1.2 Toward a definition of accessible ICTs

Defining Disability

The definitions of disability used in national policies, legislation and disability statistics vary significantly throughout the world. Figures on the prevalence of disability worldwide used in this module are based on those from the World Bank.8 The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the cultural and economic differences in which these national definitions of disability operate, and does not seek to provide an overarching definition. Instead it simply states:

“Persons with disabilities include those with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with other[s]”9 (Article 1)

However, the Convention does move toward a view of disability resulting from the barriers within society (such as steps at the entrance of a building for a wheelchair user) and away from the view that disability results exclusively from a person’s medical condition.

Similarly, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of disability, which is contained within its International Classification of Functioning (ICF), Disability and Health, known as ICF, borrows from this social model. It conceptualizes disability as "a dynamic interaction between health conditions (diseases, disorders, injuries, traumas, etc) and contextual factors."10 The ICF model has two components: the first looks at the issues of functioning and disability (the individual’s body functions and structures), while the second part looks at the environment and context in which the person lives and how these factors impact on the individual’s participation in society. It points to a dynamic interaction between health conditions (diseases, disorders, injuries, traumas, etc) and contextual factors. The ICF moves away from the so-called “medial model” notion of an assumed "norm" of human ability and firmly embraces the notion of society as an active agent in the quality of life of the individual.

Defining Accessible ICTs

The term accessible ICTs, as used in this module, covers a full range of assistive and mainstream technologies and formats that can enable a student with a disability to enjoy an inclusive education. Assistive technology (AT) is a “piece of equipment, product system, hardware, software or service that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”11

Accessible ICTs include:

  • Mainstream technologies, such as computers and mobile phones that contain in-built accessibility features;
  • Assistive technologies, such as hearing aids, screen readers, adaptive keyboards, etc.; and
  • Accessible formats, such as accessible HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) books, etc.

Section 3 and Section 4 provide further information on these technologies, and also discuss issues of affordability, availability, personalization, interoperability, and accessibility features on mainstream computers and mobile phones, as well as training and support.

8World Bank (2007) . Measuring Disability Prevalence, available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DISABILITY/Resources/Data/MontPrevalence.pdf

9 Full text of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is available here: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=13&pid=150

10http://www.who.int/classifications/icf/en/ International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) ICF describes how people live with their health condition. ICF is a classification of health and health related domains that describe body functions and structures, activities and participation. Since an individual's functioning and disability occurs in a context, ICF also includes a list of environmental factors.

11 ISO (2000). Guide 71. Guidelines for standardization to address the needs of older persons and people with disabilities. Available at http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=33987
Note: AT is a generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assistive_technology