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by Debra Ruh, Chief Marketing Officer

Since its opening for signature in March 2007, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been signed by 153 countries and ratified with full enforceability by 110 countries. This is one of the fastest rates of adoption of any international treaty in recent history. Its article 27 (see below) on “Work and employment” establishes the foundation for national policies and programs similar in nature to some of the most advanced legislations around the world, including the requirement for reasonable accommodation. Significant opportunities can be leveraged in this context by organizations conducting business internationally.

While the actual implementation at country level will take time, the CRPD is already having a profound impact on national legislations; according to G3ict’s latest CRPD Progress Report on ICT Accessibility, a survey of ratifying countries conducted in cooperation with Disabled Peoples’ International, 91% have already adopted a constitutional article, law or regulation defining the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and 72% a definition of “Reasonable Accommodation” in a law or regulation regarding the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

What does this mean for organizations operating internationally?

  • As was evidenced by a briefing session organized by G3ict at the United Nations headquarters in September 2011 at the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD – during which IBM, Microsoft, AT&T and Time Warner described their current employment and workplace accommodation practices – leading international companies can serve as an important benchmark and source for good practices in support of an effective implementation of the CRPD. This means that organizations doing business internationally may have a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership and exercise a positive influence with local stakeholders in those countries where they operate.
  • For organizations that have integrated the principle of diversity and equal employment opportunities in their corporate values, explicitly promoting and leveraging the principle of the CRPD can further establish their thought leadership and the contemporary and progressive nature of their employment policies among their current and prospective employees around the world. Since the CRPD is now enforceable almost everywhere around the world, it is a natural step to take anyway.
  • While many countries are currently issuing new policies and programs reflecting the dispositions of the CRPD, few are monitoring and promoting practical technical solutions and standards for workplace accommodation and accessibility; among ratifying countries, 59% do not monitor ICT accessibility standards. International companies can leverage their technical know-how and further enhance their reputation as leading experts in accessibility and being among the best organizations to work for. International organizations can, in the context of local CSR programs, help local stakeholders including government and organizations of persons with disabilities learn about accessibility.
  • Finally, involving persons with disabilities and mainstreaming accessibility in product design, marketing, sales and services creates opportunities in many foreign cultures. Addressing the needs of persons with disabilities constitutes a strong positive attribute from a brand and reputation standpoint. Local subsidiaries can gain strong recognition and support from local government and communities for being proactive with Universal Design strategies and programs for persons with disabilities.

G3ict – the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies – is an Advocacy Initiative of the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development. Its mission is to promote and support the implementation of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) covering digital accessibility and assistive technologies. Participating organizations include industry, the public sector and organizations representing persons with disabilities. G3ict relies on an international network of ICT accessibility experts to develop practical tools, evaluation methods and benchmarks for States Parties, Disabled Persons Organizations, and corporations. Since inception in 2006, G3ict has organized or contributed to over 90 awareness raising and capacity building programs for policy makers, in cooperation with international organizations such as the ITU, UNESCO, UNITAR, ILO and the World Bank on all continents.

The US Business Leadership Network (USBLN®) is a national non-profit, non-partisan business to business network promoting workplaces, marketplaces, and supply chains where people with disabilities are included. The USBLN® serves as the collective voice of over 60 Business Leadership Network affiliates across the United States, representing over 5,000 businesses. Additionally, the USBLN® Disability Supplier Diversity Program® (DSDP) is the nation’s leading third party certification program for disability-owned businesses, including service-disabled veterans.

Convention on the Rights of Person’s with Disabilities (CRPD)
Article 27
Work and employment

  1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on
    an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a
    living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work
    environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.
    States Parties shall safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work,
    including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment,
    by taking appropriate steps, including through legislation, to, inter alia:(a) Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all
    matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of
    recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career
    advancement and safe and healthy working conditions;(b) Protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on an equal basis
    with others, to just and favourable conditions of work, including equal
    opportunities and equal remuneration for work of equal value, safe and healthy
    working conditions, including protection from harassment, and the redress of
    grievances;

    (c) Ensure that persons with disabilities are able to exercise their
    labour and trade union rights on an equal basis with others;

    (d) Enable persons with disabilities to have effective access to
    general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services
    and vocational and continuing training;

    (e) Promote employment opportunities and career advancement for
    persons with disabilities in the labour market, as well as assistance in finding,
    obtaining, maintaining and returning to employment;

    (f) Promote opportunities for self-employment, entrepreneurship, the
    development of cooperatives and starting one’s own business;

    (g) Employ persons with disabilities in the public sector;

    (h) Promote the employment of persons with disabilities in the
    private sector through appropriate policies and measures, which may include
    affirmative action programmes, incentives and other measures;

    (i) Ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons
    with disabilities in the workplace;

    (j) Promote the acquisition by persons with disabilities of work
    experience in the open labour market;

    (k) Promote vocational and professional rehabilitation, job retention
    and return-to-work programmes for persons with disabilities.

  2. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not held in
    slavery or in servitude, and are protected, on an equal basis with others, from
    forced or compulsory labour.