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Axel Leblois

  The Access Line

11/18/2013

Adobe Supports the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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G3ict Founder and Executive Director Axel Leblois responds to Adobe's vocal support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

CRPD Adobe’s blog and public support of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are excellent contributions to the current Ratification debate. Beyond all the reasons already expressed during the Senate hearings emphasizing the historic leadership of the United States in promoting Disability Rights, Adobe rightly points out to the critical importance of harmonizing accessibility standards and good practices around the world. 

One consensus among industry and disability advocacy is that global standards and harmonization are necessary to a) lower the costs of accessible and assistive technologies and b) maintain good interoperability across the world. What was not stated during the latest U.S. Senate hearing is that Americans with disabilities can only derive considerable benefits at home from such harmonization by enjoying cheaper, interoperable accessible technologies.   

Naysayers may argue that CRPD ratification has nothing to do with those issues. We can attest to the exact contrary: while the United States Information Technology industry remains the main source of innovation for accessibility around the world, the share of its own domestic market relative to the global market place cannot drive global harmonization alone. For instance, while the most innovative mobile operating system accessibility features are designed in the United States, the majority of handsets are produced in Asia and 95% of the 6.5 billion mobile phone users are outside the United States. Global harmonized accessibility policies are thus necessary to achieve economies of scale and interoperability. The United States Access Board certainly pioneered this notion when it invited international observers to participate in its deliberations when reviewing section 508 standards.

In that regard, the CRPD offers a unique and very effective platform and ICT accessibility framework for the U.S. to actively promote the harmonization of accessible information technologies around the world. The United States should ratify the CRPD and participate in the CRPD Committee in Geneva. It should support the programs of various international organizations – including G3ict – supporting States Parties in adopting harmonized approaches to ICT accessibility.

To be specific by way of examples: in May 2012, the CRPD Committee provided a first set of guidelines for States Parties on ATMs and banking accessibility. In 2014, it will provide guidelines for the accessibility of air transportation. Other areas of technology are to follow. And, while the expertise of the U.S. Information Technology industry is well respected abroad, the lack of support of the United States for the CRPD prevents official U.S. representation to weigh in and is hurting in subtle ways in every international meeting where harmonization issues are debated.

Our experience at G3ict working with industry, advocates and governments in all corners of the world is that the voice of the United States is sorely missed when it comes to technology accessibility issues.   

Thank you to Adobe for its strong and effective endorsement of the CRPD.

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Related Resources

  • Adobe's Blog Supporting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities | Read Blog.
  • Better Deployment of Accessible Electronic Kiosks and ATMs for Persons with Disabilities | Read Blog.
  • CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report - Researched by G3ict in Collaboration with DPI | Overview.