GSMA launches framework to improve inclusion for people with disabilities

Technology helps improve the lives of people with disabilities across the world. It must be truly accessible for all

The mobile communication industry now has a new framework designed to help it better serve people with disabilities.

The GSMA (Global Systems of Mobile Communications) launched the ‘Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities’ to mark the UN’s International Day of People with Disabilities, as a set of recommendations to help close the mobile disability gap.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are over one billion people with disabilities across the world  – 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Of the one billion, only one in ten has access to the assistive technology they need to live independent lives.

Research conducted by the GSMA in LMICs shows that people with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without disabilities.

The ‘Principles’ will address the barriers that currently prevent people with disabilities from accessing and using mobile-enabled products and services. Especially as, by combining multiple assistive technologies in a single device, mobile phones are cost-effective tools to enable greater inclusion and participation for people with disabilities.

Action is further required to drive innovation, and realise the social and commercial opportunity of reaching this underserved segment of the population. By doing so, the mobile industry can make meaningful change and help ensure no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world.

“Removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires informed action from all stakeholders,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

“It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive.

“I am delighted that Dialog Axiata PLC, Optus, Orange Group, Safaricom PLC, Telefónica Group, Turkcell, Vodacom South Africa and Zain Group have already signed up to the Principles.  I look forward to many more industry participants joining us in this commitment.”

The Initiative sets out three core principles for advancing the digital inclusion of people with disabilities:

  1. Embrace disability inclusion at every level of their organisation;
  2. Understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities;
  3. Deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of people with disabilities.

Digital accessibility is recognised as a key priority across a range of global commitments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. The core ambition of all these projects is to ensure inclusion for all in a rapidly expanding digital landscape. Signing up to the GSMA’s ‘Principles’ is an important step towards achieving this goal.

The framework has been endorsed by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Mobile & Wireless Forum’s (MWF) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI), Global Disability Innovation Hub, the International Disability Alliance (ID), the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), PurpleSpace and The Valuable 500.

You can learn more about the Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities here.
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