GSMA Launches Framework to Improve Digital Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities

3rd December 2020, London: To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the GSMA is launching the ‘Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities’.  The Principles aim to further inspire the mobile industry to help close the mobile disability gap.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are over one billion people with disabilities; of them, only 1 in 10 has access to the assistive technology they need to live independent lives. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that 80% of persons with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  By combining multiple assistive technologies in a single device, mobile phones are cost-effective tools to enable greater inclusion and participation for persons with disabilities.

The ‘Principles’ set out a framework for action, together with recommended activities, to help address the barriers that currently prevent persons with disabilities from accessing and using mobile-enabled products and services. Research conducted by the GSMA[1] in LMICs shows that persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without 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. By doing so the mobile industry can make meaningful change and help ensure no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world.

“Removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires informed action from all stakeholders,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive. I am delighted that Dialog Axiata PLC, Optus, Orange Group, Safaricom PLC, Telefónica Group, Turkcell, Vodacom South Africa and Zain Group have already signed up to the Principles, and I look forward to many more industry participants joining us in this commitment.”

The Initiative sets out three core principles for advancing the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities:

  1. Embrace disability inclusion at every level of their organisation;
  2. Understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities;
  3. Deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of people with disabilities.

Digital accessibility is recognised as a key priority across a range of global commitments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. The core ambition of all these projects is to ensure inclusion for all in a rapidly expanding digital landscape. Signing up to the GSMA’s ‘Principles’ is an important step towards achieving this goal.

The framework has been endorsed by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Mobile & Wireless Forum’s (MWF) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI), Global Disability Innovation Hub, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), PurpleSpace and The Valuable 500.

You can learn more about the Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities here.

This initiative has been funded by UK aid from the UK government.

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About GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Africa, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Thrive Series of regional conferences.

[1] Aranda-Jan, C. (2020) The Mobile Disability Gap Report 2020. London: GSMA