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Zero Project 2014: For a World Without Barriers
Under the motto, "No one can enjoy a human right to which one does not have access," the international initiative Zero Project mobilized its worldwide network of more than 1,000 disability experts in late 2013 to map the state of the implementation of the CRPD and to find innovative practice and policy solutions on accessibility.
Image: 54 innovative practice and 15 innovative policy solutions that have demonstrated their success in overcoming successfully access barriers for persons with disabilities have been selected.
Access barriers that persons with disabilities encounter everyday are uncountable. They impede them to go to a mainstream school, take a city bus, use the Internet, and participate in our societies.
Under the motto, “No one can enjoy a human right to which one does not have access,” the international initiative Zero Project, mobilized its worldwide network of more than 1,000 disability experts in spring 2013 to map the state of the implementation of the CRPD and to find innovative practice and policy solutions on accessibility.
This year’s outcome is incredible! By 2013, Zero Project experts surveyed the state of implementation of the CRPD in over 130 countries. Furthermore, 54 innovative practice and 15 innovative policy solutions that have demonstrated their success in overcoming successfully access barriers for persons with disabilities have been selected. All findings have been published in the Zero Project Report 2014 and can be browsed online at: www.zeroproject.org.
The Implementation of the UN CRPD: Focus on Accessibility
Let us share some more insights of the Zero Project’s findings by focusing on ICT accessibility, a key for education, employment and so much more. The Zero Project’s CPRD survey underlined that in the area of ICT there persists a clear dominance of highly developed countries, also due to different attitudes. Countries with Human Development Index (HDI) 1 have clearly better results in Access to ICT and availability of data. However, HDI 3 and HDI 4 countries (countries with low human development) are at the same low level. This is a striking finding, since creating accessible ICT is far less costly than, for instance, accessibility of the built environment. It appears that ICT accessibility is not only a question of budget, but also of the attitudes and mindsets of decision makers.
Another finding of the CRPD survey concerns emergency systems and emergency phone lines: 89 out of 130 countries received red lights when asked about the full accessibility of emergency early warning systems. Emergency phone lines are also not accessible in most countries. Comments from all country experts to this question can be accessed online, for free. An inspiring Innovative Practice in this field is the easy to understand accessible evacuation manual in DAISY multimedia format for persons with intellectual disabilities from Japan, implemented by ATDO.
Innovative Practices on Accessibility
Indeed, in addition to mapping the state of the implementation of the CRPD, the Zero Project selected 54 Innovative Practices out of 243 nominated projects from around the world. There are Innovative Practices with an all-stakeholder involvement, that include, in addition to persons with disabilities themselves, also professionals (architects, engineers etc.), planning and financing bodies, and businesses. A good example is RIOinclui from Brazil, which, by combining architecture, universal design and social work, offers a full network of local support and accessible housing for poor children with disabilities in Rio de Janeiro.
Among the 54 Innovative Practices are those employing apps and software. Since persons with disabilities can be considered as sophisticated users of technology, apps and software can be highly efficient, cheap and accessible to all. For example, EMT Madrid in Spain makes its public transportation more accessible through the use and further development of ICT and Augmented Reality-applications. Other Innovative Practices consist of online libraries of e-books, audio books and all different kinds of alternative formats, and are at the heart of several education and training projects.
Many of the Innovative Practices are based on innovative devices, as innovation and technology are definitely drivers of accessibility. An interesting example is Artesens, which enables persons with disabilities to learn about art while touching tactile reproductions and experiencing moments of emotion and aesthetic pleasure during interactive plays.
A considerable number of Innovative Practices use online maps and make for example mainstream maps accessible to all, including the blind and persons with learning difficulties, and find ways to access the latest and most comprehensive data. A good example is wheelmap.org, which is an online map indicating whether a location is wheelchair accessible. It works like Wikipedia – many people help to collect and update information about accessibility of places in the city.
Innovative Policies on Accessibility
As policies can be excellent tools for promoting social change, the Zero Project researched and selected also 15 Innovative Policies. Most Innovative Policies pay attention to the universal design approach (the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life). Norway’s non-discrimination law, for example, promotes a strict application of the universal design. Many of the policies implement measures that benefit not only those with physical disabilities, but also people who are sight or hearing impaired. However, still too few tackle the exclusion of people who use easy language and persons with psychosocial problems.
Increasingly, policy makers address accessibility in all its complexity. More and more policies are tackling specifically the access to information and communication. For example, Qatar enacted a comprehensive eAccessibility policy in 2011 that addresses key issues around information and communication technologies. Since 2011, the first 20 assistive technology solutions for Arabic were introduced, 1,100 people with a disability and 950 professionals were trained, over 60 websites became more accessible and telecoms providers now offer 50% discount on tariffs to persons with disabilities.
Also in the area of products and services policy makers have started to issue accessibility standards and norms. For example, Ireland’s easily applicable Standard SWiFT 9:2012 Universal Design For Energy Suppliers offers managers guidance that illustrates how to communicate with 1.6 million energy customers. It includes all written, face-to-face, telephone and video communication, and all electronic and web-based communication. It is the world’s first accessibility standard to be adopted in the energy sector.As the large majority of the one billion persons with disabilities lives in the Global South, policies for low-income contexts are needed. Increasingly, countries in the Global South develop minimum accessibility standards that, as in Uganda, contain context-specific guidance on accessible water wells for example and that include provisions on the accessibility of services, information and communication, e.g. public operated machines.
In such a context, a strategic approach with priorities can make the most of limited resources. For example, the Innovative Policy from Colombia, Plan Vive Digital, creates Internet access for rural populations, whilst implementing specific measures to overcome the digital exclusion of people with disabilities. By 2014, more than 800 centers will provide tools promoting accessibility and offer 1.2 million people with disabilities opportunities to use ICTs.
Inclusive and non-bureaucratic approaches are needed (and not only in the Global South). For example, among the 50 countries with copyright exceptions, the approach of India’s Copyright Amendment Act of 2012 stands out as it is inclusive and non-bureaucratic, catering to the needs of persons with disabilities living in the Global South. As of 2013, 95 Indian members of DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) have converted 25,000 books, available to some 50,000 users.
Appropriate training for all relevant stakeholders is needed to ensure that professionals can confidently act as experts in matters of accessibility and that standards are properly applied. Both Innovative Policies from Kuala Lumpur and Berlin require accessibility expertise amongst planners, who are obliged to submit a concept of accessibility. Under the Innovative Policy from Hong Kong/China, 81 appointed Access Coordinators raise staff awareness on accessibility issues within the different policy departments and 3.600 Access Officers give persons with disabilities on-site assistance in each venue. Together, they establish an efficient communication platform between Government departments and venues and the public.
Standards and compliance should be mandated by law. Only a few countries require the application of universal design and establish that inaccessibility is a matter of discrimination. The Innovative Policy from Norway established universal design as an enforceable legal standard. In particular, the obligation to provide universally designed ICTs has been legally enshrined, without any reference to disproportionate burden. To ensure compliance, reviews and inspections should be used.To access all findings of the Zero Project 2014, download the Zero Project Report 2014 (in English, in PDF) or browse them online at the brand new website: www.zeroproject.org.
To exchange and spread these 54 Innovative Practices and 15 Innovative Policies, more than 400 leading parliamentarians, NGO and foundation representatives, academics, and activists of the disability rights movement have gathered at the third Zero Project Conference, held on February 27 and 28 at UN Vienna. You can follow the debates of the Zero Project Conference via Live Stream and participate via Facebook, Twitter or our Google Plus Page. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas!
About the Author
Ingrid Heindorf is Head of Policy Research and Conference Registration at the Zero Project. You can email her for further details on the report and conference.
Blog: ICTs for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities: Role of DPOs in India | Read Dorodi Sharma's Article.
Publication: CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report - researched by G3ict in collaboration with DPI | Download PDF.
Event: G3ict Presents at Zero Project Conference 2014 on Accessibility | February 27-28, Vienna | View Event Details.