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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

Implementation of the
World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons

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II. Progress in equalization of opportunities of persons with disabilities

Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons


I. Introduction

II. Progress in equalization of opportunities of persons with disabilities

A. Accessibility

B. Social security and social safety nets

C. Employment and sustainable livelihoods

III. Progress in implementation of international norms and standards relating to persons with disabilities

IV. Other priority topics

A. Children with disabilities

B. Assistive technologies: the case of wheeled mobility

V. Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993–2002)

A. Promoting barrier-free societies

B. Selected experiences in promoting non-handicapping environments in Asia and the Pacific

VI. Concluding remarks

In resolution 52/82 the General Assembly reaffirmed the role of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons1 as a framework for the design and evaluation of disability policies and programmes. The World Programme has two goals: full participation; and equality of persons with disabilities. The experience of countries in implementing the World Programme has contributed to both increased awareness of the disability perspective in policy design, planning and evaluation and placement of disability issues in a broad human rights context. Instead of being perceived as the concern of one social group with particular needs, the rights of persons with disabilities are increasingly being recognized as a prerequisite to the advancement of the social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of all.

Progress to date in implementing the priority issues identified in its paragraph 4 of resolution 52/82 is discussed in paragraphs 4–18 below.

A. Accessibility

The Division for Social Policy and Development (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat) is making a major effort to ensure that its social development information resources are accessible to all. In the first half of 1998, with expert assistance, the Division planned and developed, within the United Nations Headquarters Internet presence, the Internet-based "Gateway to social policy and development" ( esa/socdev). The Gateway design applies international criteria for accessible Internet-based information services. Within the Gateway site, the "Persons with disabilities" site ( fully meets the Internet accessibility standards developed at the Center for Applied Special Technology, a non-governmental organization that analyses web pages for their accessibility to persons with disabilities (

Two aspects of Internet accessibility were of concern in the design and development of the "Persons with disabilities" site:

(a) Key information resources were identified for the various constituencies for global social policy and development issues; access to those information resources was designed and delivered in ways that are user-friendly to persons with physical or sensorial disabilities so that they can easily, intuitively and efficiently navigate, use and retrieve timely and relevant social development information resources;

(b) Social development information resources must also be accessible to all interested communities, particularly those that are using information technologies and telecommunications structures at various levels of development. Consequently, information resources at the "Gateway to social policy and development" site are designed so that anyone interested in social policy and development issues can access the site in less than one minute, even with a relatively slow computer modem over a conventional telephone line. This particular Internet design feature has lowered the cost of accessing social development information services for all.

In terms of accessible information resources, the Gateway includes references to a number of key social development instruments in formats that are fully accessible, in accordance with relevant standards. For instance, the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development are located at socdev/wssd.htm; international plans and programmes of action in the fields of ageing, persons with disabilities and youth are also available at the Gateway site.

The Persons with disabilities site includes links, regularly updated, to a number of international norms and standards related to persons with disabilities and to substantive and parliamentary documents on global disability policies and programmes. On-line documentary resources include the second monitoring report of the Special Rapporteur on Disability and the third review and appraisal of the World Programme of Action ( disabled.htm).

The use of accessible information resources has allowed the Division to present in a timely and cost-effective manner a range of substantive materials to its specialized constituencies. For instance, Disabled Peoples International, a non-governmental organization, convened, in cooperation with the Government of the Dominican Republic, the Dominican National Federation of Disabled Persons (FENADID) and the Dominican Association for Rehabilitation (ADR), a subregional workshop for Central America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean on the "training of trainers in monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities" (Santo Domingo, 13–18 April 1998). The report of the workshop, which includes an action plan formulated by participants to further implement international norms and standards related to persons with disabilities, is located at

In response to a request from the Ministry of Justice of the Government of Uganda for substantive background to assist in its drafting of national legislation related to persons with disabilities, the Division prepared — and has continued to compile and publish at its "Persons with disabilities" site — an overview of international legal frameworks for disability legislation ( socdev/disovlf.htm) which provides an introduction to the role of international norms and standards in the drafting of legislation and includes electronic links to key international instruments related to the rights of persons with disabilities.

As a means to promote awareness and build capacities for accessible Internet-based resources, the Division organized, on request, briefings for interested governmental representatives on Internet policies, structures and technologies, and is currently conducting, with the assistance of consultant specialists, a seminar and on-line workshop on Internet accessibility (December 1998 to April 1999). Seminar and workshop materials have been published on the Internet ( The Division placed the seminar and workshop resources on-line so that the technical exchanges will be open to the larger United Nations system and other interested communities. For instance, specialist staff of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, at Bangkok, are currently following the seminar and workshop by means of the information technologies available to the Organization; a number of interested governmental officials, academics and representatives of non-governmental organizations reportedly are following the seminar and workshop on-line as well.

The work of the Division related to Internet accessibility was recently recognized by two non-governmental organizations. On 2 December 1998 in a ceremony at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in New York, the Non-Profiting Computing Organization presented the Division with the Howard Silverman Award for its efforts in making social development information accessible to all; on 4 December 1998 in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C., the People-to-People Committee on Disability presented the Division with the Bernard Posner Award for its efforts to promote international Internet accessibility.

A related accessibility issue identified in the third review and appraisal of the World Programme of Action (A/52/351) is environmental accessibility, in particular accessible shelter and urban infrastructure. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has been cooperating with the Ministry of Social Affairs of the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District (SOLIDERE) in the analysis and planning of the Beirut Central Area as a barrier-free environment that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. This is discussed in the technical monograph, "Accessibility for the disabled in the urban environment of the ESCWA region: planning and design solutions" (E/ESCWA/HS/1997/5) and in "Accessibility for the disabled; a design manual for a barrier-free environment".2 ESCWA provides, on request, advice and assistance and organizes training activities on accessibility and on planning and design of barrier-free environments. The Division for Social Policy and Development is currently cooperating with ESCWA in the design and conduct of a comparative study on the application of accessibility norms and standards and universal design concepts and methods by selected developing countries.

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B. Social security and social safety nets

In cooperation with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and with substantive assistance from the National Institute of Development Administration of Thailand, the Division for Social Policy and Development organized the expert Workshop on Ensuring Access to Social Services of Under-served Populations (Bangkok, 2–6 November 1998). The report of the Workshop is before the current session of the Commission, in connection with its consideration of the priority theme, "Social services for All" (E/CN.5/1999/6).

From the disability perspective, the report considers social service design, planning and delivery and evaluation in a disability-sensitive context rather than as an issue of concern to a particular social group. For instance, the concept of under-served populations is addressed in terms — both qualitative and quantitative — that pertain to all. Recommended improvements in social service design, planning and delivery include strengthening mechanisms for participation by civil society in the determination and evaluation of services and strengthening the role that rights-based approaches play in ensuring social services for all, in particular the rights to inclusion, to participation and to accountability.

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C. Employment and sustainable livelihoods

One of the three priority themes considered at the World Summit for Social Development is employment and sustainable livelihoods. From the disability perspective, it deals with disability-sensitive policy options that promote sustainable livelihoods and employment opportunities for all and with investment options in the social sectors that contribute to increased accessibility for all in social, economic and political environments.

In connection with the 1998 observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, an expert panel discussion was organized at United Nations Headquarters on the topic "Lifecycle approaches to sustainable and secure livelihoods and well-being for people with disabilities". The panel was moderated by the Chairman of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial Matters) of the fifty-third session of the General Assembly, Mr. Bagher Asadi (Islamic Republic of Iran), and included experts in their individual capacity from the academic, non-governmental and private sectors. The Panel’s attention to independent living and sustainable and secure livelihoods reflects the growing interest in the political economy of disability and concern with practical measures that promote and support development of the social, economic and creative potential of all members of society.

The role of microcredit in the eradication of poverty was considered by the General Assembly at its fifty-third session (A/53/223). However, the role of microcredit, leadership training and institutional development in promoting sustainable and secure livelihoods for specific social groups is a more recent area of policy and programme interest to the Division. A recent contribution to the topic was the Seminar on Microcredit and Persons with Disabilities in Western Africa (Bamako, 25–30 October 1998), organized by the Government of Mali, the Western Africa Federation of Persons with Disabilities (FOAPH) and the Agency for International Cooperation for Social and Economic Integration of Persons with Disabilities (ACIPH), a non-governmental organization. The seminar brought together specialists and representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities from 10 Western African countries to review and discuss issues and trends and to formulate recommendations for more effective incorporation of disability concerns in policies and programmes on microcredit and microfinance. The seminar was co-financed by a grant from the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability. The report of the seminar is being published.


1  See General Assembly resolution 37/52.

2  Beirut, SOLIDARE, in cooperation with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development