The 5th of December 2015 marked the opening of a two-day “National Consultative Meeting on the Role of ICTs for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities” in Tehran. The meeting was jointly organized by UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO and aimed to promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities and to encourage all stakeholders to take concrete measures for the empowerment of persons with disabilities through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
The Consultative Meeting was a national follow-up to UNESCO’s international conference in entitled “From Exclusion to Empowerment: The Role of Information and Communication Technologies for Persons with Disabilities” held earlier in 2014 in New Delhi, India, and aimed to examine the practical means of implementing the recommendations of the New Delhi Outcome Document in the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It brought together a wide range of national stakeholders and beneficiaries who shared their knowledge, insights and practical experience during the two-day event.
Ms. Esther Kuisch Laroche, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office, said in her opening remarks: “This Meeting is an important first-step in contextualising the recommendations of the New Delhi Outcome Document, and I am very pleased to see that we have so many different stakeholders here today: from Government officials to NGOs, and from UN agencies to the private sector.” She added, “I believe there is an important need for dialogue on how to increase the choices and opportunities available to people with disabilities, how to improve their access to education, information and knowledge, and how to extend their capabilities, especially in poor and rural areas.”
The event was meant to promote further dialogues among key stakeholders involved in issues related to empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and the Information and Communication Technologies, in order to lay the foundations for development of a National Plan of Action that will include practical recommendations on specific actions for enhancing the role of ICTs in increasing access to education, public information, social services, and job opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
The discussions were enriched by contributions from two resource persons from UNESCO HQ in Paris who shared some of UNESCO’s guidelines and providing a global perspective to the discussions. Dr. Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, a Programme Specialist in the Communication and Information Sector in UNESCO Paris, introduced UNESCO’s “Guidelines for Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Open and Distance Learning using Open Solutions”; while Dr. Kenneth Eklindh, a former Head of the Section for Inclusion and Quality Learning Enhancement in the Education Sector, presented UNESCO’s “Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs and Assistive Technologies in Support of Inclusive Education”.
The two-day meeting was concluded by agreeing on a number of key steps and areas as the focus of the National Plan of Action, mainly including: to establish a National Advisory Council consisting of expert groups from key national partners to develop the draft National Plan of Action on using ICTs for Empowering Persons with Disabilities; design and conduct research and field studies on the role of ICTs and ATs (Assistive Technologies) in enhancing the quality of education for children and students with disabilities; organize educational webinars at national level with support and technical supervision of UNESCO, for empowering teacher educators of disability and rehabilitation universities, as well as the disabled athletes; promote, support and establish media networks for advocacy and awareness raising on the importance of social integration of the Persons with Disabilities; foster partnerships with the private sector aimed at inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and implementing accessibility standards; translate and promote the use of UNESCO’s Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities; create a dedicated portal to provide open, free and accessible information and knowledge for Persons with Disabilities.