the application of rights to self-expression and opinion. In addition, special services and attention for the common good of society are limited. However, when a society is free and respectful of human rights, individuals have more solidarity, are open to work together and share information. As a consequence of this free exchange of information and knowledge, it should be possible to build a more inclusive society which can fully participate in the social, cultural and economic life, intellectually and culturally rich, and where people with different
abilities, can take full advantage of Information and Communication Technologies.

Access to information and knowledge allows humans to contribute to social development where he or she can make better choices, and to share the richness with those around them. The conditions, special capacities and abilities of each individual to learn should never be an obstacle or an impediment to their individual development. On the contrary, it is the duty of all authorities to establish an enabling environment and provide special services to those who require them, keeping people with disabilities in mind. Such an inclusive society ensures that each person is valued as an equal human being.

I, therefore, warmly welcome UNESCO’s publication titled “Opening New Avenues for Empowerment: ICTs to Access Information and Knowledge for Persons with Disabilities” which not only makes a major contribution to our understanding of disability, but also highlights technological advancement and shares good practices that have already changed the lives of people with disabilities. The publication also makes concrete recommendations for action at the local, national and international levels, targeting policy and decision makers, educators, IT&T industry, civil society and certainly persons with disabilities, which, I hope, will receive your deserved attention!


This Global Report, Opening New Avenues for Empowerment: ICTs to Access Information and Knowledge for Persons with Disabilities, has been commissioned by the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector. It is a result of collaborative action among many researchers, public and private organizations, governmental bodies and civil society, and appreciation is extended to each of them.

The Report is based on the findings of five UNESCO regional studies carried out with the help of the following institutions and coordinating authors:

  • Africa: Mr Raymond Lang, Dr., the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre, University College, London (UK);
  • Arab Region and North Africa: Mr Mohamed Jemni, Professor of ICT and Educational Technologies, Head of Research Laboratory UTIC, University of Tunis (Tunisia);
  • Asia Pacific: Ms Nirmita Narasimhan, Project Coordinator, Centre for Internet and Society (India);
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia: International Consulting Agency- Mezhvuzkonsalt (Russian Federation);
  • South America, Central America and Mexico and the Caribbean: Ms Pilar Samaniego (South America);
    Ms Sanna-Mari Laitamo and Ms Estela Valerio (Central America and Mexico); and Ms Cristina Francisco (The Caribbean).

The principal author of this global report is Mr Michael Blakemore, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Durham (UK), who is a UK’s Bologna Expert (Higher Education Reform and Innovation) with the European Commission.

The overall preparation of the world report, regional studies and coordination of the project were ensured by Ms Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg and Mr Davide Storti from UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector.

UNESCO thanks the GAATES Foundation for its contributions and advice to the preparation of this report, particularly Ms Cynthia Waddell and Ms Betty Dion. Thanks also to Mr Jonathan Avila from SSB Bart Group

UNESCO wishes to acknowledge the many individual contributors, experts, and advocates, who assisted in the gathering of survey data and in the preparation of the regional studies.

All those contributing their expertise and time to the peer review also deserve recognition. They include: Axel Leblois (G3ict), Luis Gallegos (Ambassador of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland), David Andrés Rojas M. and Vanessa Ramirez (The Trust of America, TRUST ), Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C/WAI), Bernhard Heinser (DAISY Consortium), Jan A. Monsbakken and Uma Tuli (Rehabilitation International, RI), Karsten Gerloff (Free Software Foundation Europe), Brian Nitz (Oracle), Kiran Kaja (Adobe), Katim S. Touray (Free Software Foundation for Africa), Sophie Gautier and Charles-H. Schulz (LibreOffice), Luiz M. Alves dos Santos (European Commission, EC), Arnoud van Wijk (Real-Time Task Force), Reinhard Weissinger (International Organization for Standardization, ISO), Kenneth Eklindh (UNESCO), Simon Ball (JISC TechDis).

The global summary report was edited by Ms Alison McKelvey.

Click to read the full report here.

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