Wednesday, December 13, 2006

13 Dec 2006

The General Assembly today adopted a landmark disability convention, the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century and one that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said represents the “dawn of a new era” for around 650 million people worldwide living with disabilities.

Mr. Annan, along with Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa and other UN officials, as well as members of civil society that lobbied for the pact, urged all 192 Member States to quickly ratify the convention, which covers rights to education, health, work and a raft of other protective measures for people with disabilities.

“Today promises to be the dawn of a new era – an era in which disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for all too long. This Convention is a remarkable and forward-looking document,” Mr. Annan said in a speech read out by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

The Assembly adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities in a vote by consensus.

“In three short years, the Convention became a landmark several times over: it is the first human rights treaty to be adopted in the twenty-first century; the most rapidly negotiated human rights treaty in the history of international law; and the first to emerge from lobbying conducted extensively through the Internet… I urge all governments to start by ratifying, and then implementing it, without delay.”

Sheikha Haya echoed this call, adding that by adopting the Convention, Member States were sending a “clear message of solidarity” by reaffirming the dignity of all humankind and recognizing that “all societies stand to benefit from empowering this important community.”

“I look forward to the full implementation of the convention by Member States, with the involvement of all concerned parties. In particular, the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and civil society groups whose energy, compassion and willingness to work in the spirit of cooperation greatly contributed to the final agreement.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour added her voice to calls for ratification, with her office (OHCHR) noting that the agreement – which comprises 50 articles – fills a major gap in international human rights law.

“The convention… marks a historic step in ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy full participation in society and can contribute to the community to their full potential. Speedy ratification… will end the protection vacuum that has, in practice, affected persons with disabilities,” Ms. Arbour said.

The convention provides that States which ratify it should enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and also abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities. It will be open for signature and ratification on 30 March 2007, and will enter into force after it has been ratified by 20 countries, the OHCHR said.

Speaking at a press conference after the Assembly session, Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, chairman of the committee that negotiated the convention, described today’s adoption as “an historic event,” adding that those involved in the process “can I think be pleased with the convention that we have. It is in effect an extraordinarily far-reaching convention.”

Representatives from the International Disability Caucus (IDC) also welcomed the document, stressing its all-inclusive nature, while at the same time urging states to urgently ratify the deal and also raising several concerns.

“We… celebrate and welcome the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities… which recognizes that disability is a human rights issue,” Pamela Molina Toledo, one of the IDC leaders, told reporters, speaking in Spanish and also using sign language.

“This convention is an example of unity and cooperation…for the benefit of all,” she said, while urging its speedy ratification, a point also made by Tina Minkowitz, another of the IDC leaders.

“The International Disability Caucus urges governments to ratify and implement the convention within national legislation policies and legal structures and to change those legislation and policies when that is necessary,” she said, adding that a particular concern was the need for governments to recognize sign language and other alternative methods of communication in all situations of information, education and employment.
2006-12-13 00:00:00.000

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Watch the General Assembly adopt the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday, December 13th! 10:00 am New York time

General Assembly Webcast link below
New York 10am
London 3pm
Bangkok 11pm
Melbourne 2am 14 December

Wednesday 13 December 2006
All Indicated times are New York time (GMT-5)
channel 1
10:00am General Assembly: Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms: note by the Secretary-General transmitting the final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Driving a Wheelchair with Your Shirt

Adaptive, sensor-laden garments could provide a new way for quadriplegics to control their wheelchairs. The system, which is still in an early stage of development, identifies the ideal set of movements that can be employed as control commands for each individual user. "We think this will benefit the most difficult patients, such as those who can move only their head or shoulders," says Alon Fishbach, a scientist at Northwestern who is among those developing the device.
Link to Source

Saturday, October 21, 2006

School web sites fail accessibility test

Only 14 percent of nation's top universities reportedly meet W3C accessibility guidelines
By Justin Appel, Assistant Editor, eSchool News

A maker of internet content management solutions says it has tested the web sites of the top 124 universities in the nation for how accessible they are to users with disabilities, and the results aren't good: According to the company, only 17 of the 124 schools' sites comply with the World Wide Web Consortium's standards for accessibility.

October 6, 2006—Eighty-six percent of the nation's top universities have web sites that do not comply with standards designed to make the internet more accessible to persons with disabilities, according to a recent survey.

Conducted in June by Hannon Hill Corp., a maker of web content-management solutions, the study examined the web sites of the top 124 universities in the United States, as ranked in U.S. News and World Report's annual account. Of these 124 schools, only 17 were found to have web sites that comply with the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C's) accessibility standards.

Those not passing had an average of 45 errors each on their home pages, Hannon Hill said. Each error indicates a standard was not followed.

W3C's guidelines are widely regarded as the industry standard for web accessibility. They are meant to give persons with disabilities unfettered access to web sites.

People who are visually impaired must rely on electronic screen readers to read web pages to them, explained David Cummings, chief executive officer of Hannon Hill. Those with severe myopia might use screen magnifiers or text-enlarging browser settings. Color-blind individuals will miss the nuances communicated by color and must look for other indicators that convey the same meaning, while people whose motor skills are impaired generally rely on keyboard shortcuts for navigation.

These individuals all must rely on assistive technology to help them navigate the web and find the information they need--and how a web page is coded can have a significant impact on this process.

"By upholding W3C web-site standards, colleges take the same approach to making a web site accessible as they would to making physical walkways and structures accessible to persons with disabilities," said Cummings, whose company has a financial incentive in publishing the survey results: It sells a product, called the Cascade Server, that provides an automatic checker to ensure that all web content managed with the solution is standards-compliant.

The list of schools whose web sites reportedly fall short of W3C standards includes some of the top liberal-arts and technical schools in the nation, such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, Duke, the University of Pennsylvania, and California Institute of Technology.

Of the schools whose web sites failed Hannon Hill's accessibility test, only the University of Vermont responded to an eSchool News reporter's questions before press time.

"While I can't say we are where we'd like to be across the board, we do excel in many areas and go beyond what many 'automated' validation software packages can verify," said the school's Tatjana Salcedo. "We ... strive to improve in these areas and will continue to do so in each successive generation of web technology we implement."


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Axistive Assistive Technology News Portal

Axistive Assistive Technology News Portal offers free news, articles, product reviews and all product and vendor information of assistive technology devices.
Link to Source

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report: 'Water, a shared responsibility'

And they did it again.
The World Water Assessment Programme ignored disabled people in the first World Water report in 2003. The 2006 report ignores them again. Disability only really shows up in the word "Disability Adjusted Life Years" which is prevalent in the report.

Link to Source

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Down Syndrome births drop in state:

Sunday, 09/03/06
Decline suggests abortions up in wake of better tests

Staff Writer

Amid new testing procedures during pregnancy, the percentage of babies born with Down syndrome has plummeted nationwide since the late 1980s, researchers have found.

The trend — which is less pronounced in Tennessee than elsewhere — suggests to some researchers that more women are opting to terminate Down syndrome pregnancies, raising alarm among some ethicists and disability rights advocates. Link to Source