For most people, the term accessibility refers to access: access to information, access to communication and access to basic needs. To disabled people, accessibility is a vital component in achieving their full participation in society; it has become society’s responsibility to reduce the barriers that prevent this access. Yet, comparative studies on disability laws show that only 45 countries in the world have disability-specific legislation, including laws related to accessibility, according to UN Enable.

Lack of access to services severely reduces independence and quality of life for disabled people. In the most extreme cases, lack of accessibility can even amount to a life and death issue. Persons with disabilities in developing countries are often forgotten when it comes to designing health and education programs, meaning that most never access even the basic services that human rights mechanisms ensure them. Factors such as extra costs, difficulties with transport, inability to enter public buildings and poorly adjusted housing all contribute to the isolation of disabled people in many parts of the world.

Some other statistics on Accessibility:

One in five of the world’s poorest people has a disability, and 82 percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, where accessibility is most often non-existent or extremely limited, according to the European Commission

Only one to two percent of persons with disabilities in Africa have access to health care, rehabilitation services and education, according to Disabled People South Africa

In the United Kingdom, 75 percent of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange FTSE 100 Index do not meet even basic levels of Internet accessibility, thus missing out on more than $147 million in revenue from the market sector of persons with disabilities, a UN Enable report found

The Symbol

We created the original International Symbol of Access in 1969

By the late 1960s, as the disability movement grew, the need for a symbol to designate accessible facilities was being discussed in a number of countries. Different access symbols had already popped up in France, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. As former RI Global Secretary-General Norman Acton recalled, “several of us could see a messy situation developing with multiple symbols – so there was some urgency.”

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The RI World Congress 2021 took place in Aarhus 7-9 September 2021.

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