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Accessibility is about giving equal access to everyone. Without being able to access the facilities and services found in the community, persons with disabilities will never be fully included. In most societies, however, there are innumerable obstacles and barriers that hinder persons with disabilities. These include such things as stairs, lack of information in accessible formats such as Braille and sign language, and community services provided in a form which persons with disabilities are not able to understand. Although some of the more costly accessibility provisions in the Convention can be implemented progressively, there are a number of low-cost, low-tech accessibility solutions that would have immediate benefits.
The principle of accessibility is relevant to all of the areas of implementation of the Convention. For example:
1. Physical environment
An accessible physical environment benefits everyone, not just persons with disabilities. The Convention states that measures should be undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities and workplaces. These would include not only buildings, but also footpaths, curb cuts, and obstacles that block the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Transportation is a vital component for independent living, and like others in society persons with disabilities rely on transportation facilities to move from point A to point B. The term transportation covers a number of areas including air travel, buses, taxis, and trains. In many instances, these are inaccessible to persons with disabilities because either they cannot use them in the first instance (e.g. inaccessible buses, train stations), be more clear, use an actual example; relate to other rights: access to transportation provides access to other rights and vise versa.
Longer-term the Convention foresees that all transportation be accessible to everyone in society. Immediate steps should ensure that persons with disabilities using public transportation are not at a disadvantage to others. Measures could include ensuring that bus and train drivers make regular announcements at stops to inform individuals where they are, allowing the transportation of service animals, and providing signage in Braille.
Access to information creates opportunities for everyone in society. Access to information refers all information. In all societies, people use information in many forms to make decisions about their daily lives. Depending on the society, this can range from actions such as being able to read price tags, to physically enter a hall to participate in a gathering, to read a pamphlet with healthcare information, to understand a bus schedule or a note from a schoolteacher, or to view webpages. No longer should societal barriers of prejudice, infrastructure, and inaccessible formats stand in the way of obtaining and utilizing information in daily life. In most countries, there are no laws on providing information in accessible formats (e.g. Braille, audio formats, sign language), or to make websites accessible. Even where there is legislation, the actual provision of such services is lacking. Governments are asked by the Convention to introduce adequate legislation and means to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access information that impinge on their daily lives. This includes providing information on emergency services.
4. Public facilities and services
The Convention asks States to develop guidelines to make public facilities and services accessible. Government should set example on ensuring the full participation in society. Governments need to think, for example, if a person with disabilities goes to a public health clinic, what services need to be provided in order to ensure that they receive the same level of treatment as others? This same accessibility analysis or audit needs to be considered for all public services. This may include the provision of ramps into buildings, signage in Braille, and sign language interpreters or closed captioning on public television. This should be conducted with involvement of persons with disabilities throughout the entire process.
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