The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings, fragilities, risks, and inequalities in the education of learners with disabilities within and across countries. Even prior to the pandemic, millions of learners with disabilities were reported to be receiving inferior-quality education, often separated from their peers. The emergency context compounded this situation globally.
The information society provides people with disabilities with significant opportunities for lifelong learning and, through obtaining relevant digital skills, for employment. In this context, ICT-accessibility plays a critical role, since ensuring an effective, inclusive, and open learning process nowadays depends largely on the access to reliable information and effective communication media.
On 6 April 2022, the side event ‘Digital inclusion for persons with disabilities’ was held virtually within
the framework of the 2022 UN Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (RFSD) for the UNECE region. The online session was organized by the ITU Regional Office for CIS and supported by UNESCO IITE with a vision to provide an overview of the existing practices on ensuring digital inclusion of people with disabilities and share practical examples of developing digital skills among persons with disabilities and special educational needs.
The particular regard of the event’s organizing parties and the increased interest of its participants were accorded to the:
- presentation of the ITU study of the ICT accessibility policy and regulatory frameworks in the CIS Region;
- presentation of the UNESCO IITE policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on the education of persons with disabilities;
- interactive panel discussion to share best practices on the practical aspects of teaching digital skills to people with disabilities and ensuring digital inclusion; to communicate competence on solutions, ideas and projects which enable digital inclusion and strengthen digital literacy of persons with disabilities.
The dedicated side event was chaired by Ms. Natalia Mochu, Regional Director, ITU Regional Office for CIS.
The presentation of the policy brief on understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the education of persons with disabilities, along with the substantial expert contribution to the panel discussion were ensured by Ms Natalia Amelina, Senior National Project Officer in Education, Chief of the Teacher Professional Development and Networking Unit, UNESCO IITE.
As digital solutions are pertinent not only in emergency contexts, but represent a long-term investment towards inclusion, sustainability and resilience, the event provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss challenges, opportunities, and necessary policy actions, as well as practical issues of digital inclusion and education of people with disabilities and special educational needs in the foundational skills of the digital era.
The virtual meeting was live streamed on the official page of the WSIS Process on Facebook, where the recording of the event is now publicly available.