Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
Around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or an estimated one billion people are persons with disabilities. Over the last few years, the GSMA Assistive Tech programme has conducted research on the mobile disability gap, as well as the drivers and challenges of digital inclusion of persons with disabilities. The evidence is clear that mobile access and use remains unequal – there is a significant disability gap in mobile phone ownership, and persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than people without disabilities.
Yet, mobile connectivity is critical for a majority of people to use the internet, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the world’s reliance on internet to access critical information, services and opportunities has never been greater. By clustering together multiple assistive technologies in a single device, mobile phones are cost effective tools for persons with disabilities to enable greater inclusion. If we want to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it is fundamental to address the current mobile disability gap and ensure that no one is left behind in our increasingly digital world.
The mobile industry must act now
A global effort is needed to create a significant shift in how persons with disabilities are reached and included. This shift needs to happen across the entire mobile value chain from how mobile services are inclusively designed to innovating with and for persons with disabilities.
In conjunction with mobile operators and disability and accessibility experts, the GSMA has developed the Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. These principles provide a framework for action for the industry along with a set of potential activities that can be taken by mobile operators to reduce the gap in access and use.
Three core principles
Embrace disability inclusion at every level of the organisation
To drive digital inclusion and reach persons with disabilities with mobile-enabled products and services, it is critical to focus on disability at an organisational level, to ensure disability inclusion is embedded across the organisation, supported by relevant policies and strategies, and spearheaded by senior leadership.
Understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities
Actions to drive digital inclusion for persons with disabilities must be informed by an understanding of the local issues and local contexts, and ensuring persons with disabilities’ voices are heard: “nothing about us, without us”.
Deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of persons with disabilities
Action is required to address the barriers and requirements of persons with disabilities, drive innovation, place persons with disabilities at the heart of the design process and realise the social and commercial opportunity of reaching this underserved segment of the population.
Take action to drive the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities
By endorsing these Principles, showing leadership on disability inclusion and taking disability inclusive actions, mobile phone operators and digital stakeholders will support and advance a more inclusive society and amplify the voices of persons with disabilities through digital technology.Get in touch
The following mobile operators have committed to taking action to improve the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities.
The following organisations have endorsed this GSMA initiative and support the industry in striving to improve the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Global Disability Innovation Hub
International Labour Organisation
Mobile & Wireless Forum
The Valuable 500
Digital inclusion has the ability to transform lives on a global scale. The GSMA’s Principles for Digital Inclusion, announced on 3 December 2020, mark the next step in closing the mobile disability gap, showcasing how prioritisation at an organisational and structural level, with the full involvement of persons with disabilities, enables products and services to better meet the needs of disabled consumers to drive inclusive futures.
The ILO Global Business and Disability Network welcomes the GSMA’s Principles for Digital Inclusion, there is much to be done to close the gap in including people with disabilities and championing disability inclusion within the workforce. The Principles for Digital Inclusion provide the mobile industry with a roadmap to close this gap. We look forward to collaborating with the GSMA in its implementation.
The MWF has been promoting mobile accessibility via the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) since 2008. But true inclusion goes beyond device accessibility and therefore we support the GSMA’s Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities that intend to help close the mobile disability gap and “reduce the gap in access and use of mobile-enabled products and services by persons with disabilities”.
PurpleSpace welcomes the development of the Principles and the GSMA’s efforts to advance the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities.
The Principles are practical and comprehensive, and will hopefully gain robust uptake by the industry. They offer civil society and other actors a clear and standardised tool by which to assess the industry’s performance on key inclusion benchmarks.
We were delighted to read GSMA’s Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities created as part of their response to the mobile disability gap. The ‘Principles’ create a great launch pad for telcos who want to embed inclusivity across their organisations. Following these will help promote digital inclusion and therefore enable the independence and autonomy of people with disabilities. The Valuable 500, like the GSMA, believe that removing barriers is everyone’s business.