ICT accessibility assessment for the Europe region

The ICT accessibility assessment developed by Dr Dušan Caf, Director of the Digitas Institute.

Dušan Caf • March 2021

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility assessment for the Europe region has been launched as part of the ITU Office for Europe accessibility initiatives. Its aim is to assess countries’ commitments to ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities, in terms of general legislation and regulations, and their capacity to meet those commitments, in terms of policies and institutional frameworks. The ICT accessibility commitments arise from the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the European Union (EU) accessibility legislation, where applicable, the ITU strategic goals, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The ICT accessibility assessment was launched in the midst of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has reinforced the importance of ICT accessibility. It has been designed to provide ITU members and stakeholders from the ITU Europe region with a holistic view of ICT accessibility requirements and of the implementation status of ICT accessibility laws, regulations, policies and institutional frameworks. It also serves to provide advice to policy-makers and stakeholders throughout the region in the form of good practices and recommendations. Most European countries have adopted strong general equality and non- discrimination laws. Their implementation, however, varies across the region. Most have signed and ratified the UNCRPD and the majority also its Optional Protocol. As ITU Member States, they have endorsed the ITU Connect 2030 Agenda and high-level strategic goals, agreeing that, by 2023, enabling environments ensuring accessible ICTs for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries. Pursuant to the UNCRPD and in line with the Connect 2030 Agenda, they have started identifying and eliminating obstacles and barriers to accessibility, notably to information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services. The Europe region ICT accessibility assessment will serve as a tool for the ITU Office for Europe to launch targeted ICT accessibility programmes for the Member States. ITU Member States can use the assessment as a tool in their efforts to take the necessary steps in establishing the enabling environments required to ensure accessible telecommunications/ ICTs for all people regardless of age, gender, ability or location. The assessment will also serve as input for shaping the Accessible Europe 2021 programme; for ICT accessibility discussions under the presidencies of the Council of the EU in 2021; and for the preparatory process for the upcoming ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21).