United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

26 September 1995


Fiftieth session
Agenda item 105


Implementation of the World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons

Report of the Secretary-General


1.   At its  forty-eighth session,  the General  Assembly adopted resolution
48/95 in  which it requested the  Secretary-General to  report biennially to
the Assembly  on the  progress  of  efforts to  ensure the  equalization  of
opportunities  and  full  inclusion of  persons  with  disabilities  in  the
various  bodies  of the  United  Nations system.    The  present  report was
prepared pursuant to this request.

2.   The question  of equalization  of opportunities  and full inclusion  of
people  with disabilities within  the various  bodies of  the United Nations
system was first raised during the  preparations for the International  Year
of Disabled Persons (IYDP)  in 1981, in the  context of access  to buildings
and  facilities. The Advisory Committee  for the Year, at its second session
in 1980,  recommended that the United  Nations and  its specialized agencies
adopt  a policy to make  all facilities accessible  to disabled persons (see
A/35/444,  annex).  Acting  upon this  recommendation, the General Assembly,
in  its resolution 35/133,  requested the  Secretary-General to  examine the
question of  access to United Nations  buildings, documents and  information
for persons with sensorial disabilities. 

3.   In its resolution 37/53,  the Assembly urged  all organs, organizations
and agencies  of the  United Nations  system to  undertake  new measures  or
expedite  those already  under way  to  improve  access to  their buildings,
facilities  and  information  sources.    In  1984,  the   Secretary-General
submitted  a comprehensive  report  on the  subject to  the Assembly  at its
thirty-ninth session (A/39/191 and Corr.1).

95-28954 (E)  290995/...
4.   In its resolution 43/98,  the Assembly  requested the Secretary-General

to  examine  possible ways  in which  United  Nations meetings,  information
materials and documents could be made  more accessible to disabled  persons.
In its resolution  44/70, the  Assembly requested  the Secretary-General  to
encourage all organs and  bodies of the United  Nations to take into account
in  their  programmes  and operational  activities  the  specific  needs  of
disabled persons.


5.  The following  measures have been taken with  a view to implementing the
recommendations contained in the above resolutions:

  (a)   A  general  survey  of the  question  of access  to  United  Nations
buildings,  documents and  information  for persons  with  disabilities  was
undertaken.   In 1982, three studies were commissioned and prepared by three
consultants with disabilities.  The studies  dealt with visual, hearing  and
physical   impairments   respectively  and   their   implications  for   the
participation of  persons with  such impairments  in the  activities of  the
United Nations;

  (b)   A  handbook  entitled  "Designing  with  care"  containing  standard
specifications for a barrier-free environment was issued;

  (c)   An accessibility  guide to  United Nations  Headquarters for persons
with  disabilities  was  issued  in  1982   by  the  Department  of   Public

  (d)  Studies  undertaken by  the Secretariat Building Management  Services
led  to modifications  in the  physical  environment  of the  United Nations
Headquarters with a view to achieving barrier-free access;

  (e)  In 1983, the Administrative  Committee on Coordination (ACC)  adopted
recommendations  for   the  implementation  of   its  policy  statement   on
employment of  the  disabled in  the  organizations  of the  Untied  Nations
system (ACC/1983/9, annex VI);

  (f)   In 1989, ACC  promulgated a plan to improve employment opportunities
for  disabled   persons  within  the   Secretariat,  in   keeping  with  the
recommendations  contained  in the  World  Programme  of  Action  concerning
Disabled Persons;

  (g)  In 1990,  the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna
(UNOV), in her capacity as focal point for disability issues in the  system,
requested  the executive  secretaries of  the regional  commissions and  the
heads of the specialized agencies to  report on the problem of accessibility
and accommodation  of the needs of  disabled persons.   The Director-General
suggested that  agencies consider including  in their  programme budgets for
meetings,  conferences and other activities appropriate means  to enable the
participation of sensory-impaired persons by making available sign  language
interpretation and  materials in Braille  or audio-cassette tapes.  Agencies
were also requested to consider measures  to enable disabled participants to
gain better access to meeting premises,  including through the provision  of
personal attendants.  In response to  the request, information was  provided
on the measures taken by agencies described in the following paragraphs.
  6.    At the  United  Nations  Office  at Vienna  the  Resource  Group  on
Accessibility was  established  in 1989  to  review  the facilities  in  the
Vienna International Centre in  order to improve  accessibility for  persons
with disabilities.  The Group noted  that some important modifications could
be made at minimum cost.  It also  suggested that modifications which  would
have  substantive   financial  implications  should   be  included  in   the
respective  budgets  of UNOV,  the  United  Nations  Industrial  Development
Organization  (UNIDO) and  the International  Atomic Energy  Agency  (IAEA),
which share the Centre's  premises.  In that  regard, the Group was informed
of  the  status of  the  Major  Repairs Fund  administered  jointly  by  the
Austrian  Government and  Building  Management  Service  (BMS).   The  Group

conducted two "walk-arounds" of  the building.  Its findings were brought to
the attention of  the BMS Advisory Committee.   Priority was given to  items
which were low-cost yet had a profound effect  on making the facilities more

7.  At the United  Nations Office at Geneva major  improvements were made at
the  Petit-Saconnex annex and  at the  William Rappard  Centre (which housed
the  Office  of  the  United  Nations  High  Commissioner  for  Refugees), a
facility belonging to FIPOI (Fondation des immeubles pour les  organisations
internationales) which is responsible for alterations and modifications. 

8.    At the  headquarters  of  the  United  Nations Environment  Programme,
special ramps and signboards have been installed.

9.   The entire  premises  at UNICEF  headquarters  in  New York  are  fully
accessible  and barrier-free for  persons with  disabilities.   The issue of
accessibility  was also  brought to  the  attention  of UNICEF  regional and
country directors.

10.   The premises of the  Food and Agriculture  Organization of the  United
Nations (FAO) are entirely accessible to  wheelchair users.  The  facilities
of  FAO  (meeting  rooms, catering  services,  toilets  and  telephones) are
easily  reached  by  wheelchair  users.    FAO has  prepared  a  brochure in
English,  French, Spanish and  Italian to  provide guidance  to the disabled
persons  who  visit  or work  at  FAO.  Special  earphones  are  provided to
delegates with hearing difficulties.

11.   At  the Inter-Agency  Meeting on Language  Arrangements, Documentation
and Publications  (IAMLADP) which  took  place  at Rome  in June  1990,  the
representative  of  the World  Health  Organization  raised the  question of
improved communication  channels by the  inclusion of  Braille materials  or
audio  cassettes and  sign language  as well  as the  provision of  personal

12.    Concrete measures  have  been  taken  to improve  access  of disabled
persons to the conference  premises and offices at  the headquarters of  the
United Nations Educational,  Scientific and Cultural Organization in  Paris.
With respect to  communication channels, the  provision of printed materials
in Braille or on audio-cassette tapes  and sign language interpretation  are
made  available at  the request  of organizers  of meetings  in liaison with
Conference Division.  The UNESCO Courrier is also issued in Braille.

13.   The International  Civil Aviation  Organization Assembly requested its
Council to  complete a review of  the problems of  elderly and disabled  air
travellers and to determine appropriate measures  to improve their access to
airports and air  services.  These issues  were on the  agenda of  the tenth
session of the Facilitation Division (April 1988).


14.   At  the initiative  of  the  Department  for Policy  Coordination  and
Sustainable Development of the Secretariat, a  task force was established at
United Nations  Headquarters in  January 1995  to review  steps which  might
increase  the Organization's responsiveness to the needs of delegates, staff
members or visitors with  disabilities.  The task  force on accessibility is
chaired   by   a   representative   of   the   Under-Secretary-General   for
Administration and  Management and is  comprised of  representatives of  the
Division for  Social Policy  and Development  of the  Department for  Policy
Coordination  and Sustainable  Development, the  Office of  Human  Resources
Management including  a representative  of  the Chief  Medical Officer,  the
Office of Conference and Support Service  including the Security and  Safety
Service,   the  Buildings   Management  Service   of  the   Department   for
Administration and Management and the Department of Public Information.

15.   The  task force,  which holds  regular meetings,  has concentrated  on

practical measures to improve  access to the physical environment.  The task
force involved  staff  members  with disabilities  in the  "walk-around"  to
identify deficiencies  in the facilities  for persons  with disabilities and
to  exchange  ideas  for  possible  improvements.     Modifications  to  the
facilities that  could be made at  minimum cost as well  as those likely  to
have considerable financial implications were identified.

16.  In February 1995, the Task Force held a  working session with Mr. Bengt
Lindqvist,  the Special  Rapporteur  on  Disability of  the  Commission  for
Social Development.   From  the "walk-around"  of the  facilities at  United
Nations  Headquarters  and  the  meeting with  the  Special  Rapporteur, the
picture  emerged that  the  facilities  are,  in general,  accommodating  to
persons  with disabilities.  The following  improvements were  initiated  in
accordance  with suggestions  and the  recommendations  of the  Task  Force:
installation  of   railings  along  the  library  walkway;  opening  of  the
southernmost  gate at the  42nd Street  entrance in view of  the obstacle of
the man-hole in  front of the northern  door; installing an automated teller
machine on the 1st floor of the Secretariat  building to allow easier access
to it than to the one on the 4th floor; installing wheelchair  access to the
staff cafe on the 4th floor of the Secretariat building.

17.   In addition  to physical  accessibility to  conferences and  meetings,
there  is  the issue  of  accessibility  to  documents  and information  for
persons  with  disabilities  so  that  they   may  be  able  to  follow  and
participate in the work of conferences  and meetings, their preparation  and
follow-up, whether  as members  of the staff  or as  delegates, experts  and
observers.   In this connection,  measures to meet  the needs  of those with
visual, hearing  or  speech impairments  have  most  often been  raised,  in
particular  availability   of  documents   in  "large   type",  Braille   or
tape/cassette   form,  as   well  as   of   special  audio   facilities  and
interpretation in sign language.

 18.   The technology  now available  and widely  in use  at United  Nations
Headquarters as well as  at the United Nations  Offices at Geneva and Vienna
and at  other locations has markedly  improved accessibility  in the broader
sense  as  compared  to  the situation  of  only  a  few  years  ago.    The
generalized  use of  electronic means for generating,  storing and accessing
documents  has  made  it  possible to  provide,  inexpensively  and quickly,
information and  documents in large  print, in  Braille, on audio-cassettes,
on computer diskettes and through direct on-line access.

19.   Sign  language  interpretation can  be made  available  on  request at
Headquarters  for  specific  authorized  meetings.   However,  consultations
concerning  the  provision of  sign  language  interpretation  as a  regular
service  at  meetings of  the  General  Assembly,  the  Economic and  Social
Council and its subsidiary bodies or  of expert meetings convened  under the
auspices of  the United Nations, have not  yet led to a sufficient degree of
agreement on the policy and technical issues to be resolved.


20.   The Task Force on  Accessibility will continue  its work and develop a
phased approach and  implementation plan covering the years 1996-2000,  with
the   objective  of  ensuring  full  accessibility  to  the  United  Nations
facilities.   As a  benchmark at  Headquarters, the  Task Force adopted  the
goal of compliance with the standards of the host country  as set out in the
Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In this  regard, contacts have been
established with  the United States National  Council on  Disability and the
New  York City Mayor's  Office for People with  Disabilities.  Through these
offices,  the  Secretariat  has  been  provided  with  available   reference
standards, particularly the  ADA Accessibility Guidelines  and the  New York
Building Code, as well as relevant materials  for conference planners.   The
Mayor's Office  has also contacted the  New York  City Sanitation Commission
concerning snow  removal around the United  Nations complex  and problems of
access  encountered  by  United  Nations  staff  members  and  visitors with


21.    The  Secretariat  is  contacting   the  competent  officials  in  the
specialized  agencies  and  other organizations  and  bodies  of  the United
Nations  system to inform them  of the experience gained by the Headquarters
Task Force and  to request information on recent measures taken and problems
encountered  in making  buildings,  conferences, information  and  documents
fully  accessible.    The  information  made  available  by  the  respective
entities of the United Nations system will be  included in the next biennial
report of the Secretary-General  on this subject, due to be presented to the
Assembly at its fifty-second session. The question of access is also on  the
agenda  of  the annual  Inter-Agency  Consultation  on Disability,  which is
scheduled  to convene in  October 1995  and is to consider,  inter alia, the
desirability  and feasibility  of common  or  harmonized approaches  in  the



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Date last posted: 18 December 1999 16:30:10
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