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ITU - International Telecommunication Union

04/06/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/06/2021 11:49

Accessible Europe 2021: Making ICTs accessible to all

Discussions addressed the need for international cooperation, regulation, standardization, and inclusive education, particularly in response to COVID-19. Participants also discussed smart cities and the best practices seen across Europe to ensure accessibility.

European accessibility agenda

Portugal - currently holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union - has made accessibility for all, including ICT accessibility, a top priority.

'Mainstreaming accessibility in the digital transition is a key policy driver for ensuring equal opportunities for all and that no one is left behind,' said the country's Minister of Modernization of State and Public Administration, H.E. Alexandra Leitão. 'By 2023 we want 90 per cent of digital services to have the seal of usability and accessibility.'

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: 'The COVID pandemic has had exacerbated impact on persons with disabilities in terms of access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities. Accessibility of ICTs has become more relevant and more necessary than ever.'

ITU remains 'committed to supporting all countries in advancing their efforts to make digital accessibility a reality,' she added.

The European Commissioner for Equality, H.E. Helena Dalli, reiterated: 'When technology is accessible, it is a powerful tool for persons with disabilities to participate as active members of society on an equal basis with others.'

The European Commission's new Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 strategy confirms the 'importance of provisions relating to accessibility in telecommunication, audio-visual media services, public sector websites and key products and services.'

The Prime Minister of Serbia, H.E. Ana Brnabić, described her country's progress on ICT accessibility and broader digital transformation, backed by international cooperation and ITU engagement.

Assessing ICT accessibility across Europe

This third edition of Accessible Europe, led by ITU and European Commission, attracted the support of over 100 partners across the region. 'Digital accessibility is one of Europe's top regional priorities,' said Jaroslaw Ponder, Head of the ITU Office for Europe.

'Over 15 per cent of people worldwide, including over 80 million Europeans, live with some form of disability,' Ponder added. 'More than ever, regional efforts must be strengthened to ensure that, with digital technologies, no one is left behind.'