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International Day of People with Disabilities: children with disabilities reveal their experiences in the digital environment

CoE: Since 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been annually observed on 3 December around the world. The theme for this 2019 IDPD is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’. The theme focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issue, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The world in which life of kids with and without disabilities are very similar is the digital world. Their experiences in learning and spending leisure time online are hugely diverse and include playing musical instruments, cooking, and gardening. And they almost never disclose their disability online, – shows the report of the Council of Europe that is dedicated and presented on the 3rd of December.

A new report focusing on children with disabilities in the digital environment. The report describes the experiences of children with intellectual, physical, hearing and visual impairments. It analyses the challenges they face and provides recommendations to the States, digital industry, health services and academic institutions on how to ensure the safe access to the digital environment for these children.And such children can also be disproportionally disadvantaged, even if they do not consider themselves more exposed to potential online risks than their peers without a disability. This calls for far greater attention to be paid by governments, the digital industry, schools and healthcare services to the rights of children with disabilities.

“The digital environment can indeed be an ‘enabler’ and ‘equalizer’ for children with disabilities, providing them with additional opportunities to access information, to communicate, learn and play,” the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić said. “Yet there are multiple barriers that impede their access to the digital environment and may compromise their safety – technological, financial, as well as linguistic obstacles with English dominating the online world. We need to create a safe and inclusive digital environment for children with disabilities, to provide them with the right tools and equipment that would enable them to integrate into society, without undermining their right to privacy.”

The study involved 97 children in six countries (Belgium, Germany, the Republic of Moldova, Portugal, Turkey, United Kingdom). The Secretary-General welcomed the fact that children participated in the creation of the actual report and stressed that governments, public institutions and the private sector should fully involve children with disabilities in the design and delivery of policies that impact their usage of the digital environment.

Photo:@ @coe