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Zain joins global effort to improve digital inclusion of persons with disabilities

LONDON/KUWAIT: To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Zain became a signatory and was part of the advisory board in the GSMA’s global effort to launch the ‘Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities’. The Principles aim to inspire the mobile industry to help close the mobile disability gap.

According to the World Health Organization, one billion people live with a disability; around 15 percent of the world’s population, and only 1 in 10 people have access to the assistive technology they need to live independent lives. By combining multiple assistive technologies in a single device, mobile phones are cost effective tools for persons with disabilities to enable greater inclusion and participation.

The ‘Principles’ set out a framework for action together with recommended activities to help address the barriers that currently prevent people with disabilities from accessing and using mobile-enabled products and services. Research conducted by the GSMA shows that many persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without disabilities.

Action is required to address the barriers and requirements of persons with disabilities, drive innovation, place persons with disabilities at the heart of the design process and realise the social and commercial opportunity of reaching this underserved segment of the population. By doing so, the mobile industry can make meaningful change and help ensure no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world.

Jennifer Suleiman, Zain Group Chief Sustainability Officer said: “The launch of these noble Principles by the GSMA complements Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi’s dedication to and vision of Diversity and Inclusion, that recognizes the real and positive contribution people with disabilities can make to society if only given the opportunity. In many ways, the Principles reinforces our own efforts under our ‘WE ABLE’ disability inclusive program, whereby Zain pledges to become disability inclusive across all operations by 2022. Zain urges other like-minded organizations across all sectors, to embrace systematic change and implement initiatives that help speed up the narrowing of the mobile disability gap.”

Suleiman added, “Embedding sustainability and meaningful connectivity in every aspect of Zain’s business, we were proud to be the first company from the GCC in July 2020 to join ‘The Valuable 500’, an international initiative striving to put disability on the leadership agenda within corporates. Similarly, one year earlier, in July 2019, Zain was a signatory into the International Labor Organization (ILO) Global Business and Disability Network Charter, whereby the company implemented a policy of integration of people with disability, including them in all facets of Zain’s policies and culture.”

“Removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires informed action from all stakeholders,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive. I am delighted that Dialog Axiata PLC, Optus, Orange Group, Safaricom PLC, Telefonica Group, Turkcell, Vodacom South Africa and Zain Group have already signed up to the Principles, and I look forward to many more industry participants joining us in this commitment.”

The Initiative sets out three core principles for advancing the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities:

  1. Embrace disability inclusion at every level of their organization;
  2. Understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities;
  3. Deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of people with disabilities.

Digital accessibility is recognized as a key priority across a range of global commitments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. The core ambition of all these projects is to ensure that no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world. Signing up to the GSMA’s ‘Principles’ is an important step towards achieving this goal.

The framework has been endorsed by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Mobile and Wireless Forum’s (MWF) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI), Global Disability Innovation Hub, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), PurpleSpace and The Valuable 500.

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