Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
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68. There was general agreement (a) to bring the chapeau of draft article 13 into line with other conventions by inserting the word “all” before the words “appropriate measures”; (b) to replace the word “and”, which appeared after the word “opinion”, by the words “including the right”; and (c) to insert the words “and ideas” after the words “impart information”.
69. Following consultations by the facilitator (Omar Kadiri, Morocco), the Coordinator proposed that the words “appropriate modes of communication ... means of communication” in the facilitator’s text be replaced by the words “sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative alternative communication and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice”.
70. One delegation proposed the inclusion in the draft article of the concept of freedom of thought. The Committee noted that, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, freedom of thought was dealt with in a separate article from freedom of expression, and it was agreed to give further consideration to the issue at a subsequent stage.
71. The chapeau of draft article 13 currently reads:
“States parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative alternative communication and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice, including by:”.
72. There was general agreement that the facilitator’s text be used as the text of subparagraph (a).
73. Some delegations, however, expressed concern about the open-ended commitment of resources that the phrase “public information” implied if it were not qualified in some way. There were a number of proposals to address that concern. First, there were several proposals to qualify the word “public” with phrases such as “publicly available”, or “official”. Second, there was a proposal to begin the paragraph with the words “Taking appropriate steps to provide”. Third, there was a proposal to insert the words “upon request”.
74. There was no general agreement to the above-mentioned proposals. It was pointed out that the qualifiers were not needed because systems and formats designed from the outset for accessibility would not involve significant additional cost to governments.
75. Following the discussion, subparagraph (a) reads:
“(a) [Taking appropriate steps to provide] [Providing] [official] [public] [public, official] [publicly available official] information [intended for the general public] [that States parties and other public authorities provide to the general public] to persons with disabilities, [upon request,] in a timely manner and without additional cost for persons with disabilities, and in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities;”.
76. The Coordinator proposed that the words: “Accepting and facilitating” be adopted provisionally as the introductory clause of subparagraph (b). It was agreed that, for the sake of consistency, the words “a variety of modes of communication” be replaced for the time being by the words used in the chapeau, pending agreement on a more concise formulation in the paragraphs in question.
77. Following the discussion, subparagraph (b) reads:
“(b) [Accepting and facilitating] the use of sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative alternative communication and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;”.
78. It was provisionally agreed to replace the words “modes of communication of their choice” in subparagraph (c) by the wording used in the chapeau of draft article 13.
79. There was no agreement, however, on whether the subparagraph should be introduced with the words “Providing educational, programmes” or “Promoting opportunities for training”.
80. It was agreed to retain subparagraph (c) in draft article 13, pending further discussion about its appropriate placement. The subparagraph currently reads:
“(c) [Providing educational programs] [Promoting opportunities for training] aimed at teaching persons with disabilities and, where appropriate, other concerned persons, to use sign languages, and Braille, and augmentative alternative communication and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice;”.
81. There was reaffirmation of the agreement reached during the fourth session of the Ad Hoc Committee to consolidate subparagraph (d), which read “(d) Undertaking and promoting the research, development and production of new technologies, including information and communication technologies, and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disabilities;”, with similar paragraphs elsewhere in the text (see A/59/360, annex IV, para. 9). It was agreed that the text should be incorporated in draft article 4, on general obligations.
82. It was decided to consider subparagraph (e) in conjunction with draft articles 17, on education, and 19, on accessibility, at a subsequent meeting. The subparagraph reads as follows:
“(e) Promoting other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information;”.
Subparagraphs (f) and (g)
83. It was generally agreed that subparagraph (f) should be retained, pending resolution of the issue of whether information provided by the private sector would be covered by subparagraph (a).
84. There was no agreement on whether the two subparagraphs should be introduced with the word “Encouraging”, as in the text prepared by the Working Group, or strengthened by using instead the word “Urging”, or “Requiring”. There was some recognition that delegations should bear in mind the need to develop a convention that attracts the maximum number of States parties.
85. Some delegations proposed merging subparagraphs (f) and (g) and others proposed mentioning the Internet either in both paragraphs as well as in the chapeau, or as the subject of a separate paragraph.
86. Subparagraphs (f) and (g) currently read:
“(f) [Encouraging] [Urging] [Requiring] private entities that provide services to the general public to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;
“(g) [Encouraging] [Urging] [Requiring] the mass media to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities;”.
87. There was no general agreement on whether it was desirable to retain the ideas in subparagraph (h) of the compilation text, but it was decided that the subparagraph should be maintained until it had been considered more fully at a future meeting.
88. Subparagraph (h), on which further discussions are required, reads:
“(h) [Developing/recognizing/promoting] a national sign language.”
Subparagraphs (i), (j) and (k)
89. There was general agreement that the ideas set out in subparagraphs (i), (j) and (k) of the facilitator’s text should not be included in draft article 13 but considered during the discussion of draft article 19 on accessibility, at a subsequent meeting.