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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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I. Introduction

II. Overview of recent policy and programme activities

III. International norms and standards related to persons with disabilities

IV. Data and statistics concerning persons with disabilities

V. Accessibility at United Nations Headquarters

VI. United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability


I. Analytical review of progress in equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities

II. United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability


I. United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability: projects supported

II. Projects co-financed in cooperation with the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND)

Addendum I. Analytical review of progress in equalization of opportunities by, for and with persons with disabilities

1. General Assembly resolution 52/82 of 12 December 1997 identifies three priorities for action to equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities: accessibility; social services and safety nets; and employment and sustainable livelihoods. The present section discusses strategies to implement Assembly resolution 52/82, progress achieved and implications of those results, elaborating on material included under the interim report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.5/1999/5) to the thirty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development on the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons.1

2. Determination of a strategy for efficient and effective implementation of General Assembly resolution 52/82 required, first, identification of a value proposition that would best respond to the interests and needs of the specialized constituencies related thereto: Governments, organizations of persons with disabilities and civil society. Since disability can affect anyone at any stage of the life cycle,2 the value proposition identified was analysis, promotion and assistance on request in developing "best total solutions"3 for disability action by, for and with persons with disabilities.

3. The implementation strategy thus had a constituency focus and participatory orientation.

4. A second strategic consideration was identification of institutional arrangements appropriate to the ambitious agenda set forth in General Assembly resolution 52/82 which would promote greater exchanges among interested communities - governmental and non-governmental communities, civil society and the private sector. This led to adoption of new organizational models, based on information flows and communications networks rather than discrete structures, spans of control and physical locations. A communications-based strategy was premised on open standards and the considerable power of connectivity4 which would not only facilitate active exchanges among interested communities but also encourage participants in these exchanges to think about adding value to the content communicated.5

5. Open standards facilitated ease of entry into the exchanges of knowledge and experiences, which contributed to increasing returns from feedback and contributed content.6

6. Three operational modes were employed in implementing General Assembly resolution 52/82:

(a) Alliances to exchange knowledge and experience on priority topics and common objectives in the disability field and to contribute thereby to the global body of knowledge;

(b) Joint production of priority knowledge and information goods and services;

(c) Co-sourcing of inputs, substantive and managerial knowledge and skills and goods and services to meet flexibly and efficiently the needs and interests of the specialized constituencies for disability policies and programmes.

7. Application of each of these modes is considered in the following discussion of progress in implementing the priorities for action identified in General Assembly resolution 52/82.

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A. Accessibility

8. Rule 5 of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993, annex) considers "accessibility" with reference both to the physical environment and to information and communications services. Although the Standard Rules were drafted before the recent and significant expansion in information technologies and communications networks in countries, rule 5 provides useful guidance for policy design and advocacy. Notable progress was realized in both areas by the United Nations in cooperation with Governments, the academic and non-governmental community, and the private sector.

1. Environmental accessibility

9. As discussed in the third quinquennial review and appraisal of the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (A/52/351), environmental accessibility involves more than planning and design of barrier-free physical environments. Accessibility concerns include planning and introduction of measures to promote social integration and full and effective participation by all on the basis of equality.

10. Environmental accessibility affects all. Its emergence as a major concern reflects the shift in emphasis from medical models of disability, and an emphasis on care, protection and assisting persons with disabilities in adapting to "normal" social structures, to social models with their focus on empowerment, participation and modifications of environments to promote equalization of opportunities for all.7

11. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has been cooperating intensively with the Government of Lebanon in the planning and design of a "barrier-free" Beirut Central District. The initiative is part of the follow-up to the 1989 Conference on the Capabilities and Needs of Disabled Persons in the ESCWA Region whose recommendations included the issue of accessible urban planning and the development of physical infrastructure, transportation and related services. Beginning in 1994, ESCWA was requested by the Government of Lebanon to advise and assist in the formulation of policy options and technical design standards to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities. An immediate task for ESCWA was assessment of national-level needs and identification of priorities for action. Planning and design of a barrier-free Beirut Central District was identified as a first task, whose lessons of implementation of accessibility norms and standards could be applied elsewhere in Lebanon as well as by other interested countries. Planning and development of the Beirut Central District was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon, the National Council for Disabled Persons and SOLIDERE, the Lebanese Company for Development and Reconstruction of the Beirut Central District. In late 1998, SOLIDERE and ESCWA prepared and published a manual describing the technical planning, design and implementation of a barrier-free Beirut Central District, entitled Accessibility for the Disabled: A Design Manual for a Barrier-Free Environment (Beirut, 1998). The Manual discusses a two-track approach to promoting and implementing non-handicapping environments comprising: (a) measures to influence planning, design and reconstruction of a barrier-free Beirut Central District and (b) documentation of accessibility concepts and standards, and suggested instruments for application to effect wider geographical coverage and social impact throughout Lebanon.

12. The lessons of the experience in drafting and applying the Manual have important implications for planning and development of non-handicapping environments in countries. The Social Development Issues and Policies Division of ESCWA, in cooperation with the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Secretariat, will organize at Beirut, from 29 November to 3 December 1999, a workshop and seminar on environmental accessibility: issues in planning and design of accessible urban development.

13. The "Agenda for Action"8 for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002) recommends measures to improve the accessibility of public facilities to persons with disabilities. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has undertaken, with financial and technical support provided by the Government of Japan, and by the Ministry of Construction in particular, a regional project on "promotion of non-handicapping environments for disabled and elderly persons". ESCAP has published Guidelines (ST/ESCAP/1492) and Case Studies (ST/ESCAP/1510) of selected national experience in promoting non-handicapping physical environments.9 In mid-1998, ESCAP organized workshops, at Beijing and at New Delhi, to consider the results of the project and formulate recommendations for further action to promote non-handicapping environments in towns and cities of the region. Recommendations adopted at the Beijing workshop focus on policy options, promoting public awareness, building national capacities and networking for environmental accessibility.10 Guidelines for training of persons with disabilities as trainers in community-based initiatives to promote environmental accessibility have recently been field-tested in Bangalore (India), Pattaya (Thailand) and Penang (Malaysia).

2. Accessible information goods and services

14. The rapid pace of development in information and communications technologies has significant social and economic implications for countries, including persons with disabilities. Information goods and services are now recognized as central components of the new economics of development,11 catalysts for change and key factors in re-engineering. Information can:

(a) Serve as a driver for re-engineering. Information technologies and structures introduce the need to reconsider organizational processes and work flow so that these can make the most effective use of new and emerging information and communications capacities;

(b) Serve as an enabler of re-engineering. Information technologies introduce a need to rethink the organizational mission, goals and immediate objectives, the specialized constituencies of the organization and the means by which they can articulate their interests and needs, and the means by which these can be effectively and efficiently addressed;

(c) Provide the contextual basis for re-engineering. New information technologies and structures introduce a need to review the current social, political and economic setting of the organization and assess the extent to which organizational arrangements, culture and values are appropriate to that setting. New information and communication technologies also introduce a need to review and assess organizational resources, both technical and financial, for acquiring, implementing and using effectively the newly expanded information and communications capacities.12

15. The rapid expansion of information goods and services in countries and the empowering and enabling potential that they offer beg the question of information accessibility for all. Inaccessible information goods and services effectively exclude significant portions of the population in countries from full and effective participation in social life and development. Accessibility is not the concern solely of persons with sensorial or mobility disabilities or older persons. Accessibility refers to provision of "flexibility to accommodate each user's needs and preferences".13 Some may need assistive technologies - screen magnifiers, screen readers or Braille interfaces - to access and use mainstream information goods owing to a physical or sensorial disability. Others may need text-based or limited graphical content in their information goods since they may not have sufficient communications capacity (bandwidth) or level of information technology to support robust graphical content, streaming audio or video clips.14

16. In a recent technical paper, the Government of Canada makes a clear and concise case for universal access to information goods and services:

"Since the end user cannot count on either standard technology or helping devices to ensure access to information on the (Internet World Wide) Web, the onus is on the Web page developer to deliver the message in a way that allows everyone to benefit.

"It is every Canadian's right to receive Government information or service in a form that can be used, and it is Government of Canada's obligation to provide it."15

(a) Pilot action for Internet accessibility at the United Nations

17. In his interim report on implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (E/CN.5/1999/5), the Secretary-General described pilot efforts by the Division for Social Policy and Development to design and develop an accessible Internet presence on the World Wide Web for selected social development information goods entitled "Gateway to social policy and development" (paras. 5-8). Two aspects of Internet accessibility were addressed by the Gateway initiative: (a) user-friendly Web design based on universal principles to facilitate access by users with physical or sensorial disabilities and (b) text-based and low-intensity graphical content to facilitate access by users with low levels of information technology or communications capacities (bandwidth).

18. The present section will, first, review briefly the strategic plan for the Gateway initiative, and then discuss ways in which this initiative in Internet accessibility has been generalized for use by other interested bodies and organizations - governmental, academic, non-governmental.

19. Strategic planning was an essential component of Internet accessibility efforts since these involved fundamental changes in approach to production and presentation of information goods by the Organization. Moreover, the Gateway initiative had a short time-frame for design, testing and implementation of the release candidate version. Approval to proceed with the Gateway initiative was obtained in February 1998 and a fully functional Internet site was required by early May to support the organizational session of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives (New York, 19-22 May 1998).

20. The strategic plan had five main points, which are summarized below:

(a) Vision: formulation of a shared vision for the Internet accessibility initiative was important for building awareness and a general consensus for first principles and for changes envisaged concerning the ways in which social development information goods would be presented through Internet technologies. The vision identified entailed provision of timely and relevant accessible social development information goods for all; and the title of the site was identified as "Gateway for social policy and development";

(b) Scope and priorities: the time-frame for design, testing and implementation of a functional Internet site that would meet generally accepted international standards - February to May 1998 - was tight. The scope of the Gateway initiative was, first, provision of accessible information goods for persons with disabilities. The second concern was design of accessible Internet-based services to support two priority observances in the social development field: the 1999 International Year of Older Persons, and preparations for the special session of the General Assembly to consider the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. The initiative focused on Internet accessibility for all, with reference to specific priorities of the global social development programme of the United Nations;

(c) Feasibility and strategic components: the time-frame for the Gateway initiative required selection, testing and rapid application of best-available accessibility concepts and design tools rather than extensive comparative studies of emerging practices and technologies. An important contribution to the initiative was the provision by the Microsoft Corporation in early 1998 of a compact disk read-only memory (CD-ROM) compilation of Internet accessibility design concepts and tools.16 A great deal of relevant material was also identified on the Internet.17 Chief among the sites consulted were the World Wide Web Consortium and its "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines",18 and the Center for Applied Special Technology and its on-line Web accessibility evaluation tool, "Bobby" ( Since the Gateway initiative for Internet accessibility was being implemented within the framework of the Internet site of the United Nations (, strategic components of the Gateway were designed to fit within the basic Internet architecture of the United Nations site consistent with universal Web design standards and relevant accessibility guidelines. Excellent cooperation was obtained at departmental level of the United Nations Secretariat. Critiques of Gateway designs and structures came from a diverse set of beta testers, representing all specialized programme constituencies: governmental, non-governmental and civil society;

(d) Implementation plan: the Internet accessibility initiative was outsourced to an international consultant team with considerable expertise in communications planning, Internet design, systems integration and training. The international consultant team prepared a prototype Web design within two weeks of joining the project and made effective and strategic use of communications technologies to meet the schedule of deliverables set by the Division for Social Policy and Development. The decision to outsource was taken since the Gateway would be the first Internet presence in the United Nations system planned and designed in accordance with generally acceptable standards for accessible Web design;19

(e) Monitoring and evaluation: the Internet accessibility pilot project had a tight schedule for design and implementation and was carried out by an international consultant team. A critical task was joint determination of critical milestones for conceptual designs, for delivery of content by the concerned substantive specialists, for coordination with the concerned technical services and for systematic feedback on design options from beta testers representative of the specialized constituencies for the global social development programme of the United Nations. For instance, a proposed design for the International Year of Older Persons Web site was positively critiqued by a concerned governmental representative, albeit with a reminder of the need for accessible language support. Critiques from persons with disabilities served to make the Persons with Disabilities Web site easy and efficient to navigate with text browsers. Design options were evaluated continually using on-line tools to assess compatibility with various Internet browsers, communications capacities and universal design principles.20 The May delivery of the release candidate of an operational "Gateway for social policy and development" was accompanied by an intensive user orientation and training session to promote awareness of sustainable Web accessibility in the social development field.

21. The Gateway initiative began with a concern to provide an expanded range of information goods to the specialized constituencies of the global social development programme of the United Nations Secretariat in a timely and efficient manner and in fully accessible formats. The Gateway became operational ahead of schedule and within budget. Its content has been updated periodically and now includes extensive Internet-based resources related to youth policies and programmes. Lessons of the pilot effort in design and implementation of accessible Internet-based services are summarized below:

(a) Define clearly the need for action, interested constituencies and stakeholders; identify relevant policy frameworks; and formulate a concise and unambiguous vision statement which can be operationalized and assessed periodically;

(b) Identify priorities for action that correspond to policy imperatives and organizational goals and objectives; formulate outcomes that are consistent with available technologies, resources and time-frames, and are attainable and sustainable in terms of maintenance and updates;

(c) Do not proceed alone with any initiative: identify both sponsors, which should include concerned government bodies, non-governmental organizations and civil society, and alliance partners who will contribute ideas and knowledge to the analysis, planning and development of prototypes, testing and evaluation;21

(d) Do not develop content alone: open approaches promote dialogue and opportunities for unplanned exchanges; open approaches also promote social integration and social cohesion as well as opportunities to engage non-traditional constituencies for ideas and input;

(e) Aim to recover costs associated with an initiative to ensure sustainability; cost recovery in this sense refers to financial resources as well as contributions to agreed policy objectives and programme targets;

(f) Communicate regularly with all constituencies and document each result - and problems encountered - throughout the pilot process; and do not proceed too far in advance of the relevant policy processes in terms of content or scope.

(b) Outreach and capacity-building for Internet accessibility

22. A major task in building awareness and support for Internet accessibility is to convey the message that the relevant technologies are available, open-source and neutral. It is the policy context and institutional arrangements that influence the extent to which information goods and communication services are accessible to all. The relative levels of social and economic development, the relevant social institutions and "social software"22 of development will also affect the extent to which accessible information goods are actually used by all.23

23. The strategy of the Division for Social Policy and Development to promote awareness and support for accessible information goods and services has been based on two activities:

(a) Documenting and disseminating the lessons of the Gateway initiative, particularly its relationship to empowering persons with disabilities for full participation in social life and development;

(b) Building capacities for Internet accessibility, initially as pilot efforts in the United Nations Secretariat, and then leveraging the experiences gained in building capacities among interested communities.

24. The documentation on the Gateway project has been published on the Internet ( together with relevant technical background documentation, in particular a "primer" on Internet accessibility ( A complement to the Gateway project documentation is the recently established Forum on Internet Accessibility ( which aims to promote exchanges of knowledge and experiences on Internet accessibility as both policy objective and technical standard.

25. A related initiative to consider the social aspects of information policies and structures was the "Regional Workshop on Social Development Information through the Internet" (Bangkok, 9-12 November 1998)24 organized by the Social Development Division of ESCAP.

26. Efforts in capacity-building for Internet accessibility have focused on international policy frameworks, structures and technologies and their implications for Internet accessibility in countries. One lesson emerging from these exchanges is that no one body or institution "owns" the Internet.25 Governments have established national regulatory bodies; the World International Property Organization (WIPO) recently published a report on the Internet Domain Name process;26 and the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( has begun a process of assuming responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, domain name system management and root server management functions now performed by the Internet Assigned Names Authority and other entities. However, many transborder technical issues are the province of professional bodies that formulate, submit for comments and recommend technical standards, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) ( IETF is an open-ended community of specialists concerned with Internet architecture.

27. The Internet remains a set of international communications networks based on open standards that define low-level communications protocols, distribution protocols, document content standards and image formats. International norms and standards can provide guidance on policy options and technical guidance on accessible information goods for all, but there are to date no intergovernmental mechanisms that promote or oversee Internet accessibility issues.

28. Pilot action in capacity-building began on an experimental basis in early 1998 and focused initially on United Nations Secretariat staff. Feedback on the results of these efforts from representatives of Governments and the disability community led to the decision to use open approaches for training in information policies, structures and technologies and Internet accessibility. What began as a staff training workshop on Internet accessibility, in December 1998, with on-line practical exercises and substantive dialogue from March to May 1999, resulted in the "Seminar on Accessibility for All" held at the United Nations on 6 May 1999.27 Felipe Mabilangan, Ambassador (Republic of the Philippines), chaired the Seminar, which was attended by representatives of permanent missions to the United Nations, United Nations Secretariat staff and members of the non-governmental community.

(c) Selected initiatives of Governments and the non-governmental community to promote Internet accessibility for all

29. A principal initiative of Governments during the period under review was the "Seminar on Internet Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities" convened by the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in cooperation with the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) of Thailand, at Bangkok, from 12 to 16 July 1999.

30. The Seminar had its origin as a proposal of the delegation of the Philippines, joined by the delegation of Indonesia, presented at the thirty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development (New York, 9-19 February 1999) requesting the assistance of the United Nations in organizing a subregional technical exchange on Internet accessibility and its role in promoting equalization of opportunities of persons with disabilities.

31. The Seminar provided a forum for representatives of ASEAN member States within which to review and discuss (a) issues in information policies, structures and technologies, (b) implications of information technology issues and trends for Internet accessibility and persons with disabilities among ASEAN and (c) options for national capacity-building and localization of skills for Internet accessibility. The Seminar represented an ASEAN-wide response to General Assembly resolution 52/82 and contribution to the development objectives of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002). From the ASEAN perspective, the Seminar responded to the "ASEAN Vision 2020", particularly its goal on the realization of a competent and caring society. Policy options and strategies that aim at ensuring the quality of life for all must also ensure that people are able to participate on the basis of equality and thrive in the information age. The Seminar thus provided a forum in which relevant stakeholders could be brought together to identify and assess strategies and measures to acquire and master information technologies at minimum risk and with maximum benefit to society as a whole. The Seminar took place at the time that ASEAN was studying the concept of an ASEAN Information Infrastructure (AII) and examining technological, legal, regulatory and related issues that needed to be addressed to ensure its success. AII is one of the key activities listed in the Hanoi Plan of Action which was adopted by the Sixth ASEAN Summit, held in December 1998 at Hanoi. The mandate for regional information technology development emanates from the heads of State and Government and thus enjoys support at the highest levels of leadership in ASEAN.

32. An international presentation team assisted the ASEAN secretariat and NIDA in organizing and conducting the Seminar and established a special-purpose Internet presence to deliver substantive materials and support Seminar proceedings ( There were three parts to the presentations: (a) introduction to the Internet: policies, structures and technologies; (b) overview of Internet-based services: electronic mail, file-sharing, and Web-enabled applications and their implications for accessibility; and (c) issues in analysis, planning and development of accessible Internet-based goods and services.

33. The Seminar included a presentation on assistive technologies and persons with disabilities by the Director of the Information Centre, Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (, in particular the work-in-progress by the "DAISY Consortium for Talking Books" ( . DAISY - the Digital Audio-based Information System - is being developed as the next-generation digital talking book open standard by an international consortium of major talking book producers and suppliers around the world. DAISY provides print-disabled consumers with opportunities for information access, such as handling of table of contents, pages and indexes, equal to those of their sighted peers. Since it is an open standard, DAISY allows versatile methods of distribution of talking books including via CD-ROM and by means of the Internet. DAISY standards will allow talking books to be preserved virtually forever. DAISY is based on relevant standards adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium (, so the DAISY standard is obtaining industry support, which will contribute to reliability and wide availability throughout the world at reasonable cost. Moreover, DAISY playback systems aim to retain backward compatibility for older specifications, so the DAISY Consortium can regularly update DAISY specifications to meet current users' needs and accommodate rapid change in technical infrastructure. Since DAISY supports synchronized text, audio and graphical images, DAISY-compliant multimedia materials are expected to represent a "best practice" in the application of universal design principles to information dissemination that is accessible for all.

34. Distance collaboration technologies were used to deliver a presentation and support a dialogue at the Seminar on universal design concepts and principles by the Founding Director of the Center for Adaptive Environments, a non-governmental organization (

35. Group work involved small-group discussions and practical application of concepts and approaches to analysis, planning and productive use of Internet technologies to promote information accessible to all. The work of the groups is summarized at the "Internet Accessibility; ASEAN Perspective" Internet site ( and included presentations on distance collaboration, planning and producing accessible information content, and concepts and methods of producing and maintaining accessible Web pages. The final group activity was drafting a "strategic frameworks" to promote Internet accessibility by, for and with persons with disabilities among ASEAN.

36. Professional and academic exchanges among countries are based upon the open approaches employed in the design, development and documentation of the Gateway initiative. For instance, the Disability Information Resources Foundation (, an international technical body, invited the Division for Social Policy and Development to make a presentation on the Gateway initiative to its Review Board on 19 March 1999, which took place in connection with the forthcoming "Fourteenth International Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities" (Los Angeles, 15-20 March 2000).

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B. Social security and social safety nets

37. Universal and equitable access to basic social services for all is one of priority goals to which Governments committed themselves in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development,28 adopted at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995).28 The matter of social services planning and evaluation from the disability perspective - rather than as a social group-centric issue - was considered at an expert Workshop on Ensuring Access to Social Services of Under-Served Populations (Bangkok, 2-6 November 1998).29 The Workshop was organized by the United Nations as follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development in cooperation with the National Institute of Development Administration of Thailand. The Workshop considered the concept of under-served populations in both qualitative and quantitative terms that pertained to all members of society. Recommendations submitted focused on improvements in planning and design of basic social services for all, on means to strengthen involvement by civil society, on improvements in the flow of accessible information, and on measures to promote social inclusion, full participation and accountability. The results of the Workshop are reflected in the agreed conclusions on social services for all adopted by the Commission for Social Development at its thirty-seventh session.30 Among other points, the Commission agreed that universal access by all to social services is a central goal for social and economic development policies (para. 4); and that systems for provision of social services must not exclude or discriminate against persons with disabilities. Delivery of social services to people with disabilities should ensure their functional independence for active participation (para. 18).

38. The disability perspective on social services and social safety nets was considered in a Panel Discussion on "Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities" that was held at the United Nations on 3 December 1998 in connection with the observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Panel was moderated by the Chairman of the Second Committee of the General Assembly at its fifty-third session, Bagher Asadi, Ambassador (Islamic Republic of Iran), and brought together academic specialists, representatives of the non-governmental community and representatives of international private sector financial and investment services organizations. With its focus on the promotion of sustainable and secure livelihoods for all, the Panel considered policy issues and strategies for promoting basic investments in social infrastructure to build national capacities and institutional capabilities. In a contributed presentation on "Planning for Disability", the point was made that disability was normal: it could happen to anyone at any point in the life cycle. It was further noted that overcoming disabling conditions depended in large measure on the physical and social environments in which people lived.31 From the disability perspective, the question of sustainable livelihoods for all thus introduces social and economic accessibility issues, such as access to education, to information and telecommunications technologies, and to opportunities for income and wealth. Disability-sensitive policy design and planning, which is based on universal principles, contribute to sustainable livelihoods for all.

39. A study on the sustainability of United Nations technical cooperation concerning the development of social services related to persons with disabilities and the capacities of those services to provide social safety nets and related services appropriate to current economic conditions is being carried out by the Ministry of Social Affairs (DEPSOS) of the Republic of Indonesia. The study focuses on community-based rehabilitation (CBR) services for persons with disabilities planned and established with United Nations technical cooperation in selected provinces of Indonesia.32 United Nations technical cooperation did establish four community-based sheltered workshops and promoted support services networks of benefit to persons with disabilities. The focus of the DEPSOS investigation is on the capacity of these institutions and services networks to provide immediate and medium-term measures to assist and support persons with disabilities in coping with current economic and financial conditions. The study on CBR/sheltered workshops is occasioned by Public Act No. 4 (1997), entitled "Disabled Persons", which provides updated policy guidance on mainstreaming of persons with disabilities in national development. The results of the study are expected to contribute to improved policy design and programme planning guidelines on providing basic social services for all.

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C. Employment and sustainable livelihoods

40. Employment and sustainable livelihoods constitute another of the priority goals to which Governments committed themselves at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995). The interim report on the implementation of the World Programme of Action mentioned an innovative "Seminar on Microcredit and Persons with Disabilities in Western Africa" which was organized at Bamako from 25 to 30 October 1998 by the Government of Mali in cooperation with the non-governmental community (E/CN.5/1999/5, para. 18). The results of that Seminar together with similar experiences in promoting sustainable livelihoods by, for and with persons with disabilities were considered at a "Seminar on Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods of People with Disabilities" organized at the United Nations on 26 April 1999.33 The Seminar was moderated by the Chairman of the thirty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development, Aurelio Fernández, Counsellor (Social Affairs), Permanent Mission of Spain. The Seminar reviewed and discussed enabling factors and obstacles to promotion of employment opportunities and sustainable livelihoods by, for and with persons with disabilities. Special attention was directed to the role of technology transfer, microcredit and institutional development. The Seminar offered presentations by representatives of the academic and non-governmental communities and the private sector on international policy issues and trends and on selected project experience from Africa and Latin America, which included activities supported by the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability.

41. A major cross-cutting theme considered at the Seminar was gender-sensitive and disability-responsive policy design and evaluation. The presentation noted that human rights was the critical issue concerning the situation of persons with disabilities and that issues of gender made disability a difficult task for women with disabilities. First, women often do not enjoy equal opportunities to earn their own livelihoods or have equal access to education, income and wealth. Second, the data available suggest that poverty is not gender-neutral, and that women with disabilities thus face a double burden in their pursuit of employment and sustainable livelihoods in dignity. Third, the data indicate that women with disabilities are as capable as men in respect of creating viable employment opportunities. This suggested a need, as an essential part of any employment promotion strategy,34 to target small-scale credit and technical and managerial training to meet the particular needs and interests of women with disabilities.

42. The experience of private sector policy research suggested that people with disabilities faced the same obstacles as did all people in their pursuit of economic opportunities: access to capital, technology, technical skills and managerial abilities in order to design and deliver viable products and services to markets. However, there are particular obstacles that people with disabilities may face in the workplace, including problems of accessible work environments, and transportation and communication, and the associated need for personal assistants, and for personal esteem which is so critical to realizing one's full potential. New information technologies, such as the Internet, provide persons with disabilities with expanded opportunities to interact with other development actors, participate in economic decisions and gain access to non-traditional economic opportunities. The data available suggest that three actions are needed to bring about full and effective integration of people with disabilities in the economy. First, there is a need to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to the factors of production as do all persons. This includes a need for non-discrimination legislation. Second, there is a need for regular consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities on plans and programmes that aim to assist them in their economic pursuits and improve their well-being. Third, there is a need to incorporate the disability dimension in discussions on economic development issues in the concerned bodies of the United Nations.35

43. Selected field experiences were presented by (a) Manuel Cárdenas, President of Fundación Momentum Internaciónal (FMI) of Quito, Ecuador, implementing agent for the Voluntary Fund-assisted project on training and production of appropriate and affordable wheelchairs in Ecuador; and (b) Bouali Chakor-Djelthia, President, and Edith Vanneuville-Zerouki, Consultant, Agence de Coopération internationale pour l'intégration économique et sociale des personnes handicapées (ACIPH) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, cooperating agent with the Government of Mali for the Voluntary Fund-assisted Western Africa regional seminar on microcredit and accessible financial services for people with disabilities (Bamako, 25-30 October 1998).

44. The following points emerged from the exchange of ideas and experiences:

(a) Technology: disability-responsive technology transfer would appear to be most effective at the project implementation level. An important role for technical cooperation is advising and assisting persons with disabilities in regard to technology options; it offers the means to introduce and adapt technologies that are appropriate to their needs, capabilities and situation. Information technologies have an especially important contribution to make to the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, since they can both eliminate barriers to communication and facilitate full participation in social life and development;

(b) Microcredit: the experiences of Ecuador and the Western Africa subregion would suggest that access to technology linked with microcredit is essential to promoting viable employment opportunities and sustainable livelihoods by, for and with persons with disabilities;

(c) Institutional development: viable institutions are the result of full and effective participation of all and involvement of persons with disabilities on the basis of equality. Poverty eradication requires approaches that are gender-responsive and disability-sensitive.

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1 A/37/351/Add.1 and Corr.1, annex, sect. VIII, recommendation 1 (iv).

2 Robert L. Metts, Ph.D., "Planning for disability", paper presented at Panel Discussion on Independent Living and Persons with Disabilities, United Nations, 3 December 1998 (

3 Constituency-focused strategies aim to create value through the development of solutions based on shared interests, values and aspirations. See Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, The Discipline of Market Leaders (London, Harper and Collins, 1996), p. 135.

4 Kevin Kelly, "New rules for the new economy", Wired (September 1997) (

5 Brian Behelendorf, "Open source as a business strategy", in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution, Chris Dibona, Mark Stone and Sam Ockman, eds. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, O'Reilly and Associates, 1999).

6 Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard Business School Press, 1998).

7 See discussion in chapter one, "Situation analysis", in Integrated National Disability Strategy: White Paper (Republic of South Africa, Office of the Deputy President, November 1997).

8 Available in English (

9 The Guidelines are available at the ESCAP Internet site on the World Wide Web ( as are Case Studies (

10 Available in English (

11 Shapiro and Varian, op. cit.

12 John D. Wright, "Is IT [information technology] a catalyst for re-engineering government?", Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) News (July/August 1995), pp. 5-6.

13 Leo Valdes, "Accessibility on the Internet", priority theme report (

14 Cynthia D. Waddell, J. D., "Applying the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to the Internet: a web accessibility standard", paper presented to the (United States) American Bar Association National Conference "In Pursuit ... A Blueprint for Disability Law and Policy" (Washington, D.C., 17-19 June 1998) (

15 Guide d'Internet du Gouvernement du Canada, La partie III, "Construction du site: accessibilité universelle; l'utilisateur final", 3rd ed. (Ottawa, 1998) (

16 Microsoft "Accessibility" Internet site ( References to brands and product names are trade marks or registered trade marks of the respective company. References to brands and products cited do not represent endorsement by the United Nations Secretariat.

17 A select set of Internet accessibility resources consulted in connection with the "Gateway pilot project" are listed in Leo Valdes, "Accessibility on the Internet", loc. cit.

18 The latest release is version 1.0 (5 May 1999) published by the World Wide Web Consortium, a non-governmental organization (

19 The report on the first phase in design, development and testing of the accessible "Gateway for social policy and development" ( has been published on line by the consultant team for the project (

20 The Gateway initiative in Internet accessibility has been recognized for excellence by non-governmental organizations in the disability field. On 2 December 1998, in a ceremony at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in New York City, the Non-Profiting Computing Organization presented the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Secretariat 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 United States 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.

21 "Treat the beta testers as a key development source", in Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (

22 "Investing in the virtual world, so to speak, needs investments in the real world as well"; and "The Net May Rule", editorial, Far Eastern Economic Review (13 May 1999) (

23 In response to the implications of global population ageing for Internet accessibility, the Microsoft Corporation recently published a White Paper: Craig D. Spiezle, Effective Web Design Considerations for Older Persons (Redmond, May 1999) available on the Web ( The document considers the social, institutional and technical aspects of Internet accessibility and Web designs that are appropriate to older persons in countries.

24 The Workshop report is available on the Web (

25 See policy analysis in John R. Mathiason and Charles Kuhlman, "International public regulation of the Internet: who will give you your domain name?", paper presented to the International Studies Association "Panel on Cyberhype or the Deterritorialization of Politics" (Minneapolis, Minnesota, 21 March 1998) available on the Web (

26 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) publication, No. 92-805-0779-6; a PowerPoint presentation is available on the Web (

27 "Accessibility 1998 Project" (

28 Report of the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.8), chap. I, resolution 1, annex 1, commitment 6 (

29 For report of the Workshop, see document E/CN.5/1999/6, annex, submitted to the Commission for Social Development for consideration at its thirty-seventh session.

30 Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1999, Supplement No. 6 (E/1999/26), chap. I, annex.

31 Robert L. Metts, "Planning for disability", loc. cit.

32 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects INS/79/023 and INS/88/020, executed by the International Labour Organization.

33 The report of the Seminar and contributed papers are available on the Internet (

34 Margaret Snyder, Ph.D., "Issues in gender-sensitive and disability-responsive policy research, training and action" (

35 María-Cristina Sara-Serrano Mathiason, "Las personas con discapacidad sí pueden integrarse a la economia internacional" (

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