Public policies to increase accessibility

7 Dec 2016 10:00h - 11:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

The session was organized by the Federal Telecommunications Institute, Mexico and moderated by Mónica Duhem, FDI Mexico, showcased how Internet governance is relevant to protect rights and ensure inclusiveness of people with disability in ICTs and in a digital era where people with disabilities amount to 1,000 million which is about 15% of the world population.

Ms Mignon L. Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said that she has been a proponent for policies that support people with disability. Last April the FCC launched a program for improving communications and giving new opportunities for people with disabilities in many cities where they met with many start-ups, government officials and several organizations. She asked what regulators and technology can do for people with. She stressed the fact that several market forces are negatively impacting the rights of people with disabilities as these market forces are ignoring people with disability needs. She added that the government should play a major role through market assessments of people with disability needs and to provide new economic opportunities through better competition, more  encouragement and incentives for the private sector to invest on these specific needs;  She pointed out that in the US market, the government passed numerous accessibility laws between 1970 and 1990, such as those for telephone technology, allowing accessibility.  A new legal project that ensures disability access to the next ICT generation is today an urgent project.  She mentioned that the FCC is working on this legal project, and governments should take another step by adding more national law and regulations.

Mr James Thurston, Manager, G3ict, said that G3ict’s objective is strong digital inclusiveness. He said that G3ict is working worldwide with several governments, providing consultancy on many accessibility issues when using ICT. G3ict is an advisor on accessibility including public procurement of accessible technology and policy models. He added that G3ict is working closely with UNICED on an inclusive education program. He pointed out that G3ict is partnering with many countries on the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities. He added that G3ict has developed a rich content which is available online which shows how the world is accessible today. He concluded that every June G3ict is hosts a conference on technology and accessibility in Washington DC.

Ms Adriana Labardini, Federal Telecommunications Institute, said that the most important issue in the context of the information and communication society is inclusion and how to guarantee that every single person has access to ICTs. She added that with more services, platforms and online content it is a bigger challenge to ensure equality and affordability for its accessibility. She said they are working on consultations concerning accessibility issues and they have launched a fully accessible website, providing training and including recommendations to service providers and contracts to support people with disabilities online and with mobile apps. She concluded that there is much yet to be achieved, which will require more vigilance in order to reduce the exclusion of  people with disabilities.

Ms Chandra Roy-Henriksen, from the secretariat of the permanent forum on indigenous issues at the United Nations, spoke about indigenous people and minorities. She added that indigenous people are among the most marginalised people in many countries and they are looking for more solutions for their inclusion and only Internet governance can provide answers to their concerns. With the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007, she added that they are looking for many examples around the world, to tackle and better understand these issues.  She concluded that the UN will proclaim in 2018 the international year of indigenous people. She added that indigenous people have different languages that are not easy to translate and that technology and IG offer wide tools of communication and collaboration that can help support these people with disability.

Mr Donal J. Rice, NDA Dublin, said that as part of his work as an advisor with ITU on accessibility, he has helped make a set of studies and carried out consultations in many countries in Europe and the Arab region about accessibility in ICT. He said accessibility on web sites has two main impacts, one for public services  and another for consumer demands. He concluded that it is important to link accessibility rights to the market and the economic dynamic since several accessibility goods and services can create more business opportunities and demand in five technology areas of focus ( Computer, TV, mobile devices, IoT and ICT procurement).

Mr Shadi Abou-Zahra, Web Accessibility Initiative W3C, introduced the achievements of the worldwide web consortium at W3C for people with disabilities, including several aspects such as language, cultural translation, web accessibility, IoT, and mobile apps. He said that most of these related services are today web-enabled.  He added that W3C, as part of its web accessibility initiative, has created new policies and helped developers on how to add accessibility standards on their web site. He concluded that open standards are important in many accessibility aspects that made the Internet a success and led to more innovation.

At the end of the session, the moderator invited a Microsoft representative who mentioned that Microsoft is fully engaged in accessibility through many projects and is still providing several solutions through the MS accessibility toolkit. 

by Hafedh Al Yahmadi, Internet Society Tunisia