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Accessibility to ICTs

Accessiblity ​



​An estimated one billion persons live with disabilities, of which 80% live in developing nations, where infirmity and disabilities are real drivers of exclusion and poverty. The WHO estimates that, globally, the number of people with visual impairments is around 285 million, of whom 39 million are blind, with people over 50 years old accounting for 82% of all blind people[3​]. WHO also estimates there are 466 million persons with disabling hearing loss, some 6.1% of the global population[​4]

Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) defines ICT accessibility as an integral part of accessibility rights, on a par with transport and the physical environment[5]. A multi-stakeholder coalition of partners including ITU and the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has stated that “no one should be excluded from using mobile phones, the Internet, televisions, computers, electronic kiosks and their myriad of applications and services including in education, political life, and cultural activities or for e-government or e-health to cite a few examples. Being excluded from ICT-enabled applications implies being shut out from the information society, as well as from accessing essential public services and the opportunity of living an independent life"[6].  

Furthermore, digital accessibility is recognized as a key priority in various global commitments related to inclusiveness, such as: the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy


Making ICTs and ICT services accessible is not just a human rights issue or a question of justice and equality of access to communications, information, and opportunities for all. ICTs can make a very real difference to the quality of life of people living with difficult or debilitating conditions or disabilities. Examples include:

​Some neurological problems that people experience—including some types of memory loss, depression, blindness, and seizures, to name a few—are the result of erratic or absent electrical signals in parts of the brain. Various research projects are underway on brain-machine interfaces.

ITU’s contribution

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 renewed ITU's mandate in the area of ICT accessibility, in ITU Resolution 175 (Rev. 2018) on “Telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs". It also approved the Connect 2030 Agenda, which sets out the vision, goals and targets that ITU and its Member States have committed to achieve by 2023. All three ITU Sectors have approved specific resolutions on accessibility at their respective Conferences[7]

ITU's Member States are fully committed to advancing ICT accessibility implementation in their countries and regions. The Connect 2030 Agenda includes a bold target directed at cultivating government commitment to make the ICT sector  inclusive of persons with disabilities and specific needs:

Target 2.9: Enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunication/ICT for persons with disabilities should be established in all countries by 2023. 

ITU has developed a series of resources to support ITU Member States in creating enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunication/ICT for PwDs, and in building inclusive digital societies in their countries and regions. According to ITU's latest data, by 2019, 84 countries had established a regulatory framework to ensure ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities (Figure below). Regulatory frameworks can include accessibility requirements for: mobile communications; web accessibility; public procurement of accessible ICT; TV or video programming; and public ICT accessibility, as well as other areas.
AccessiblitySource: ITU Annual Report on the Strategic Plan 2019, page 42, available at:

ITU's Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) promotes accesible wireless technological development to improve the accessibility of ICTs and to reduce the digital disabilities divide. It supports the advancement of a global disability-inclusive agenda for radiocommunication and broadcasting matters.  Examples of relevant ITU-R deliverables on accessibility include:


ITU's Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develops international standards known as ITU-T Recommendations. Its work on accessibility started in the early 1990s with ITU-T V.18 text telephone. Since then, a number of ITU standards on accessibility have been developed within ITU-T SG16, Question 26/16 on accessibility and Question 24/16 on human factors and cooperated with advocacy organizations (such as the G3ict, WFD and RNIB), in addition to other technical groups such as ITU-T, D, R Study Groups and ISO/IEC JTC1 SC35. A sample of which is found in the ITU-T Accessibility and Standardization

Recently approved ITU-T Recommendations on accessibility include:

ITU-T also produces various Technical Papers on accessibility:  


ITU's Development Sector (ITU-D) work in ICT accessibility supports the advancement of the global disability-inclusive agenda and the development of inc lusive digital communities. ITU-D helps raise awareness, build capacity and provide policy and strategy advice to ITU members. ITU-D has helped countries by implementing regional initiatives and activities linked to ICT accessibility in the Africa, Americas, Arab, Asia and Pacific European and CIS regions, through direct assistance to countries, development and provision of relevant guidelines, development and delivery of on-line and face-to-face trainings, toolkits,  and reports, and by facilitating joint working platforms such as Study Group and regional “Accessible– ICT for ALL" knowledge development forums enabling stakeholders to share good practices and engaging in national and regional digital accessibility implementation. Finally, ITU-D is supporting members' efforts in mainstreaming digital accessibility to ensure the full and effective participation of everyone in the digital economy by developing and making available a series of useful resources.​​







[7] ITU-R Resolution 67-1 governs “Telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs".

 ITU-T World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) Resolution 70 (Rev. Hammamet, 2016) addresses “Telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities".

ITU-D World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) Resolution 58 (Rev​. 2017) covers “Telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs".

Last update: October 2020