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Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 96/99

Creates the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society and approves the respective framework document. (Framework Document for the National Initiative).

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Text of resolution:

The information society must be a society for all. Citizens should have the opportunity to be part of it, without discrimination, and thus benefit from the advantages it offers. The advancement of democracy in the society of the future will rely on the various sectors of the population being able to gain access to information technology and on their capacity to use it. Should such an objective not be reached, the development of the information society could become a powerful factor of social exclusion.

On this issue the Green Paper on the Information Society calls attention to the case of citizens with physical, mental, visual or hearing disabilities. It proposes that programs be approved to integrate these groups of people into the information society so that they may take advantage of information technology's potential as a factor that can promote their integration into the community.

In their documents on equality of opportunity for older people and those with disabilities, international organisations like the United Nations or the European Union have also indicated that states should promote universal access to information and communication. They should particularly ensure that where interaction with computers, information systems or services available to the general public are involved, there are always suitable appliances available for citizens with special needs to use them.

Information technology has in fact a role to play as an intermediary between the individual and society. Its potential is particularly significant as a factor of social inclusion for members of the population with special needs.

In this respect it is essential and urgent to develop products, systems and services with the necessary backup to support citizens with special needs, alongside the design and production of products and services for the larger part of the population.

One of the long-term methods of reducing the costs related to developing specialised products to assist citizens with special needs could reside in the development of the 'universal design' or 'design for all' concept. This is based on the design and development of technological products and environments that can be taken advantage of by the greatest possible number of citizens, if not all, without adaptation to specific situations. It is therefore necessary to promote the development of these concepts and, to this effect, promote the indispensable co-operation between users, manufacturers and service providers.

It is, moreover, essential that a certain guarantee be provided. This is, namely, that the lack of economic resources that often characterises older and disabled people should not itself operate as a factor to exclude from the information society sectors of the population that would greatly benefit from the technological means it puts at their disposal.

On the other hand, it is important to foster research and development, in a co-ordinated way, with the aim of developing new equipment, information systems and services that can complement and take into account the functional specificity of people with special needs. If a policy leading to an information society for all is to be put into operation, a critical element is investment in R&D that, precisely, leads to research and development related to solutions and high-quality products in the field of information technology. Examples of this are info-kiosks, voice synthesisers in Portuguese or navigation and orientation systems.

The success of all this activity likewise depends on effective co-operation being established between the different participants in the various phases of research, design, production, evaluation, marketing and use of the different products and services. On the other hand, it also depends on citizens with special needs, the general public and potentially involved social and economic agents being made aware, in an effective way, of the use of information technology as a means of support. 

A framework document has been drawn up indicating the action, directed at citizens with special needs, that needs to be taken in the field of the information society. This document sets out the principal objectives. On one side is the guarantee that citizens in need of special consideration, whether disabled in some way, aged or long-term bed-ridden, will not find themselves excluded from the benefits of the information society. On the other is the need to create the conditions necessary so that the development of this society contributes unequivocally to an improvement in the living conditions and welfare of the citizens just mentioned.

The document was the object of an extensive and well-received process of public consultation. It is proposed that the important set of objectives included in the document be adopted.

At this time it is of importance to promote the adoption of this set of objectives and, to this effect, to create the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society.

Thus, in terms of paragraph g) of article 199 of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers resolves:

1st

The National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society is hereby created.

2nd

The broad objective of the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society is to help citizens with special needs, namely, the bearers of physical and mental disabilities, the aged and the long-term bed-ridden, to take full advantage of the benefits that new information technology can offer them as a factor of social integration and improvement in their quality of life.

3rd

The framework document for the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society, which forms an annex to the present resolution and is an integral part of it, is hereby approved.

4th

4.1. In close co-operation with other members of the Government, the Minister of Science and Technology is charged with the co-ordinating, monitoring and setting in motion the process leading to the accomplishment of the objectives contained within the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society.

4.2. In accordance with the monitoring referred to above, the Minister of Science and Technology will also promote the production of statistical indicators showing the degree to which the instruments of the information society have spread among citizens with special needs.

5th

5.1. Without prejudice to the initiatives that have been developed by other members of the Government and concern the matter in question, it is incumbent on the Minister of Labour and Social Solidarity to promote the adoption of the measures, specifically legislative in nature, that are necessary for the fulfilment of the objectives laid down in the framework document for the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society.

5.2. The Minister of Labour and Social Solidarity will take appropriate action to encourage access to information technology for citizens with special needs; he will also promote the launch of campaigns to raise the awareness and consciousness of information technology's potential to give support to citizens with special needs, their integration into society and an improvement in their quality of life.

6th

6.1. Bodies representing citizens with special needs, specifically the associations of the disabled, will be involved in the process of fulfilling the objectives laid out in the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society.

6.2. Bodies that are active among citizens with special needs may also be involved, particularly private charitable institutions, the Misericordia charity network and rehabilitation institutions.

6.3. The involvement of the bodies referred to in the paragraphs above will take the forms that are considered most appropriate, in the light of each concrete case of action, this possibly involving, in specific terms, consultation or concerted action.

The Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 
29 July 1999.  
The acting Prime Minister, 
Jaime José Matos da Gama.

Framework Document for the National Initiative for Citizens with  Special Needs in the Information Society.

Last Update:  26th of August 1999.
Programa ACESSO da UMIC - Agência para a Sociedade do Conhecimento, I.P.

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