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The session on the Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability (DCAD), moderated by Ms Andrea J. Saks, Chairman of the Joint Coordination Activity on Accessibility and Human Factors (JCA-AHF) at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), discussed the issue of accessibility for persons with disabilities for both virtual and physical spaces during the IGF event.
According to Mr Bruno Ramos, Regional Director for the Americas Regional Office of the ITU, DCAD was formed in 2007 to facilitate interaction between relevant bodies and to ensure that ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities and those with specific needs is included in the discussions around IG. DCAD aims to help create a future where all individuals have equal access to the opportunities offered by ICTs.
Ramos also talked briefly about accessibility developments achieved through the work of ITU Americas and partnerships formed with academia and industry members to drive the agenda. Through his work in the region, he has also been able to establish an annual event, Accessible Americas, with the first event taking place in Brazil in 2014 and the most recent one in Mexico on 28–30 November 2016. These events allow regulators and policymakers to deliberate and develop actions plans to promote accessibility policies and programmes in the region.
Ramos shared some best practices that have been documented through accessibility projects and can be applied in different parts of the world. These best practices call on governments to:
- champion Web accessibility and consider that social media plays a key role in spreading information to the public;
- establish commitments and milestones towards Web accessibility of public entities’ websites;
- provide guidance and support for achieving accessible social media by government entities, private entities, academia, NGOs, and all related stakeholders;
- strengthen collaboration among all involved stakeholders in all activities and projects developed for persons with disabilities;
- consider universities as important allies for mainstreaming and education on accessibility issues;
- ensure active participation of persons with disabilities or their groups in national events;
- recognise the key role that IT operators have to play in promoting the development of accessible services, and developing strategic partnerships;
- institute recognition and awards to promote ICT accessibility as an incentive to leverage the rights to communicate for all; and
- promote open source software to develop accessible applications and reduce their costs, thus making them available and affordable for persons with disabilities.
Mr Markus Kummer, ICANN Board member and former head of the IGF Secretariat, reported on the IGF Support Association (IGFSA) and initiatives to support persons with disabilities during the IGFs. He focussed on the IGFSA’s trust fund to provide funding and fellowships to persons with disabilities. He praised an anonymous donor for this year’s IGF, and encouraged more people to donate to the fund.
During the time for comments and questions, participants with disabilities shared their experiences at the 2016 IGF in Mexico. Ms Judy Okite, founder of the Association for Accessibility and Equality, suggested that better coordination would help ensure that persons with disabilities can easily move around the conference venue as well as other facilities like hotels, transportation, etc., for a productive meeting.
by Jacob Odame-Baiden, Internet Society Ghana