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Alexandre Gorelik


UNIC Moscow: Report on the Launch of the Russian Version of the Report "Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities

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Launch of the ITU-G3ict publication, Making Mobile Phones Accessible for Persons with Disabilities, at the UNIC Moscow event held on September 12, 2012.
I am reporting on a noticeable event we held last week - part of the pro-disabled advocacy programme that the UNIC Moscow has been implementing since 2006. We successfully launched, on Wednesday, 12 September, the Russian version of the report "Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities." The document is a joint research product by the International Telecommunications Union, G3ict, the global initiative for inclusive Information and Communications Technologies, and the Indian Centre for Internet Society.

This survey, presented at the M-Enabling Summit in December 2011 in Washington D.C., includes a wealth of practical information and case studies, which we felt could be quite helpful for promoting accessible mobile devices and mobile assistive technologies in the Russian Federation.

In fact, the launch was a new stage in the ongoing advocacy project conceived by this UNIC and implemented jointly with our two partners - UN Office in Russia and the country office of the World Bank. In the last 1.5 years we presented two similar documents - "Web Accessibility Policy Making: an International Perspective" (G3ict White Paper) and "e-Accessibility Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities," both events being hailed by the local pro-disabled community.

The work started early this year with the UNIC taking the lead. This Centre accomplished the bulk of arrangements associated with the translation and proofreading of the document, while our partners provided the funding, plus the World Bank offered to host the launch ceremony. The Russian version of the report appeared as an electronic (PDF) document, which can be easily shared via Internet. We also produced a "pilot" print run of hard copies - to be forwarded to the main stakeholders.

Taking part in the ceremony on Wednesday were some 65 representatives of government agencies, businessmen, experts in ICT accessibility, human rights activists, colleagues of international organizations and the media. In his opening remarks, Mikal Rutkovsky, Country Director of the World Bank, said that persons with disabilities faced widespread barriers or lack of accessibility in built environments, transportation and information and communications, including relevant ICT technologies. Accessibility, he stressed, is essential for the realization of human rights and achievement of internationally agreed development goals for all.

Introducing the report, Alexandre Gorelik, Director of the UNIC Moscow, noted that, while accessibility is particularly relevant to persons with disabilities, it has implications and benefits for all. In his words, the Russian government should reconsider accessibility in the context of development and recognize it as a central and cross-cutting issue, essential to an equitable and inclusive society.

After describing the "why" of the UN Convention which strengthens the international normative framework for advancement of the rights and development of persons with disabilities he commented in detail on the survey. The good news, he stressed, is that mobile operators around the world are already successively assisting people with special needs, making a good business case to promoting accessibility beyond compliance with laws and regulations. While Russia fares well globally in the realm of modern ICT, this trend is not growing fast enough locally to foster badly needed participation and inclusion.

Then, Vincenzo Trani, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Concern General Invest, pointed out that technological advances have brought both challenges and opportunities for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. Innovative approaches, he said, including through public-private partnerships, can play an important role in promoting accessibility. After describing the situation on the Russian ICT market, he concluded that going mobile has become the norm, and this is affecting heavily the industry's behavior.

Many other speakers shared their views and experiences. One focused on the "business case" for mobile solutions showing that major operators were able to expand their customer base. Another one described his up and running project/virtual remote console providing improved convenience, comfort and security for the disabled and the elderly. Yet another one spoke eloquently about his successful project delivering a valuable application for people affected by autism. A participant commented on the situation in Russia's provinces where the proliferation of mobile devices is fostered by low tariffs.  A blind computer designer spoke about the need for improving current legislation in this country.

All in all, the launch of the report was a complete success. Our expectation is it will provide a palpable contribution to the emergence of workable strategies and policies for accessible ICT in Russia benefiting all in society.

The Russian text of the Report "Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities" is available at UNIC Moscow's website at, while audio recording of the launch ceremony (in Russian) can be downloaded from this website (

Image: at the launch of the Russian version of the report “Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities"  Image: World Bank premises

Image captions: Participants at the launch of the Russian version of the report, 'Making Mobile Phones Accessible for Persons with Disabilities, a joint report of ITU and G3ict. For more event photos, visit our Facebook page.


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