Accessible Information and Communications Technology (ICT)” & Calls for United Nations International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On the final day of the interregional seminar and regional demonstration workshop, “Empowering Persons with Disabilities,” participants from the countries of Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States of America issued several outcome documents and called for progress on the elaboration of a comprehensive and integrated international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of development. This is the first time that accessible ICT has been called for as part of a legal binding instrument protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.Cynthia D. Waddell, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI), served as co-facilitator with Leo Valdes of Vision Office, a training and web consulting firm based in Vancouver, British ColumbiaCanada. Ms. Waddell served as an expert in accessible technology transfer at the invitation of the United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs and in cooperation with the Government of the Philippines through the Department of Social Welfare & Development. 

On Friday, March 7, 2003, the following outcome documents were developed by the seminar and workshop participants with Ms. Waddell serving as Rapporteur: the “Manila Declaration on Accessible Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)” and the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations.” These documents recognize that accessible ICT with reasonable accommodation empowers and enables persons with disabilities to enjoy full and equal participation in society and noted that the world was “at a significant crossroad where ICT accessibility barriers need to be addressed at all levels . . . .” Because Rule 5 (Accessibility) of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is not a legal binding document, the outcome documents establish a strategic framework for recognizing accessibility as an essential component of a broad rights-based approach. Participants of the workshop and seminar also issued an urgent request for three work products as follow-up to the seminar and workshop: a) Preparation of a global comparative study on norms and standards related to accessibility with reasonable accommodation b) Development, testing and evaluation of a pilot validator to test and evaluate online Web site compliance with the minimum threshold of accessibility with reasonable accommodation as set forth in the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” and c) Preparation of a scheme for training and resource materials on norms, standards and substantive aspects of accessibility with reasonable accommodation to build national capacities and to provide input to activities of the accessible ICT network.In particular, the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” address barriers in Web-based information goods and services and set forth minimum threshold requirements based on Universal Design concepts. Pointing to specific “electronic curbcuts,” these minimum requirements for accessible web design enable developing countries and countries around the world to have flexible Web sites for accommodating user needs and preferences.The outcome documents of the seminar and workshop will be forwarded to the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. This Ad Hoc Committee was established pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution No. 56/168 and directed special attention to the role of accessible information and communications technologies in the conduct of its work.


The interregional forum supported the Millennium Development Goals and rights-based approaches for development according to UN General Assembly Resolution 56/168 and sought to further the equalization of opportunities in social life and development of people with disabilities. The forum targeted interested Governments of least developed countries, low income countries and countries with economies in transition. It provided an intensive exchange of knowledge and experience in promoting awareness, planning and developing accessible ICT solutions in the context of sustainable and equitable development for present and future generations. The forum objectives were to:

1. Discuss and review selected national experiences to promote accessible ICT for persons with disabilities;

2. Present and review issues and recommendations and develop a strategic framework to promote accessible ICT for persons with disabilities; and

3. Create networks of excellence among the participants in order to empower persons with disabilities through ICT.

A public policy and technology expert, Cynthia Waddell is a former Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Officer for the City of San Jose and is an expert in the US Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards. She is the author of the seminal paper “The Growing Digital Divide in Access for People with Disabilities: Overcoming Barriers to Participation” that was commissioned by the US Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation for the first national conference in 1999 on the impact of the digital economy. She leads ICDRI’s Accessibility Oversight Professional Consulting Services for government and private sector clients. This fee for services effort supports the mission of ICDRI to increase opportunities for people with disabilities by identifying barriers to participation and promoting best practices and universal design of technology for the global community. 

ICDRI is a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, , CA ( ICDRI is committed to be on the cutting edge of global disability law, policy and technical standards for electronic and information technology.

For further information contact: 
Michael Burks, Public Information Officer
International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet 
3700 Bastion Lane, Suite 101,
Raleigh, NC 27604        
Telephone: (919) 349-6661