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UN adapting conference facilities to meet the needs of delegates with disabilities

New York, 11 August — To facilitate access to the negotiations on a new convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities that will begin next Monday, the United Nations is making major changes in its conference facilities for the meeting.

The changes to the second largest meeting room in the UN complex include removing doors that impede the movement of wheelchairs, the installation of a ramp to the podium, equipment to produce documentation in Braille and infrared listening devices that will allow hearing impaired participants to listen to interpretation. .

More than 800 representatives from almost 90 organizations representing people with disabilities will be attending the negotiations, in addition to delegates from governments and international organizations.

“We are trying to facilitate the needs of persons with disabilities,” said Fernando Barquin of the UN’s Special Events Unit. Lessons learned from past meetings have been incorporated into this year’s plans, he said.

“When we first starting having these sessions nearly five years ago, we didn’t know how to accommodate that many people with different types of disabilities,” Thomas Schindlmayr, from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs said. “But we’ve learned a lot of things during this process.” .

To accommodate delegates with disabilities, Barquin said that between 20-25 fixed seats will be removed so that people in wheelchairs can sit at the desks with their national delegations. To assist delegates who rely on rechargeable computers, a “power station” will be established outside the conference room that can also be used to recharge electric powered wheelchairs. .

In addition, two public telephones directly outside the conference will be positioned so that people in wheelchairs can use them. Arrangements have also been made with the caterer, Barquin said, to make sure that dining facilities are accessible.