Scientists Explore How Technology Can Expand Human Rights for People with Disabilities. and Everyone.

The following blog post was written by James Thurston – Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft. James works with Microsoft’s global subsidiaries, NGOs, and governments around the world to develop public policies that support broad digital inclusion.


Last month, I joined the annual meeting of the Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.  In all my years working on accessibility, I had never come across an event where scientists and technologists together explored how technology could expand and safeguard human rights.

But, the linkage between human rights and technology is important. At the United Nations, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stresses the role of technology in enabling rights.  In the treaty, Article 9 talks about the power of technology for people with disabilities to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. It marks the first time a human rights treaty raises access to technology to such a high level, where digital inclusion is defined as a human right.

At Microsoft, we absolutely agree that technology and human rights are connected, and we recognize it explicitly.

Our corporate human rights statement says that as a global company operating in more than 100 countries, we believe a human rights strategy should respect all human rights, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural.

Last year, we created a Technology and Human Rights Center in the company to deepen integration of human rights within our company’s culture, business operations and strategies. We demonstrate our commitment to human rights in other ways, including by partnering with governments, disabled persons organizations and non-governmental organizations to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in countries around the world.

The event last month was a great opportunity to explore how the technology community, including Microsoft and the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, can continue to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities.


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