For information only - not an official document.
       29 November 2000
In International Day for Disabled Persons Message, Secretary-General Stresses Importance of Making Information Technologies Work for All

NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for the International Day of Disabled Persons, which is observed on 3 December:

The observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons gives us an opportunity to consider the many and rich contributions people with disabilities make to their societies.  It also encourages us to explore ways in which we can help enable them to make those contributions to the full.  In our knowledge-based society, there can be no more important theme than of this year's Day, "Making information technologies work for all".

Throughout this first year of the new century, the role of information technologies in accelerating growth, promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty has been high on the agenda of the United Nations.  It was the subject of the high-level segment of the year 2000 Economic and Social Council.  At the Millennium Summit, world leaders pledged “to ensure that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies ... are available to all”. 

Already in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that "everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community" and "to share in scientific advancement and its benefits".  The importance of a broad human rights approach to development is now widely recognized.  Under this approach, and in our knowledge-based economy, access to information represents an indispensable right.  Yet inaccessible information technology still excludes significant portions of the population from full and effective participation in social life and development. 

Unless information technology is truly accessible to all, the potential of information to empower all countries and all peoples will not be realized.  We must break through the barriers that stand between technology and the user -- whether technical, psychological, physical or financial. 

In this millennium year, we have seen several promising examples of national and regional efforts that the international community can learn from.  The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Government of Thailand held a seminar on Internet accessibility and people with disabilities. 

The Government of Mexico and the non-governmental organizations community organized a national consultation to consider options for accessible information technology and the participation of people with disabilities in the development of their societies. 

These initiatives testify to a growing understanding of this important challenge of our age, and a wealth of ingenuity in the quest for solutions.  Today, let us resolve to build on the lessons from these initiatives.  On this first International Day of Disabled Persons of the new Millennium, let us resolve to step up our search for new ways of making information technologies work for all.

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