IGF 2019 – Dynamic coalition on accessibility and disabilities

28 Nov 2019 10:30h

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

The Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability (DCAD) aims to ensure that accessibility has a key role in Internet governance to guarantee equal access to information. The participative discussion held during the session of the DCAD covered accessibility issues in present and future challenges, including the online and onsite facilities at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and of the sessions themselves. The session also focused on the future of the DCAD, the upcoming challenges, and finally, opportunities and available support.

The IGF improved the accessibility of its facilities onsite during the event, although there are still aspects to work out. The existence of an accessibility desk, the active support of the staff and the architecture of the building were positive incorporations. However, the fact that the accessible toilets were only on one floor was problematic.

The online accessibility of the IGF website and schedule still needs to adapt to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), noted participants. The website is still difficult to manipulate and navigate and had static images of the schedule, making updated information hard to find; information was dispersed, and the website was too highly coloured. One of the DCAD goals is to ensure that all the mainstream technology is set to be used for the widest range of users, but more awareness is needed through the IGF, and, occasionally, more resources.

Concerning the accessibility of the IGF sessions, in addition to the workshop about accessibility to education and employment facilitated by the DCAD, there were other related sessions. Those were about Internet empowerment of people with disability, participatory design for web accessibility and how to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs) for all. On that point, Mr Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C) and Ms Judith Hellerstein (Founder/CEO of Hellerstein & Associates), members of DCAD, emphasised the need to make accessibility a cross-cutting issue in other thematic sessions of the forum, and to remember that people with a disability can also make a valuable impact on topics other than accessibility.

The conclusion focused on the future challenges for the DCAD, such as the support from partners which is changing. The dynamic coalition needs to find another virtual home for its website and discussion list. Some options to host the website are the Internet Society’s Special Interest Groups or the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3 ICT). The creation of an active core committee to lead this process is a priority to ensure that the DCAD keeps advising the IGF on accessibility, guaranteeing accessibility workshops, and including disability presence in other sessions. Furthermore, it is important to keep improving engagement with other dynamic coalitions and with national and regional initiatives on Internet governance.

By Paula Szewach