IGF 2017 – Dynamic coalition on accessibility and disabilities

20 Dec 2017 14:00h

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

The session looked into organisational aspects of accessibility at the Internet Governance Forum so far. It focused both on the virtual and physical, including remote participation, and the tools for remote participation.

Ms Andrea J. Saks, Chair, ITU-T Joint Coordination Activity on Accessibility and Human Factors (JCA_AHF), was the session lead and presented findings on the agenda points, which included:

Remote participation: blind participants have difficulties accessing WebEx. This Dynamic Coalition (DC) is suggesting that other possibilities be explored, such as ZOOM, for example. ZOOM was looked into by an ITU team which concluded that it is good for people with disabilities. The DC remains open to other suggestions.

Lack of time for testing: It is important to think about ease of access, good rooms, and good visibility. Technology which is put to use has to be capable of being accessed by the people who come to participate (either online or in situ). Ms Saks stated that the captioning for the meeting had been good, and that the team providing it remotely from the USA was doing a great job.

The registration process, both online and onsite: the physical accessibility to the venue – due to road works at the main entrance of the Palais des Nations (the venue for IGF 2017) was made harder, and there was a great amount of difficulty for people with disabilities. For future meetings the suggestion is to have clear instructions on how to access the venue.

Ms Saks then invited comments from the audience.

A visually-challenged person stated that for the use of mics in the room there should be a ‘beep’ signal, indicating when the mic was on or off. He pointed out that WebEx is a complex tool to navigate, and that it makes people with disabilities feel marginalised and unable to actively and equally participate. When it comes to networking within the IGF he stated, ‘Just as much as we can’t see people, people are not seeing us. I bet there are a lot of people out there, but we don’t meet much.’ In the light of the need for greater in situ inclusion, Saks suggested sending information to all participants about the participation of attendees with disabilities, with an invitation to, ‘share and talk to us’.

Mr Muhammed Shabbir, a session attendee, endorsed the notion of WebEx being inaccessible, suggesting the following two options: Firstly, to talk to WebEx in order to motivate them to make the tool more accessible for users with disabilities. Secondly, if the first option does not happen, then a change of platform is the solution. In addition, he also suggested using ZOOM for online communication, at it has proved to be good for the ISOC meetings he attends and organises as a Chair. Mr Shabbir’s last suggestion pointed out the importance of including special documentation on how to use the available tools at the conference, from which all attendees would benefit, not only people with disabilities.

A third comment from the audience referred to the fact that WebEx is a proprietary tool, and that it is the WebEx team which will decide if accessibility is an issue or not. If WebEx was an open source tool then money could be invested to implement the necessary accessibility features.

by Aida Mahmutović