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Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons : report of the Secretary-General.

UN Document Symbol A/50/473
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Report of the Secretary-General
Session 50th
Type Document

5 p.

Subjects Persons with Disabilities, Equal Opportunity

Extracted Text

General Assembly
26 September 1995
Fiftieth session
Agenda item 105
Implementation of the World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons
Report of the Secretary-General
1. At its forty-eighth session, the General Assembly adopted resolution 48/95
in which it requested the Secretary-General to report biennially to the Assembly
on the progress of efforts to ensure the equalization of opportunities and full
inclusion of persons with disabilities in the various bodies of the United
Nations system. The present report was prepared pursuant to this request.
2. The question of equalization of opportunities and full inclusion of people
with disabilities within the various bodies of the United Nations system was
first raised during the preparations for the International Year of Disabled
Persons (IYDP) in 1981, in the context of access to buildings and facilities.
The Advisory Committee for the Year, at its second session in 1980, recommended
that the United Nations and its specialized agencies adopt a policy to make all
facilities accessible to disabled persons (see A/35/444, annex). Acting upon
this recommendation, the General Assembly, in its resolution 35/133, requested
the Secretary-General to examine the question of access to United Nations
buildings, documents and information for persons with sensorial disabilities.
3. In its resolution 37/53, the Assembly urged all organs, organizations and
agencies of the United Nations system to undertake new measures or expedite
those already under way to improve access to their buildings, facilities and
information sources. In 1984, the Secretary-General submitted a comprehensive
report on the subject to the Assembly at its thirty-ninth session (A/39/191 and
95-28954 (E) 290995 /...
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4. In its resolution 43/98, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to
examine possible ways in which United Nations meetings, information materials
and documents could be made more accessible to disabled persons. In its
resolution 44/70, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to encourage all
organs and bodies of the United Nations to take into account in their programmes
and operational activities the specific needs of disabled persons.
5. The following measures have been taken with a view to implementing the
recommendations contained in the above resolutions:
(a) A general survey of the question of access to United Nations
buildings, documents and information for persons with disabilities was
undertaken. In 1982, three studies were commissioned and prepared by three
consultants with disabilities. The studies dealt with visual, hearing and
physical impairments respectively and their implications for the participation
of persons with such impairments in the activities of the United Nations;
(b) A handbook entitled "Designing with care" containing standard
specifications for a barrier-free environment was issued;
(c) An accessibility guide to United Nations Headquarters for persons with
disabilities was issued in 1982 by the Department of Public Information;
(d) Studies undertaken by the Secretariat Building Management Services led
to modifications in the physical environment of the United Nations Headquarters
with a view to achieving barrier-free access;
(e) In 1983, the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) adopted
recommendations for the implementation of its policy statement on employment of
the disabled in the organizations of the Untied Nations system (ACC/1983/9,
annex VI);
(f) In 1989, ACC promulgated a plan to improve employment opportunities
for disabled persons within the Secretariat, in keeping with the recommendations
contained in the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons;
(g) In 1990, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna
(UNOV), in her capacity as focal point for disability issues in the system,
requested the executive secretaries of the regional commissions and the heads of
the specialized agencies to report on the problem of accessibility and
accommodation of the needs of disabled persons. The Director-General suggested
that agencies consider including in their programme budgets for meetings,
conferences and other activities appropriate means to enable the participation
of sensory-impaired persons by making available sign language interpretation and
materials in Braille or audio-cassette tapes. Agencies were also requested to
consider measures to enable disabled participants to gain better access to
meeting premises, including through the provision of personal attendants. In
response to the request, information was provided on the measures taken by
agencies described in the following paragraphs.
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6. At the United Nations Office at Vienna the Resource Group on Accessibility
was established in 1989 to review the facilities in the Vienna International
Centre in order to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. The
Group noted that some important modifications could be made at minimum cost. It
also suggested that modifications which would have substantive financial
implications should be included in the respective budgets of UNOV, the United
Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), which share the Centre’s premises. In that regard, the
Group was informed of the status of the Major Repairs Fund administered jointly
by the Austrian Government and Building Management Service (BMS). The Group
conducted two "walk-arounds" of the building. Its findings were brought to the
attention of the BMS Advisory Committee. Priority was given to items which were
low-cost yet had a profound effect on making the facilities more accessible.
7. At the United Nations Office at Geneva major improvements were made at the
Petit-Saconnex annex and at the William Rappard Centre (which housed the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), a facility belonging to
FIPOI (Fondation des immeubles pour les organisations internationales) which is
responsible for alterations and modifications.
8. At the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme, special
ramps and signboards have been installed.
9. The entire premises at UNICEF headquarters in New York are fully accessible
and barrier-free for persons with disabilities. The issue of accessibility was
also brought to the attention of UNICEF regional and country directors.
10. The premises of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(FAO) are entirely accessible to wheelchair users. The facilities of FAO
(meeting rooms, catering services, toilets and telephones) are easily reached by
wheelchair users. FAO has prepared a brochure in English, French, Spanish and
Italian to provide guidance to the disabled persons who visit or work at FAO.
Special earphones are provided to delegates with hearing difficulties.
11. At the Inter-Agency Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and
Publications (IAMLADP) which took place at Rome in June 1990, the representative
of the World Health Organization raised the question of improved communication
channels by the inclusion of Braille materials or audio cassettes and sign
language as well as the provision of personal attendants.
12. Concrete measures have been taken to improve access of disabled persons to
the conference premises and offices at the headquarters of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris. With respect to
communication channels, the provision of printed materials in Braille or on
audio-cassette tapes and sign language interpretation are made available at the
request of organizers of meetings in liaison with Conference Division. The
UNESCO Courrier is also issued in Braille.
13. The International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly requested its
Council to complete a review of the problems of elderly and disabled air
travellers and to determine appropriate measures to improve their access to
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airports and air services. These issues were on the agenda of the tenth session
of the Facilitation Division (April 1988).
14. At the initiative of the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
Development of the Secretariat, a task force was established at United Nations
Headquarters in January 1995 to review steps which might increase the
Organization’s responsiveness to the needs of delegates, staff members or
visitors with disabilities. The task force on accessibility is chaired by a
representative of the Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management
and is comprised of representatives of the Division for Social Policy and
Development of the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
Development, the Office of Human Resources Management including a representative
of the Chief Medical Officer, the Office of Conference and Support Service
including the Security and Safety Service, the Buildings Management Service of
the Department for Administration and Management and the Department of Public
15. The task force, which holds regular meetings, has concentrated on practical
measures to improve access to the physical environment. The task force involved
staff members with disabilities in the "walk-around" to identify deficiencies in
the facilities for persons with disabilities and to exchange ideas for possible
improvements. Modifications to the facilities that could be made at minimum
cost as well as those likely to have considerable financial implications were
16. In February 1995, the Task Force held a working session with
Mr. Bengt Lindqvist, the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for
Social Development. From the "walk-around" of the facilities at United Nations
Headquarters and the meeting with the Special Rapporteur, the picture emerged
that the facilities are, in general, accommodating to persons with disabilities.
The following improvements were initiated in accordance with suggestions and the
recommendations of the Task Force: installation of railings along the library
walkway; opening of the southernmost gate at the 42nd Street entrance in view of
the obstacle of the man-hole in front of the northern door; installing an
automated teller machine on the 1st floor of the Secretariat building to allow
easier access to it than to the one on the 4th floor; installing wheelchair
access to the staff cafe on the 4th floor of the Secretariat building.
17. In addition to physical accessibility to conferences and meetings, there is
the issue of accessibility to documents and information for persons with
disabilities so that they may be able to follow and participate in the work of
conferences and meetings, their preparation and follow-up, whether as members of
the staff or as delegates, experts and observers. In this connection, measures
to meet the needs of those with visual, hearing or speech impairments have most
often been raised, in particular availability of documents in "large type",
Braille or tape/cassette form, as well as of special audio facilities and
interpretation in sign language.
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18. The technology now available and widely in use at United Nations
Headquarters as well as at the United Nations Offices at Geneva and Vienna and
at other locations has markedly improved accessibility in the broader sense as
compared to the situation of only a few years ago. The generalized use of
electronic means for generating, storing and accessing documents has made it
possible to provide, inexpensively and quickly, information and documents in
large print, in Braille, on audio-cassettes, on computer diskettes and through
direct on-line access.
19. Sign language interpretation can be made available on request at
Headquarters for specific authorized meetings. However, consultations
concerning the provision of sign language interpretation as a regular service at
meetings of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and its
subsidiary bodies or of expert meetings convened under the auspices of the
United Nations, have not yet led to a sufficient degree of agreement on the
policy and technical issues to be resolved.
20. The Task Force on Accessibility will continue its work and develop a phased
approach and implementation plan covering the years 1996-2000, with the
objective of ensuring full accessibility to the United Nations facilities. As a
benchmark at Headquarters, the Task Force adopted the goal of compliance with
the standards of the host country as set out in the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA). In this regard, contacts have been established with the United
States National Council on Disability and the New York City Mayor’s Office for
People with Disabilities. Through these offices, the Secretariat has been
provided with available reference standards, particularly the ADA Accessibility
Guidelines and the New York Building Code, as well as relevant materials for
conference planners. The Mayor’s Office has also contacted the New York City
Sanitation Commission concerning snow removal around the United Nations complex
and problems of access encountered by United Nations staff members and visitors
with disabilities.
21. The Secretariat is contacting the competent officials in the specialized
agencies and other organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to
inform them of the experience gained by the Headquarters Task Force and to
request information on recent measures taken and problems encountered in making
buildings, conferences, information and documents fully accessible. The
information made available by the respective entities of the United Nations
system will be included in the next biennial report of the Secretary-General on
this subject, due to be presented to the Assembly at its fifty-second session.
The question of access is also on the agenda of the annual Inter-Agency
Consultation on Disability, which is scheduled to convene in October 1995 and is
to consider, inter alia, the desirability and feasibility of common or
harmonized approaches in the system.