Enabling Access to Education through ICT

Education is a fundamental right for all persons. In the information society, access to knowledge and information is of vital importance to ensure that all persons are able to participate as creative and productive members of the society. The UNCRPD recognizes that persons with disabilities also have a right to education and lifelong learning. Countries around the world have recognized the importance of education and have identified universal primary education as one of the millennium goals to be achieved by them within 2015. While definitive steps are being taken to achieve and promote universal inclusive education, there are still some grey areas remaining with respect to addressing the special needs of some groups like disabled children. The World Health Organisation estimates that 70% of the world's disabled live in developing countries like India.

It is believed that barely two per cent of the 70 million disabled persons have access to education in India. This is due to a variety of reasons, including the lack of awareness amongst educational organizations and teachers, near absence of infrastructural resources and lack of training in this regard. Technological advancement in the form of assistive technologies, ubiquitous Web, multiple platforms, social networks, online libraries and digital resources, etc., have now made it possible for disabled persons to access information in accessible formats. It is therefore, important that students, teachers and educational institutions are adequately equipped to leverage the power of the Internet and ICTs to enable inclusion for persons with disabilities. In order to address these issues, the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Bangalore in cooperation with the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICT (G3ICT), a flagship advocacy organization of the UN Global Alliance on ICT and Development (UN-GAID), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), UNESCO, WIPO, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment and the Deafway Foundation Daisy Consortium, are organizing an international conference, EDICT2010: Enabling Access to Education through ICT in New Delhi from 27 to 29 October 2010. The conference which is sponsored by the Hans Foundation will look at ways in which ICTs can be harnessed to bring education to persons with disabilities.

The specific focus of the conference is to look at the various technologies, tools and practices that are necessary to bring education within the reach of all persons with disabilities as a step towards achieving inclusive education in India. This includes education at all levels- primary, secondary and higher education as well as distance and online education. Structured as a workshop, the conference will highlight existing practical and policy barriers for students and educational institutions in developing countries, showcase solutions which are presently being adopted in different countries, and point to existing knowledge resources and emerging trends in education. The format of the conference is highly engaging and is designed to enable the attendees to explore the challenges and opportunities while equipping them with the tools needed to implement ICT solutions within their organizations.

This conference is unique in so far as it is probably the first one of its kind on such a large scale in India and involves participation from a variety of stakeholders ranging from government ministries, educational institutions, disability organizations and the private sector. Some key participants are the UN organizations such as the WIPO, UNESCO, ITU and the G3ICT, the Department of Information Technology, Ministry for Human Resource and Development,the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, Indira Gandhi Open University, National Institute of Open Schooling, the Deafway Foundation, Daisy Consortium, Microsoft and Yahoo. The various deliverables of the conference include:

1. Evolving a set of recommendations for educators on best practices

2. Publishing a White Paper which will provide a set of recommendations for policy makers on inclusive education.

3. Creating a case study database of best practices on the use of ICTs in the education for the disabled.

For more information, visit: www.edict2010.in

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