Ban launches Accessibility Center at UN Headquarters

Ban launches Accessibility Center at UN Headquarters

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday inaugurated the Accessibility Center at UN Headquarters in New York, hailing the new facility that enables greater participation of persons with disabilities in intergovernmental processes as "a model of the digital United Nations we are trying to create."

The new center was inaugurated as part of the UN activities to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is observed annually on Dec. 3.

Ban said that initiative showed the world body is making strides toward creating a disability-inclusive world.

"Yesterday was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Today we prove that we care about this issue all year round," he said at the launching of the Accessibility Center, which will provide cutting edge tools for persons with visual, mobility and hearing impairments, enabling them to access documents and fully participate in meetings.

"We are moving forward with 21st century solutions that make the most of technological innovation," he said, adding that people can stop by, borrow state-of-the-art equipment, and then leave to join their colleagues at different UN meetings.

The UN chief thanked the Republic of Korea for "its generous contribution that turned our vision for the Center into a reality. "

Highlighting some of the features of the center, Ban said the overall approach is not centralized. Some may wish to recharge their wheelchairs at the center, "or type with a Palm On Keyboard, or take advantage of different services. But the result for all users is to integrate with the whole UN community," he said.

Also addressing the event, John W. Ashe, president of the UN General Assembly, said global efforts to make the world more accessible to persons with disabilities must begin -- and, as the Accessibility Center demonstrates, are beginning -- "right here in our own hallways."

Both the 193-member General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have asked the secretary-general to implement standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services throughout the UN system, Ashe said.

"For if we are to build a more inclusive world, it is essential that persons with disabilities are able to fully participate in and contribute to our deliberations," he said.

To do so, they not only need to be able to access meeting rooms, they also need to access information through documents and websites that are designed to be accessible to all, Ashe said.

Furthermore, they need technologies such as screen readers, pointing devices or hearing aids. "By providing these tools and services, the Accessibility Center will be instrumental in building an inclusive United Nations," he said.