Rights of persons with disabilities

Updates

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced the launch of AI for Accessibility, in his words, 'a new $25 million, five-year program to put AI tools in the hands of developers to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions to benefit the 1 billion-plus people with disabilities around the world'. Smith said that Microsoft seeks to remedy the current situation that only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to needed assistive technologies. Commenting on the launch, c/net's Ian Sherr used the examples of 'apps that describe what people see, better text-to-speech technology and predictive text so people don't have to type as much as technologies that are needed, as features for persons with disabilities come into the mainstream.

According to Ace Ratcliff at the Huffington Post, Disabled People (Might) Finally Get Emojis That Represent Us, changing a scenario that currently has only one of 2,666 emojis representing persons with disabilities. Apple recently unveiled a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, suggesting 13 new emoji developed in consultation with community organisations like the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the National Association of the Deaf.

                                                                                       13 new emoji proposed by Apple

                                                                                         13 new emoji proposed by Apple
                                                                                          Isabella Carapella/HuffPost/Apple

The author notes that the lack of emojis is just one way in which persons with disabilities are underrepresented in society, stating that 'Apple’s 13 proposed emojis may be what society needs to recognise that disability representation is sorely needed and long overdue'.

Francis Ryan explains in The Guardian how social media is The missing link: why disabled people can’t afford to #DeleteFacebookRyan shows that in spite of the dangers, even negligence, of social media companies, online networks offer 'a vital lifeline' to people with disabilities. She cites Phillip Green, who suffers from multiple health problems, and difficulties to go out to socialise: “Without social media, life would be so much harder”.

Ryan explains the importance of balancing the need for social media and its risks while emphasising the need to urgently address the problems illustrated by the Facebook example, since leaving social media networks is a privilege not available to everyone. 

She notes that improvements in safety and access are important for everyone, but especially minority and marginalised groups. Her quote from Astra Taylor, author of  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age explains this point: 'We assume the Internet is open to all when it’s not,' says Taylor. Taylor further notes that more than 20% of persons with disabilities in the UK, had never used the Internet, compared with only 10% of the adult population overall lacking that experience. She also pointed out that poor and rural areas often lack access to high-speed broadband.

Website accessibility for persons with disabilities continues to be important. Recent news shows renewed focus in India and the USA. The Indian Government is working towards making 917 State Government websites accessible for the disabled and 100 accessible websites have already been launched as part of India's Web Accessibility Project for state government and union territories, as part of its Accessible India Campaign. It is important to note that these sites are compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Todd Paton gives an overview of the existing problem and suggests possible approaches to website accessibility, exhorting Companies, give people with disabilities access to the superhighway.

Does Your Company Website Comply with Title III of the ADA?  from Lexology, explains the topic from the viewpoint of US companies' concerns with lawsuits, the state of the law in the USA, and achieving compliance with the US Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some good news is that Vision's Top 9 Digital Trends in Local Government includes as its 9th trend: 'Web Accessibility is Here to Stay: Government websites have often ignored users with vision loss, hearing impairments and other disabilities. Web accessibility will continue to get the attention it deserves. Not only are local government agencies recognizing that greater accessibility for web visitors is the right thing to do, it's the law. Local agencies should appoint an accessibility coordinator and adopt a formal accessibility statement that outlines key standards and provides a contact for reporting issues.'

 

 

Microsoft has published as updated version of its A Cloud for Global Good policy roadmap, originally released in October 2016. The 2018 edition reflects recent developments in areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, and contains several policy recommendations for 'governments, industry and civil society to consider as they realise the opportunities and address the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution'. These recommendations are clustered in three broad categories. The 'Trusted cloud' category contains recommendations about protecting personal privacy, government access to data, promoting the free-flow of data, ensuring secure and reliable infrastructure, creating a Digital Geneva Convention, and preventing cybercrime. Under 'Responsible cloud' are recommendations focused on protecting both human rights and public safety, reducing technology fraud and online exploitation, promoting environmental sustainability, and amplifying human ingenuity through AI. The third cluster 'Inclusive cloud' outlines recommendations targeted at providing affordable connectivity everywhere, preparing people for the new world of work, and including people with disabilities.

Three new multinational enterprises have joined the UN ILO Global Business and Disability Network. Capgemini, Legrand, and the Savola group joined the network which strives 'to achieve full and equal rights and participation in society for all women and men with disabilities'. The network supports disability inclusion policies and practices, and currently addresses 'the business case of digital accessibility and how to become more accessible for employees and clients with disabilities'. The network emphasises reduction of internal skills gaps through better utilisation of the professional potential of persons with disabilities.

According to UN estimates, there are 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. The factors that contribute to increasing this number include war and destruction by natural as well as human causes; poverty and unhealthy living conditions; and the absence of knowledge about disability, its causes, prevention, and treatment. The Internet provides new possibilities for social inclusion and for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities.

Frameworks for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities

In order to maximise technological possibilities for people with disabilities, there is a need to develop the necessary Internet governance and policy framework. The main international instrument in this field is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by UN in 2006 and signed by 159 countries (April 2014), which establishes rights that are now in the process of being included in national legislation, which will make them enforceable.

Awareness of the need for technological solutions that include people with disabilities is increasing with the work of organisations that teach and foster support for the disabled community, such as the IGF Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability, the Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter, and the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet.

The lack of accessibility arises from the gap between the abilities required to use hardware, software, and content, and the available abilities of a person with a disability. To narrow this gap there are two directions of policy actions:

  • Include accessibility standards in the requirements for the design and development of equipment, software, and content.
  • Foster the availability of accessories in hardware and software that increase or substitute the functional capabilities of the person.

In the field of Internet governance, the main focus is on web content, as it is in rapid development and constitutes a kind of infrastructure. Many web applications do not comply with accessibility standards due to a lack of awareness or perceived complexity and high costs (which is far from today’s reality). International standards in web accessibility are developed by W3C within its Web Accessibility Initiative.

In addition, the Internet Rights and Principles (Section 13) and the Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability (DCAD) address the specific issue of rights of persons with disabilities. The DCAD Accessibility Guidelines (2015) – produced during the 10th Internet Governance Forum in Brazil, detail steps to be taken to improve and support these rights.

Events

Actors

(ITU, UIT)
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The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develops international standards (called recommendations) covering information and communications technologies. Standards are developed on a consensus-based approach, by study groups composed of representatives of ITU members (both member states and companies). These groups focus on a wide range of topics: operational issues, economic and policy issues, broadband networks, Internet protocol based networks, future networks and cloud computing, multimedia, security, the Internet of Things and smart cities, and performance and quality of service. The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), held every four years, defines the next period of study for the ITU-T.

(G3ict)

G3ict facilitates the sharing of good practices to promote the rights of persons with disabilities thro

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G3ict facilitates the sharing of good practices to promote the rights of persons with disabilities through worldwide databases on country achievements, companies ICT accessibility policies, case studies, and books. G3ict also supports policymakers with capacity-building programs and benchmarking, such as the ITU-G3ict e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities. In 2016, G3ict and World Enabled launched the Defining Accessible Smart Cities initiative to understand how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are being made available to persons with disabilities in Smart Cities.

(W3C)

W3C’s work is guided by its goal to ensure that the web is a resource all people can benefit from, irrespectiv

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W3C’s work is guided by its goal to ensure that the web is a resource all people can benefit from, irrespective of hardware, software, network infrastructure, language, culture, or geographical locations. Standards and guidelines developed by the W3C fall within one of the following categories: web design and applications (standards for building and rendering web pages, such as HTML, CSS, SVG), web of devices (standards for enabling web access anywhere, anytime, via any device), web architecture (identifiers, protocols, meta formats, etc.), semantic web (standards for a ‘web of data’), Extensible Markup Language (XML) technologies, web of services (XML, SOAP, etc.), and browser and authoring tools.

(BCSD)

The Commission promotes the adoption of practices and policies that enable the deployment of broadband network

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The Commission promotes the adoption of practices and policies that enable the deployment of broadband networks at national level, especially within developing countries. It engages in advocacy activities aimed to demonstrate that broadband networks are basic infrastructures in modern societies and could accelerate the achievement of the sustainable development goals. The Commission publishes an annual State of the Broadband Report, providing an overview of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access. Other reports, open letters, and calls for actions issues by the Commission also underline the benefits of broadband as a critical infrastructure towards achieving growth and development.

(ISOC)

The Internet Society approaches net neutrality largely from a user-centric perspective, and its work in this a

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The Internet Society approaches net neutrality largely from a user-centric perspective, and its work in this area focuses, among others, on: allowing freedom of expression, supporting user choice, and preventing discrimination. It also collaborates with businesses to develop solutions on issues such as network traffic management, pricing, and business models. Net neutrality also falls within the scope of the Internet Society’s research and capacity development activities. The organisation has produced several policy papers and other publications touching on aspects such as open inter-networking and zero rating. Its policy brief tutorial on net neutrality provides an overview of the key considerations, challenges, and guiding principles of net neutrality.

(UNHRC)

Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions.

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Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions. General resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights on the Internet have underlined the need for states ensure a balance between cybersecurity measures and the protection of privacy online. The Council has also adopted specific resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age, emphasising the fact that individuals should not be subjected to arbitrary of unlawful interference with their privacy, either online or offline. The UNHRC has also mandated the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to address the issue of online privacy in his reports.

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

The Promise and Challenge of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015)
Out of Darkness into Light? Introducing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008)
Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities

Other resources

Processes

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WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WSIS Forum 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

IGF 2016 Report

 

The challenges faced by persons with disabilities in both using the Internet and other digital tools, and in participating in Internet governance processes were discussed in several sessions at IGF 2016. The Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disabilities focused on the issue of accessibility for persons with disabilities for both virtual and physical spaces during the IGF event, but also touched on issues related to web and ICT accessibility. The need to further implement policies aimed at a better digital inclusion of persons with disabilities was a recurrent topic. The importance of considering universal design when creating digital tools and applications was underlined, as a way to keep the needs of different groups in mind already at the design stage instead of retroactively adding expensive adaptations for persons with disabilities (Sustainable Accessible Goals for Persons with Disabilities - WS272). 

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

 

The need to ensure that the Internet and other information and communication technologies are accessible for people with disabilities was addressed in a couple of sessions. Panellists in The Role of Web Accessibility in Digital Inclusion (session 142) presented possibilities to address the serious challenge that only 10% of EU websites are accessible to people with disabilities. They presented practical examples such as the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), guidelines, links for checking websites for accessibility, and other possibilities to promote solutions for improvement. Making ICT Accessibility a Reality: Policies and Standards on the Public Procurement of Accessible ICTs (session 181) and Leave No One Behind (session 182) also focused on ways to make ICTs accessible to persons with disabilities.

IGF 2015 Report

 

The issues of access for persons with disabilities, and e- or online (remote) participation are in a state of constant change, making them particularly interesting to follow. They are addressed together here because of their inherent alliance (for example captioning and better tools) in support of strategies and tools that foster greater and more equitable inclusion.

Difficulties for access for persons with disabilities have been brought to the forefront by the work of the Dynamic Coalition on Access and Disability (DCAD) and have the full support of the IGF Secretariat and the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG). Improvement is slow, but constant. DCAD is raising awareness, and assisting organisers, including the IGF Secretariat, to understand and improve strategies, such as expedited access to links for the DCAD and others needing them, and to assist with registration at workshops.

Awareness raising is critical, as shown in the comment made at the NETmundial main session noting that the NETmundial principles make no reference at all to addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. Empowering the Next Billion by Improving Accessibility (WS 253) provided an excellent presentation and discussion of tools that are invaluable for everyone (Skype translator, F123 Initiative) highlighting the unrecognised cross-cutting nature of these issues.

Online participation received little attention as an issue, although the debate in Viable Application & Debate: Online Participation Principles (WS 27) was dynamic and brought out basic issues in black and white. The principles for online participation, developed in successive IGF workshops with global online collaboration, should be widely disseminated for use and comment, and in support of funding for further innovative improvement for inclusive online access.

 

 

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