Stakeholders call for digital accessibility to unlock job opportunities for PWDs

Participants of the 2024 Inclusive Africa Conference make a presentation. [Courtesy]

Digital accessibility and assistive technology remain key drivers for creating job opportunities for persons with disabilities across the African continent.

Philip Thigo, the Special Envoy on Technology in the Executive Office of the President said digital inclusion is an enabler for people with disabilities to access jobs and enterprise opportunities being presented by technology.

Speaking at a Nairobi hotel during the Inclusive Africa Conference, Thigo said currently over 96 per cent of websites do not have digital accessibility for persons with disability.

He said as a result, this has locked out Sh8 trillion of global business value that would accrue to digital accessibility.

Under the theme of ‘Breaking Barriers: Advancing Digital Accessibility for a Disability Inclusive Future in Africa’ aimed at breaking barriers and amplifying the voices of those who champion accessibility.

Thigo’s sentiments were echoed by Justice Dr Imaana Laibuta who said Kenyan society needs to invest in higher education for the youth living with disabilities as well as mobilise resources to address challenges inhibiting digital inclusion for people living with disabilities.

Laibuta, a Court of Appeal Judge and Chair of the Board of Directors, inABLE, said a time has come where society must be told that people with disability are not looking for pity but fair chance.

On her part, Irene Mbari-Kirika, the Executive Director of inABLE, said 15 per cent of the African 1.4 billion population, which is identified as people living with disabilities, is at risk of being left behind in terms of digital accessibility.

While stressing the need to invest in youth with disabilities to unlock the future of inclusion Kirika said, “We aspire to a future where disability inclusion will be seamless. Where digital accessibility will be part of the basic service delivery without the need for special considerations.”

She said people with disabilities are looking for equal opportunities and a fair chance to independently participate in everyday life, including access to education and employment opportunities.

Nominated Senator Crystal Asige said there is a great need for more disability inclusion champions, including political leaders, to influence policy and decisions.

She called on the media to change the narrative of how they report disability stories to offer opportunities for differently abled people, as she pointed out the steps she has taken in advocating for persons living with disabilities at the National Senate.

"We are one step forward in terms of inclusion, as I have been able to embed and anchor the ICT KEBS standards that launched in 2022 in my role as a Senator," said Senator Asige.

The Inclusive Africa Conference will further showcase over 20 digital accessibility and assistive technology innovations, some of which are in the final stages of approval for the European Union market.