United Nations Convention Opens a New Era of Disability Policies around the World

Microsoft Plays a Key Role Helping Countries Apply Convention in IT Arena

Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Luis Gallegos, was an architect of the landmark Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and remains a tireless supporter of technology’s role in the agreement.

Now that 158 countries have signed the convention it is entering a critical phase as it moves from a blueprint on promoting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities to implementation of that plan around the globe.

It’s no easy task. Microsoft has been helping by partnering with G3ict, the United Nations, and other international organizations to develop roadmaps, tools, and training that support effective policymaking based on the convention. Microsoft is even working with six partners – the Broadband Commission, G3ict, the International Disability Alliance, ITU, Telecentre.org, and UNESCO – to make sure disability and accessible technology are explicit parts of the UN’s next set of development goals.

We sat down with Ambassador Gallegos to talk about the convention’s status and what the future holds.

On the importance of the Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities:

Since the convention was signed you found an explosion of consciousness of what disability is, and disability became one of the frontrunners of the issues that were debated in the world.
This has become something that has changed the way disability is looked at. We have a very long road ahead of us, but I do think there are enormous possibilities.
It changed the nature of how you perceive disability and what to do with it. As nation states began to apply it and will begin to apply it more profoundly you will see a change in society.
Why people with disabilities need to be integrally involved in the treaty’s implementation:

The more you put people with disabilities in the mix, the more effective public policies are.
When you make your product accessible to the extremely disabled you make it accessible to all.
We need to have more people with disabilities on development teams.

Microsoft’s role implementing the convention:

Microsoft has been a very important partner and has been interested in promoting the cause of disability in the ITC’s (information and communication technologies) realm. I do believe it has done very good work both with the United Nations and advising them on issues of disability.
But also because of its global network capabilities it can be instrumental in the application of information and communication technology. We call it inclusive information technology.
Besides advising, also educating because there is a learning curve. There is a learning curve to know what the obligations of the convention are and how to implement them, and I think Microsoft can be instrumental in that.

The outlook for the convention:

It is the beginning of a new era.
First, I think that we have to get more countries on board, more state parties that sign and ratify the convention. We call it the universalization of the convention.
The second challenge is to make it happen, to make what was written and the intentionality of this thing happen in all countries and regions, and in the United Nations.

(This interview was edited and condensed.)


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