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Technology must be a gateway to inclusion for people with disability, Commissioner tells UN

Disability Disability Rights
Dr Ben Gauntlett at the UN

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ben Gauntlett gave a statement at the General Debate at the United Nations headquarters in New York on the importance of accessible technology for people with disability.

Commissioner Gauntlett told the UN that inaccessible technology was becoming an increasingly critical issue for governments.

“Technology is fundamentally changing the world for everyone. Technology is now central to our daily activities and is also increasingly the main gateway for people to access their rights, for example, accessing the right to education through online learning.

“For many people, technology can provide a gateway to inclusion, or result in an enormous barrier.

“Article 9 of the CRPD requires States Parties to take appropriate measure to ensure persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to information and communications including technologies and services provided to the public.

“Despite this, we are witnessing the digital divide continue to grow,” he said.

The Commissioner spoke of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s major project on the relationship between human rights and technology, which is being led by the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow.

“Our preliminary research has found that Australians with disability experience lower digital inclusion rates compared with those who do not have a disability,” he said.

“People with disability in Australia have also borne the burden of bringing a claim of discrimination against technology providers, when not able to access technology.

“This has been a major challenge in effecting systemic change.”

Commissioner Gauntlett said inaccessible technology was a critical issue as governments moved to digital transformation and online platforms to deliver services.

“With approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population having a disability, it is imperative that States Parties implement the CRPD through legislation, policy and practice to ensure technology keeps pace with the needs of people with disability.

“In Australia, the Government has the opportunity to do this by making technology a key theme in the next National Disability Strategy, which is the main way Australia implements the CRPD.

“The technology sector also needs to consider ‘human rights by design’ from the outset – not as an afterthought – in its product development process.

“The research shows that there are sound economic and commercial benefits for all by taking this approach.

“I look forward to working with people with disability, government and the wider community to implement the CRPD, in this in this era of unprecedented technological change, to achieve full equality for all people with disability in Australia.”

Commissioner Gauntlett was at the UN’s headquarters for the 12th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, June 11 to 13, 2019.


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