UN chief urges harnessing technology to improve inclusion of people with disabilities

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on June 14 that technology could be harnessed to advance disability inclusion.

“Technology can promote equality of opportunity, break down barriers, and create disability-inclusive environments,” the UN chief said at the 15th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) held at the UN headquarters in New York.

The top UN official pointed out that over 1 billion people globally require assistive technology — “yet in many countries, those essential tools remain inaccessible to nearly everyone.”

Guterres said that embracing the promise of technology means closing the digital divide, expanding accessibility and inclusivity and better protection for people against its perils.

The conference calls for efforts to promote economic empowerment and entrepreneurship to advance the participation of persons with disabilities in the labor market on an equal basis.

The top UN official said that “this is more critical than ever given the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in all its dimensions on persons with disabilities – and the inequalities that persist in recovery.”

“At the same time, persons with disabilities are a unique resource of knowledge and experience to build more resilient societies,” he said.

The 15th session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, which opened on June 14 and concluded on June 16, focuses on the overarching theme of building disability-inclusive and participatory societies in the COVID-19 context and beyond, with such sub-themes as innovation and technology advancing disability rights, and economic empowerment and entrepreneurship of persons with disabilities.

CRPD, adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec 13, 2006, came into force on May 3, 2008. To date, 185 of the 193 UN Member States have ratified the CRPD.

The secretary-general said CRPD has crystallized the commitment of the international community to realize an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world for all.