United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's Message on the International Day of Disabled Persons

In his message on the International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December 1999, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, spoke about the theme of the day, accessibility, with a reminder that for many people with disabilities, the lack of access to essential services remains a source of discrimination and lost opportunities. Accessibility in the broadest sense of the term is a prerequisite for disabled people to enjoy equal opportunities. Internet publication URL: www.independentliving.org/docs6/annan1999.html.

The theme for this year’s observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons -- Accessibility -- reminds us that for many people with disabilities, the lack of access to essential services remains a source of discrimination and lost opportunities.

For more than half a billion people in the world, accessibility can mean an education, a job and a community that would otherwise be denied them. Accessibility is a prerequisite for disabled people to enjoy equal opportunities. It is a key to the exercise of their civil, politicial, social and cultural rights. This is a major concern of the United Nations, rooted in its founding principle of the equality of all human beings.

As computer-based communications and learning become more and more widespread, special needs must be taken into account. If they are not, the technological revolution will be lost for many talented people, and their contributions will be lost to the rest of us.

But we must not forget that 80 per cent of the world’s disabled population lives in developing countries. Most of them have never used a phone, let alone a high-speed computer. In many places, those who have become disabled as a result of malnutrition, land-mine explosions or the acts of ruthless terrorists need access to water, food and health care as a matter of life and death. Meeting their basic needs must remain our highest priority.

Today, let us reaffirm our resolve to build truly accessible, caring and inclusive societies in the new Millennium.

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