[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
The session, moderated by Ms Yao Zhao (Deputy Director, Internet Society of China), focused on the use of innovative ICT to develop an inclusive information accessibility environment for everyone.
Mr Lv Shiming (Vice Chairman, China Disabled Persons’ Federation) began his remarks by expressing gratitude to people who have contributed to the construction of ICT accessibility, especially to Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). He stressed that the Chinese government has been attaching great importance to rights protection and ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities in recent years. The efforts focus on the establishment of smart government, and the improvement of public service capacities to promote information consumption. In June 2012, the State Council of the People's Republic of China (State Council) promulgated regulations on an accessible environment. In July 2016, the national strategic outline of information development required promoting the equalisation of basic public services through the information system, speeding up the construction of government websites, and encouraging social resources to provide personalised information services for people with disabilities. Today, more than 1000 government websites are connected to the accessible service system of government information, he noted.
However, the development of accessible technology and products is still insufficient to satisfy the special needs of persons with disabilities, said Shiming. He called on the ITU and governments to support activities directed to accessibility issues for persons with disabilities to have an even brighter future.
Dr Ingrid Parent (Member of the PERSIST Programme Committee, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)) talked about UNESCO’s activities to promote human rights and the fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, and ensure accessibility for them. He emphasised that the main challenge in creating an accessibility environment is a lack of coordination between different ministries and the government offices of neighbouring countries, as well as a lack of discussion between government, the private sector, and civil societies.
He also stressed that society should stop looking at persons with disabilities as people who need pity or compassion. ‘All statistics and research show that including these people in political, economic, social, and cultural life, brings a huge benefit to the nation divides. If we can include these people in to businesses, in to jobs, they will contribute to the economy.’
Ms Jennifer Chung (Director of Corporate Knowledge, DotAsia) presented projects implemented by DotAsia to develop Internet accessibility.
The DotAsia Ambassadors Programme calls together a network of dedicated young volunteers to get involved with Internet governance, and promote digital rights and respectable Internet environments. Each year they recruit around 20 to 25 tertiary students from universities and colleges in Hong Kong, and train and sustain these volunteers to contribute to digital inclusion work.
DotAsia is also involved in the organisation of the Asia-Pacific Internet Governance Forum. The forum serves as a platform for discussion, exchange, and collaboration at regional level, and aggregates national IGF discussions. Ultimately, the forum advances discourses on ICT for persons with disabilities throughout the region, said Chung.
She emphasised that they are interested in continuing cross-regional dialogue of issues to identify gaps, to have cross pollination of solutions, and to take stock of available resources to share best practices, and build a knowledge database.
Mr Chang Huang (Deputy Director, China Information Accessibility Public Service Platform) remarked that the government is the core driving force in the promotion of a joint effort for fostering an inclusive society in China. It has constructed the Information Accessibility Public Service Platform at all levels of government, by which it pushes deployment of the accessibility environment.
Huang emphasised that construction of an information accessibility environment is based on the model of government-led social organisations and multi participation. Several civil organisations such as the Internet Society of China and China Disabled Persons Federation contribute to the joint efforts to enable e-government information accessibility.
Mr Zhenyu Liang (CEO, Shenzhen Accessibility Research Association) noted that most people in Chinese Internet companies have no idea about accessibility; there are no existing guidelines for accessibility; there are no accessibility experts available. In Chinese Internet companies there are no specific departments or experts to improve accessibility.
The Shenzhen Accessibility Research Association aims to provide professional support for Chinese Internet companies, including accessibility consultants with training and education and provide product accessibility automation solutions. Liang said that they launched the China Accessibility Products Alliance with some of the largest Internet companies such as Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu to accelerate promotion of Chinese product accessibility.
Zhao closed the session by expressing the hope of strengthening cooperation between governments and civil societies in contributing to information accessibility.
by Nazgul Kurmanalieva