The United Nations established the International Day of Disabled Persons in 1982. Each annual observance of the day is themed: and the theme for 2006 is E-Accessibility.

From the United Nations:

Persons with disabilities are at a considerable disadvantage by not being able to access information technologies. For instance, as education becomes increasingly dependent on information technologies, not being able to access the Internet for example limits the learning potential of persons with disabilities.

Several places already have legislation and regulations requiring websites to be fully accessible. At the international level, standards and guidelines on website accessibility are being developed. Once adopted and ratified, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will require entities ensure that persons with disabilities can access information technologies. It specifies that measures should be introduced to eliminate obstacles and barriers to information and communications, and to promote access for persons with disabilities to information and communications technologies, including the Internet.

It’s great to see the UN giving focus to the major issues in accessibility faced by the information technology community. The importance of this issue is tremendous. I’m also glad to see that they’re making a pointed effort to mention the business advantages of accessibility:

Making information technologies available to persons with disabilities is not only a matter of human rights, it also makes good business sense. Studies suggest that accessible websites appear higher up the page rankings of search engines and can save costs on web maintenance. It also allows companies access to a largely untapped customer base. Many websites, however, remain inaccessible for the visually impaired and the blind. A recent study of the FTSE 100 companies in the United Kingdom showed that around three-quarters of company websites did not achieve basic levels of accessibility. By not making their websites accessible, UK companies are forfeiting £80 billion in lost revenue.

Although the Target accessibility lawsuit is certainly a big stick in the name of accessibility, success in espousing accessibility needs to have a carrot as well: good information about the increased financial success of accessible websites should help draw corporations into the accessibility frame of mind.

So let’s make a point to celebrate E-Accessibility Day. I’ll think of December 3rd as a goal for myself: a date by which I intend to make improvements to all my web projects. I am an accessible designer, and what I’ve got is pretty accessible already. But it could always be better. That’s my goal – what’s yours?