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United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) addressed the international requirements for digital accessibility for the disabled. The general obligations under the UNCRPD stated that states Parties undertake to ensure and promote the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disability without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability. To do this, States Parties must adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention; take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disability; take into account the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disability in all policies and programmes; take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organization or private enterprise; undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disability, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines; undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disability, giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost; provide accessible information to persons with disability about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities; and promote the training of professionals and staff working with people with disability in the rights recognized in this Convention so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights. In terms of global responsibility, Australia is a signatory to UNCPRD, in regard to article 9.

Article 9 of the UNCPRD

In particular, Article 9 of the UNCPRD specifically regards Accessibility, and states that the obligations for providing accessible information are: to enable people with disability to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disability access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia: buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces; and information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services. Article 9 also states that States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to: Develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public; Ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disability; Provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disability; Provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms; Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public; Promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disability to ensure their access to information; Promote access for persons with disability to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet; Promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.

Ofcom and the Disability Equality Scheme

Other legislations around the world, such as the UK regulations of Ofcom, address accessibility for the disabled as well. Ofcom is the regulator of the UK’s communications industries, and thus created the Disability Equality Scheme (DES). Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom upholds legal specific obligations for the promotion of equality of opportunity, explicitly for the disabled. Under Section 3 (4i) of the Act, it states that they must take into consideration the needs of those with disabilities when carrying out any of their duties. In addition, within the act, Sections 303, 308 and 309 specifically target the need for fair access to services for the disabled, as it states that Ofcom has the responsibility to provide a code giving guidance to promote enjoyment of television by people who are vision impaired, deaf or both, thus ensuring the inclusion of assistance for the vision impaired with the teletext service and create a code of practice for electronic programme guides. Section 310 regards the code of practice for electronic programming and guides in particular. Ofcom has a duty to draw up and occasionally review and revise a code giving guidance as to the practices to be followed in the provision of electronic programme guides. The practices required by the code must also include the incorporation of features that will ensure access by people with disability affecting their hearing, sight or both.

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