7 February 2019
A new report issued by the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) finds that most United Nations system organizations are not doing enough to make their conferences and meetings fully accessible for persons with disabilities. This is a sobering conclusion, given that 15 per cent of the world’s population are estimated to live with some form of disability, and face more barriers than those without vis-à-vis participation in and access to deliberative processes. The United Nations system should consequently be at the forefront of walking the talk when it comes to non-discrimination and inclusion.
The report assesses large-scale, small-scale and offsite conferences and meetings organized by United Nations system organizations and identifies obstacles, impediments and good practices to enhance accessibility. It finds that formal dedicated policies on accessibility and reasonable accommodation - the essential foundational document outlining the principles that should guide an organization’s work in that area – are missing in all but three entities. Additionally, there are no international standards on accessibility that are accepted and utilized system-wide, with each organization simply attempting to conform to the accessibility standards outlined in the building codes and disability acts of the host country.
In headquarters locations, most organizations are not providing many of the essential Information Communication Technology and other services that would make meetings and conferences more accessible. Field office accessibility lags considerably behind that of their headquarters counterparts due to multiple factors, ranging from restrictions on physical modifications due to rented or heritage status premises, to resource limitations and remote locations. For meetings organized at off-site locations, most organizations neither adequately monitor accessibility provisions, nor set minimum accessibility requirements.
Given these limitations, it comes as little surprise that stakeholders from organizations of persons with disabilities expressed a low level of satisfaction with existing accessibility provisions. They highlighted the need to proactively incorporate accessibility considerations in meetings-related communications and event design and planning. They also called upon the organizations to better address invisible disabilities, establish a focal point for disabilities, defray participation costs for persons with disabilities, and make greater use of assistive technological tools.
To address these deficits, the JIU report outlines a series of concrete measures that can be taken to enhance accessibility-related internal capacity and coordination, encourage the participation of persons with disabilities in conferences and meetings, proactively incorporate accessibility considerations into organizational work, share good practices and knowledge, further accountability and mainstream the disability inclusion agenda across the United Nations system.
The report makes ten recommendations directed at the General Assembly, other legislative bodies, and Executive Heads. These include developing comprehensive policy and guidelines on accessibility, developing standard operating procedures on operational responsibilities of relevant actors on accessibility-related matters, ensuring accessible registration processes, providing remote participation options, undertaking periodic accessibility assessments of facilities and services, incorporating accessibility checks in procurement policies, and introducing specialized training on disability inclusion and accessibility for relevant personnel.
For further information:
Read the full report here.
Note to Editors
The Joint Inspection Unit is the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct system-wide evaluations, inspections and investigations. It seeks to ensure the optimum use of available resources by the United Nations system, and to enhance the efficiency of its administrative and financial functioning. The Unit also seeks to identify best practices, propose benchmarks, and facilitate information-sharing across the system.
The curricula vitae of all JIU Inspectors are available on the JIU website (www.unjiu.org). The website also contains information on the statute of the Unit, its mandate, reports, notes and management letters issued by the Unit and other relevant material.
To learn more, go to http://www.unjiu.org
For questions relating to this press release, please contact:
The Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations system
Tel: (+41) 22 917 1696
For use of the information media; not an official record