80 million persons with disabilities call for accessible information & communication technologies

21 February 2015

The disability movement in Europe gathered this weekend in Jurmala, Latvia for EDF’s Board meeting. Before the meeting, a European conference on information and communication technologies for persons with disabilities was organised bringing together more than 150 participants from all around Europe.

Entitled “An inclusive digital continent”, the conference opened a dialogue between representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities and European and national decision makers.

The conference was organised in the frame of the Latvian EU Presidency that has put digital Europe in the agenda with its priorities. It was opened by Gunta Anca, EDF Vice President and Chair of the Board of the Latvian organisation of persons with disabilities ‘Sustento’, Uldis Augulis, Latvian Minister of Welfare, Iveta Grigule, Latvian MEP, and Rodolfo Cattani, EDF Secretary General and chair of the EDF ICT expert group.

“ In Latvia, disability is often linked only with social or health care services. We are talking about disability pensions and allowances, and sometimes about employment. Only very rarely we can imagine how important ICT solutions can be in the everyday activities of persons with disabilities. For example, navigation systems help blind people to navigate in different environments; smart home solutions make it possible to manage everyday life for people with severe physical disabilities, while deaf people can also use special applications in mobile phones. We just have to recognise these possibilities”, said EDF Vice-President, Gunta Anca.

EDF Secretary, Rodolfo Cattani drew attention to the utmost importance of the right to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the so-called Digital and Knowledge-based Society, as well as in the Digital Single Market, as equal citizens and customers: “To this aim, we need a strong and binding legal framework which enables innovation and ensures the availability of accessible technologies for persons with disabilities. We need future-proofEuropean initiatives concerning ICT to acknowledge and incorporate accessibility as a key element like others, such as privacy or security which are always mainstreamed in the legislation for this sector.”

The Latvian Minister of Welfare, Uldis Augulis , underlined that during the Latvian Presidency more attention should be paid to the disability policy in order to encourage and strengthen the commitment of the EU to solve the issues of equal opportunities of persons with disabilities: “Therefore, during the presidency, in various discussions we will touch upon issues like the employment possibilities of persons with disabilities, the rights of children with disabilities, as well as digital issues. In particular, we will emphasise the importance of inclusive education, which is a way to employment and independence.”

From her side, the MEP Iveta Grigule stated that: “Today all of us have an opportunity to assess together the achievements of the last year and discuss what can be done this year so that people with disabilities are more included in society, as well as in the common work market. Only when every member of our society feels needed, protected and respected, only then we can say that we live in a safe and effective welfare state. This is the path that we have to take together."

The conference reinforced the commitment of the disability movement to advocating at all levels for an inclusive digital agenda for Europe including persons with disabilities in every step.

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