Why global donors should support digital accessibility in Ukraine

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Institute of Innovative Governance


In 2021, Ukraine recorded at least 2.7 million individuals with disabilities. However, this figure only represents those people with disability registered as such, and the actual number is likely significantly higher, primarily due to the impact of the ongoing war caused by Russia's aggression. Indeed, the number of people with disabilities in Ukraine has seen a dramatic increase, although precise figures are not available yet.

It's important to highlight that this increase of people with disability underscores the growing importance of digital accessibility in Ukraine's future. This is particularly significant as Ukraine has been rapidly advancing its digitization efforts and digital development is at core of Ukraine recovery strategy. However, it is crucial to recognize that digital accessibility remains a key element to ensure that the post-war recovery is inclusive and beneficial for the widest possible segment of the Ukrainian population.

In recent years, UNDP, in collaboration with other partners, conducted an analysis of 82 public websites offering electronic services to citizens in 2020. A year later, this study was repeated, assessing 100 websites of public authorities. The results show a substantial number of Ukrainian government websites that are not fully accessible with various issues related to digital accessibility even on websites that have some elements of digital inclusivity.

Given these circumstances, international donors can play a pivotal role in ensuring that both Ukraine's digital development and post-war recovery are inclusive. In particular, three different but related donors can collaborate and support these efforts.

  1. Supporting digital accessibility as a way to support European Integration (EU Donors).

    The EU and its member states can contribute to advancing digital accessibility, as it represents an effective means to ensure the sustainability and inclusivity of the European integration process. Digital inclusivity serves not only as a highly visible means of promoting EU values in Ukraine, but also as an opportunity to facilitate the assimilation of EU regulations and standards (EU acquis).

    For instance, Ukraine will need to fully implement the European Accessibility Act (Directive 2019/882), a EU directive focusing on the the accessibility of specific everyday products and digital services for individuals with disabilities. The adoption of the Web Accessibility Directive, in conjunction with the ongoing reforms associated with the EU acquis chapter 19 (Social Policy & Employment), constitutes a highly significant aspect of Ukraine's journey towards EU integration. To actively assist Ukraine in this integration process, EU donors can play a crucial role by financing projects, providing training, and fostering collaborative initiatives in the area of digital accessibility. This support effectively contributes to Ukraine's alignment with EU standards and promotes its successful integration into the European Union.
  2. Supporting digital accessibility as a way to support war victims (Global Donors).

    Ukraine, in collaboration with international organizations like the UNDP, is actively engaged in a cooperative effort to enhance digital accessibility. An example of this commitment is seen in the government's 2023 Resolution, which mandates that all state agencies ensure web accessibility in compliance with international standards such as WCAG 2.1.

    Consequently, international donors can play a valuable role in supporting these endeavors by offering financial assistance to state entities that may lack the necessary expertise and resources to align their websites with global standards and best practices. This support is instrumental in advancing Ukraine's digital accessibility goals and fostering inclusivity.

    By financially supporting digital inclusivity projects and promoting the development of digital accessibility in Ukraine, the primary beneficiaries will be those who have been affected by war-related disabilities. For instance, these initiatives can be especially beneficial for individuals who have become disabled due to injuries and mutilations resulting from the Russian aggression.
  3. Supporting digital accessibility as a way to support the recovery of Ukraine (Global Donors).

    In a previous article, we highlighted the significant potential of fully implementing Ukraine's digital recovery plan, not only in terms of facilitating a sustained recovery for the nation but also in propelling its economy forward for several decades.

    Hence, it is in the best interest of international donors interested in the full-recovery of Ukraine to consistently support the implementation of the state digital recovery plan, which is built on two interconnected yet vital pillars: innovation and accessibility. Digital accessibility represents the ideal fusion of these two crucial elements as it can promote a very sustainable way to promote digitalisation in a war-torn country such as Ukraine.

    By financing projects, workshops, adaptation training for citizens and organisations at local, regional and national level, international donors can ensure that dichotomy of inclusion and inclusivity remain a core element of the Ukrainian recovery plan.

Let's make Ukraine inclusive and accessible for everyone!

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