Ms. Maria Francesca Spatolisano Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Closing Remarks
World Autism Awareness Day

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As has been highlighted at this commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day, assistive technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to advance the rights and inclusion of persons with autism.

On behalf of DESA, co-organizer of the World Autism Awareness Day,
I express my gratitude for the excellent contributions of all participants in today’s event. Many of you have shared your experiences and views regarding one of the international community’s key challenges: how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be translated into real differences in the lives of people on the ground.

A key message arising from today’s discussions is that access to affordable assistive technologies is critical to the realization of the rights of persons with autism in all aspects of society. This is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which emphasizes the importance of assistive technologies, calling for States Parties to facilitate access to them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community continues to address key issues facing persons with autism. These include social exclusion, poverty and lack of wellbeing which, in turn, have a cumulative impact on education, employment and earnings, which also result in increased expenditures related to disability. For many people in the autism spectrum, access to assistive technologies can enhance inclusion in the community, promote social engagement, and enable independent living.

The United Nations Strategy on New Technologies, launched by the UN Secretary General in September 2018, aims to define how the UN system will support the use of these technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. According to the Strategy, the design and use of new technologies should be aligned with the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the norms and standards of international law, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The opportunities presented by assistive technology are yet to be fully realized. A clear message coming out of today’s event is that, despite major technological advances, important barriers to the use of assistive technologies persist. These include lack of affordability and availability, as well as lack of awareness of their potential and of training on their use.

The international community and the key stakeholders in this work must therefore take a broad approach, working to dismantle all barriers. Achieving access to affordable assistive technologies will require the participation of many different stakeholders, including Government, civil society – particularly organizations of persons with disabilities – and the private sector, all of which have different roles to play. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs also stands ready to support your efforts.

Today’s event has provided an opportunity – not only to raise awareness – but to come together to appreciate the opportunities afforded by technology. Let us seize these opportunities to ensure an inclusive world for persons with autism.

Thank you.

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