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GAATES is very pleased to express our sincere congratulations to our GAATES Country Representative to Switzerland, Prof. Alireza Darvishy, who was recently named the Individual Award recipient for the 2016 UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digitial Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
For more information on the Award and Prof. Darvishy’s contributions to accessible ICTs, please see the full story below, originally published by the UNESCO PRESS on Nov 29, 2016.
The 2016 UNESCO/Emir Jaber Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities were attributed to Professor Alireza Darvishy (Switzerland) and Tiflonexos Asociación Civil (Argentina) on December 2, 2016 in a ceremony at the UNESCO Headquarters on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Both laureates have been chosen for their outstanding contribution to inclusion, enhancing the lives of persons with disabilities through the application of digital solutions, resources and technologies.
Alireza Darvishy (Switzerland) lost most of his vision at the age of 15 due to an accident. He enrolled at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) in the 80s as its first severely visually impaired student in computer science. He used assistive technologies to pursue his degree and PhD, while continuously challenging his university to improve its accessibility policies. He was one of the first students in Switzerland with an impairment to finish a PhD in computer science, which focused on digital accessibility. After graduating, he initiated and led many innovative accessibility projects in the private sector. In the early 2000s, he was additionally hired by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) as the first and only professor of ICT Accessibility. There, he established a competence centre for ICT Accessibility and helped more students with disabilities get an education. Through his ambitious work, he seeks to serve as a champion and an inspiration for others with impairments, and as an example to organizations of what people with disabilities can achieve.
Tiflonexos Asociación Civil (Argentina) was created in 1999 in Argentina by a group of blind friends who wanted to use the power of the Internet to exchange digital books and gain better access to information, culture and education, which was extremely limited in the region at that time. The group created an online collaborative free-access library for visually impaired people in Argentina. Now, it offers more than 50,000 titles, mostly in Spanish, to more than 7,000 blind users and 300 organizations around the world. The library’s community of users has grown to become a global network of information exchange, education and support. Tiflolibros is managed by visually impaired people who are early adopters of technology and promote users’ empowerment. The Organization contributed to a favourable reform of Argentina´s copyright law in 2007, which was followed by other Latin American countries. It was key in the adoption of the first United Nations treaty to promote access to books worldwide for visually impaired people, the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO).
The UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities aims to reward the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations that promote inclusion and the enhancement of the lives of persons with disabilities in society through the effective, innovative and inclusive application of digital solutions.
Nineteen countries submitted individual nominations for the 2016 Prize and 23 countries presented nominations in the organizational category. All submissions were assessed by the International Jury established by the Director-General of UNESCO. The total amount of $40,000 available for the Prize will be distributed equally between the individual and the organizational winners.
In order to make an inclusive society a reality, it is necessary to identify and remove barriers to access.