Honorable Minister of ICT,
Honorable Minister of local government,
Honorable Permanent secretary of the ministry of youth,
Representative of the DFID,
Executive Secretary of the National Council for People with Disabilities,
Distinguished guest representing the Rwanda Union of the Blind,
Distinguished guest representing the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf,
Honorable representing the University of Kigali,
Dear students from the University of Kigali,
Distinguished guests all protocol observed,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here with you this afternoon to discuss and exchange ideas on how to end exclusion of people with disabilities in the digital age.
On behalf of the UNDP, I am pleased to welcome you all to the 2018 Social Good Summit: Leaving no one Behind in the digital age.
Let me first express my sincere gratitude to the University of Kigali for hosting us today. I would also like to thank all of our distinguished guests for gracing us with their presence today; and also, these young women and men for attending the social good summit to discuss how in the future, the world will be a place where it is possible for everyone to prosper without any consideration of disabilities, race and gender.
“Leave No One Behind”. This concept is at the heart of the world’s 2030 Agenda. It means that everything that we plan and execute needs to consider the entire population with no exception. After all, one of the aims of the agenda is to end poverty in all of its forms and to be inclusive.
To achieve the target, technology has imposed itself as an imperative. As we all know, right from the beginning of the 20th century, technology in its various forms has played a pivotal role in the history as we know it today. The rapid progress in technology is transforming just about every aspect of our lives, from the way we work to the way we communicate and access services, even the way we live in general. Therefore, if we want to write a new chapter whereby everyone in our communities will feel dignified, technology is key.
Today, about 1 billion people in the world are affected by disabilities of various types and degrees in their daily life. Unfortunately, this means that 15% of the world’s population is experiencing a degree of exclusion in the trend of development, if the rights of people with disabilities are not considered in an adequate manner. This is because today hospitals, schools, transport infrastructures, public services facilities and Information and Communication Technologies do not always consider the special needs of people with disabilities in their conception. As a result, according to the world bank, an estimate of 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged.
To counter this trend, there is no other solution than to promote inclusiveness for the people with disabilities. Speaking to the topic of today, a lot of measures have been adopted. The UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), in its 9th Article on accessibility, stipulates that all signatories must enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. The same article also says that all signatories should promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet.
So far in that area, there has been a lot of progress. In Rwanda, the government has put in place numerous measures to assist people with disabilities to exercise their full rights. The country has enacted 2 laws protecting the rights of PWD; it ensures quotas on representation in decision making organs and visibility of PWD; established the National Council of PWD and its structure from Cell up to National Level and revising the national building code to facilitate PWD to have ease of access to infrastructures, among others.
The government also last year (2018) implemented an exercise which saw 150,000 PWDs in the country placed in five categories for better consideration in national social protection scheme. The Rwanda created the categories of PWDs in order to formalize special support to PWDs, starting from the first category of disability.
Assistive technologies also are on the rise. These are technologies that support people with disabilities to minimize the effect of their disabilities in their daily lives. They vary from the education area to public services providing. An example, is ATM machines that have sounds instructions to assist blind people access their wealth.
However, more needs to be done to accelerate the inclusion of people with disabilities. As we sit here in this great university, there are many who don’t have that chance of accessing quality education because of the various forms of disabilities they have. Be it blind or deaf people who can’t access online knowledge resources or people with other disabilities who can’t access the facilities. It is very important to keep in mind people with disabilities who are at the same time living in poverty. They face even more difficulties.
In this time that the international community through the UN is looking for means to eradicate poverty, it is imperative to have everyone’s participation. It is therefore essential to promote inclusion for people with disability since it is unimaginable to attain full participation without the participation of the over 1 billion people who live with some form of disability. After all, the fact that they are disabled, does not mean that they are less abled. Disability is not inability.
Let me conclude by quoting the famous scientist Stephen Hawking who said: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” This is to encourage all disabled people to be very much valued by the society regardless of the many difficulties that they might be facing. The One UN in general and the UNDP are fully committed to continue to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities; and promote their inclusion. Together with everyone’s participation, we can make the world a better place for everyone. Our UNDAP (2018-2023) signed on the 31st July with the Government is the right UN Strategy to support that endeavor.
Abishyize hamwe ntakibananira