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Towards an Inclusive Future


Towards an inclusive future
Foreword
Technological innovation has brought immense benefits to our society and economy.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) now play a key role in all our daily
lives, in our work, education, use of public services and in our homes. New possibilities
emerge of products and services that are flexible, quick, adaptable to our preferences,
reliable and robust.
Yet these same technological advances can present significant barriers to some of the very
people able to benefit most from these services and, without the right support, can even
add to the exclusion many people suffer. Key decisions made when designing and
developing technological products and services will dictate whether some groups, like
people with disabilities, will be able to use them or not.
About 15% of Europeans report difficulties performing daily life activities due to some
form of disability. With the demographic change towards an ageing population, this figure
will significantly increase in the coming years. Older people are often confronted with
multiple minor disabilities which can prevent them from enjoying the benefits that
technology offers. As a result, people with disabilities are one of the largest groups at risk
of exclusion within the Information Society in Europe.
It is estimated that only 10% of persons over 65 years of age use internet compared with
65% of people aged between 16-24. This restricts their possibilities of buying cheaper
products, booking trips on line or having access to relevant information, including social
and health services. Furthermore, accessibility barriers in products and devices prevents
older people and people with disabilities from fully enjoying digital TV, using mobile
phones and accessing remote services having a direct impact in the quality of their daily
lives.
Moreover, the employment rate of people with disabilities is 20% lower than the average
population. Accessible technologies can play a key role in improving this situation, making
the difference for individuals with disabilities between being unemployed and enjoying full
employment between being a tax payer or recipient of social benefits.
The recent United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities clearly states
that accessibility is a matter of human rights. In the 21st century, it will be increasingly
difficult to conceive of achieving rights of access to education, employment health care
and equal opportunities without ensuring accessible technology.
Technology penetrates ever more in our daily lives. It is crucial that we create solutions
that are usable and accessible for everyone, regardless of their abilities. This is not just
about meeting the needs of a small part of the population. In fact, evidence suggests that
facilitating access to the information society for people with disabilities benefits many
more people in the general population, for example as it drives innovation towards easier
to use products and websites.
Last year, all Member States agreed on a declaration in Riga committing themselves to
take concrete steps to build an Inclusive Information Society and setting clear targets for
i
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