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Developing policy
Step 1: Identifying priorities

Step 1: Identifying priorities

Author: Cynthia D. Waddell, Juris Doctor, International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI). Contributors: J. E. Baker, L. McArthur, J. Silva, J. Treviranus, Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto; Susan Schorr, Head of ITU-D Special Initiatives.

The provisions of the Convention, especially Article 9, create the first universal framework addressing the accessibility of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and assistive technologies. Given the unique socio-economic and cultural structures present in each country, the first step for policy makers is to perform a country assessment by identifying priorities for policy making. Information gathering provides the basis for an informed public policy, legislation and/or regulation that is appropriate for the country and its citizens with disabilities and enables forward planning and efficient use of resources.

Five steps for identifying priorities are provided below and include examples of practices from around the world:

1. Analysis of in-country installed bases of ICT devices and usage
2. Inventory of existing laws, regulations or voluntary guidelines adopted by Civil Society to promote ICT accessibility and assistive technologies
3. Inventory of existing in-country case studies and good practices promoting ICT accessibility and assistive technologies  
4. Development of consultations with representatives of persons with disabilities and possible surveys to be conducted
5. Establishing a ranking of technologies and application areas to be addressed 

1. Analysis of in country installed bases of ICT devices and usage
The first step in identifying priorities is to perform an analysis of the in-country installed bases of ICT devices and usage. Statistics play an important role in providing the basis for analysis and confronting the "digital divide." 

As pointed out by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan at the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society, the "digital divide" is several gaps in one involving socio-economic issues including:

  • A technological divide in ICT infrastructure between the wealthiest countries and the poorest countries;

  • A content divide where almost 70 percent of the world's websites are in English and "at times crowding out local voices and views;"

  • A gender divide where women and girls worldwide enjoy less access to ICT than men and boys; and

  • A commercial divide where electronic commerce is linking certain countries and companies more closely together [1].

  • In general, there are at least three types of resources available for policymakers: 

a.       Country Reports and Statistics Examples:

b.      Regional ICT Survey Reports Examples:

c.      ITU Reports on ICT Indicators  Examples:

Including ICT indicators for ICT accessibility in survey reports

The last of these the April, 2008 publication, "The Global Information Society: A Statistical View, Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development," [4] provides the latest ICT statistics and seeks to provide information on the state of ICT in the world for both the developed and developing countries. For example, table 12, page 44 in the report under the chapter addressing "Access to, and use of, ICT by Households and Individuals," shows frequency of Internet use by individuals.

According to the report, most reporting countries are able to disaggregate Internet use data by individual characteristics, such as age, level of education and gender. In this case the country statistics demonstrate a lack of metadata and ICT indicators for ICT accessibility and its use by persons with disabilities. Examples of useful indicators would be:

  • How many persons with disabilities use the Internet?

  • How many cell phones are in use with navigation and menus that speak out loud for persons with visual disabilities?

  • How many text telephones [5] are in operation and how many people use them?

  • How many Total Conversation [6] services are in place and how many people use it?

  • How many talking ATMS [7] are in operation?

These are just some of the questions that could be addressed in data gathering.

Article 31 of the Convention, Statistics and Data Collection
Article 31 of the Convention, Statistics and Data Collection, seeks to correct this gap in data. It requires States Parties to undertake collection of appropriate information, including statistical and research data to enable them to formulate and implement policies to carry out the Convention. The information shall be disaggregated, as appropriate, and used to assess the implementation of States Parties' obligations under the Convention and to identify barriers faced by persons with disabilities. Article 31 also requires States Parties to assume responsibility for the accessibility of these statistics for persons with disabilities.

2. Inventory of existing laws, regulations or voluntary guidelines adopted by Civil Society to promote ICT accessibility and assistive technologies
The second step in identifying priorities for policymaking is to map or take inventory of all existing laws, regulations or voluntary guidelines adopted by civil society to promote ICT accessibility and assistive technologies. Conducting a country inventory will assist in determining the gaps in policymaking for establishing the constitutional, legal and administrative framework for the implementation of the Convention with respect to e-Accessibility and service needs for persons with disabilities. A limited directory of countries with national disability rights laws is available online at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Two examples of country or regional inventory and gap analysis
Finding the Gaps: A Comparative Analysis of Disability Laws in the United States to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) written by the United States National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency responsible for promoting equal opportunity for persons with disabilities.

b. Measuring Progress of eAccessibility in Europe: Assessment of the Status of eAccessibility in Europe [8] This report, commissioned by the European Commission from October 2007 and with a follow up in 2008 includes a Policy Inventory covering 28 countries who were EU Member States at the end of 2006, plus the countries of Australia, Canada and the U.S. for comparison. The policy information reported is organized according to the following themes and serves as the data for the policy assessment and analysis:

  • Public websites;

  • Other websites;

  • Telecommunications services and equipment;

  • Analogue TV;

  • Digital TV;

  • Copyright and Services for print-disabled;

  • Assistive technology;

  • Public procurement;

  • Equality / anti-discrimination;

  • (Other) Disability Policy; and

  • Other

Extensive data compilation was conducted to answer three core questions:

  1. What is the current eAccessibility status situation in Europe as a whole and across the Member States?

  2. How well-developed is current eAccessibility policy at EU-level and across the Member States?

  3. What conclusions can be drawn in support of decision-making about possible future needs for reinforced or new policy measures at EU-level?

The report found only limited progress in Europe and reached three conclusions:

  1. There is an eAccessibility "deficit" since persons with disabilities continue to encounter barriers in Europe in the use of everyday ICT products and services that are now essential to social and economic life. The deficits include telephony, TV, web and self-service terminals.

  2. There is an eAccessibility "gap" for persons with disabilities across Europe in terms of status and policy with an unfavorable comparison to the countries of Australia, Canada and the U.S.

  3. There is an eAccessibility "patchwork" since the situation across Europe for both eAccessibility status and policy shows many important gaps, uneven attention across the spectrum of eAccessibility themes and wide disparities across Member States [9].

Extensive policy options are then offered in the report addressing telecommunications services and equipment, television services and equipment, the World Wide Web, self-service terminals, computer and other consumer ICT sectors, copyright exemptions and digital rights management, assistive technologies, ICTs in education, public procurement, certification, employment equality, goods and services equality, and the need for an overarching, cross-cutting eAccessibility instrument. 

3. Inventory of existing in-country organizations and programs promoting ICT accessibility and assistive technologies (AT)
The next step in identifying priorities for policy making is to inventory existing in-country case studies and good practices that promote ICT accessibility and assistive technologies. This step informs the policy maker of lessons learned in case studies as well as best practices. It also enables current best practices to be leveraged and supported.

South Africa - National Accessibility Portal (NAP)
Asia Pacific- Tsunami Preparedness and ICT
Sweden- "Total Conversation"
Netherlands, Sweden, and United States- DAISY

South Africa - National Accessibility Portal (NAP)

The NAP was developed by the Meraka Institute (African Advanced Institute for Information and Communications Technology) in partnership with a representative group of Disabled Persons' Organizations and the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) in the Presidency.

The NAP is a national project in South Africa to address the needs of approximately four million persons with disabilities where less than one percent is economically independent [10]. Recognizing that effective communication and access to information and services are key needs, NAP was launched to empower persons with disabilities.

A five year research and innovation project that embraces a future vision for the African region, the initiative is structured into three phases and is currently in the final phase. NAP seeks to "use innovative, cost-effective and appropriate ICT based technologies to support people with disabilities, to empower them, to uplift them economically and to enable them to play a full, participatory role in society" [11].

Stakeholders of the NAP are affiliated with the South African Federal Council on Disability and government departments:

The Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP), an umbrella Organization established in The Presidency and responsible for the coordination, monitoring and implementation of the Integrated National Disability Strategy;

The Independent Living Centre (ILC), an NGO, operating as an integrated Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities. It provides a community-based service as well as a display of commercially available equipment and other resources for persons with disabilities;

The SA National Council for the Blind (SANCB), an NGO striving to meet the needs of all blind and partially sighted people of South Africa;

The Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA), an NGO which co-ordinates and facilitates services to the South African Deaf and hard of hearing communities;

The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA (NCPPDSA), an NGO promoting the maximum level of independence and integration of people with physical disabilities into the community and the prevention of the occurrence of physical disablement;

The QuadPara Association (QASA) was established to assist quadriplegics by providing a range of highly specialized support services that are designed to promote and encourage their rehabilitation, community integration and independence; and

The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is a non-profit organization, which aims to act as a dynamic national movement, which serves as an effective resource to empower people to attain optimal mental health and quality of life in a just society, through its various services and programs [12].

The web portal is part of the NAP initiative and supports the multilingual nature of South Africa in all eleven official languages. It seeks to serve as a one-stop shop for information, services and communications that supports stakeholders in the disability field including persons with disabilities, caregivers, the medical profession, and those offering services in this domain [13].

Using a service center approach, services are provided from specific centers located in schools, clinics, hospitals and multi-purpose community centers. Each center contains accessible ICT equipment, such as screen reader software for persons with visual disabilities, speech recognition software and access for persons using wheelchairs. Each center is also staffed by interpreters and persons trained in ICT and disabilities, including persons with disabilities. The web portal allows information access and interactive communication on a 24 hour basis [14].

Asia Pacific-Tsunami Preparedness and ICT
Here is an example of a case study for ICT and accessibility collaboration that comes out of the Asia Pacific region. One of the regional responses to the December 2004 Tsunami that took the lives of many people was the International Conference on Tsunami Preparedness of Persons with Disabilities in Thailand in January 2007. It was co-hosted by DAISY Consortium; Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability; the Council of Disabled People of Thailand; National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, Thailand; Thailand Association of the Blind, DAISY For All Project Thailand, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center; and Thai Autism Vocational Center. 

The conference established an international networking for the promotion of tsunami preparedness of persons with disabilities in the context of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action. Information sharing was provided concerning the following:

Needs of persons with disabilities for tsunami preparedness with attention to individual preparedness on understanding tsunamis, accessible communication channels for warning, and planning/confirming evacuation routes;

Best practices of tsunami preparedness promotion activities that meet the needs of persons with disabilities;

Ongoing tsunami disaster prevention/mitigation initiatives at local/international level; and

Initiatives of bridging the digital divide in disaster preparedness of persons with disabilities as the implementation of WSIS Plan of Action [15].

As a result, the Phuket Declaration on Tsunami Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities was issued and stated that tsunami disasters can be prevented through:

  • Sharing of knowledge and best practices on tsunami and other disasters;

  • Strong commitment and active participation for contribution of all stakeholders including persons with disabilities to eliminate the loss of lives;

  • Local community-based initiatives for disaster preparedness;

  • Infrastructure building including tsunami early warning system at all levels to disseminate timely disaster warning to all people concerned; and

  • Building of disability friendly infrastructure addressing accessibility issues in all phases of disaster management [16].

The Phuket Declaration went on to state that ICT development, including assistive technologies and universal design, would contribute to successful disaster preparedness development and would meet the diverse needs of all people. It also stated that ICT development should be based on international standards that are open, non-proprietary and with a proven track record for accessibility.

Finally, the Phuket Declaration recommended that an educational and training center on tsunami and other disaster preparedness should be established.  It also recommended that all aspects of the center should be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities, including the physical infrastructure and training materials.

Sweden: "Total Conversation"
Another example of a best practice is the implementation of "Total Conversation" in Sweden. "Total Conversation" is an ITU service description in ITU-T Rec. F.703 that covers videophone with real time text. According to the description posted at the ITU-T website for work done by Study Group 16 on Accessibility, it is an audiovisual conversation service providing bidirectional symmetric real-time transfer of motion video, text and voice between users in two or more locations. It is not only useful for persons with disabilities but also for anyone requiring textual back-up, technical data, language translations, verbal or signed conversations [17].

Allan eC was the first product to implement Total Conversation in the IP world and is widespread on the accessibility market in Sweden. It is procured by the Swedish Handicap Institute for the accessible communication market in Sweden and by the Swedish Labour Authorities and Social Insurance system. According to Gunnar Hellström, the Total Conversation concept has been submitted as a recommendation to the U.S. Section 508 refresh committee that is discussing revisions to the U.S. ICT accessibility standards. As announced in June 2008, Total Conversation is also being implemented as a pilot solution for meeting the European Union need for a single emergency telephone number for everyone, including persons with disabilities [18].         

Netherlands, Sweden, and United States: DAISY
Finally, another best practice concerns access to print materials offered by the DAISY Consortium. The Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) is an open, interoperable and non-proprietary contents/user interface standard that can be used to create accessible content.  Although originally developed to benefit people unable to read print due to a disability, it has broad applications as a best practice in its use for Digital Talking Books; education and training materials; HIV/Disaster prevention tools; and publication tools for indigenous languages.

DAISY is currently deployed by governments worldwide such as the U.S. Library of Congress [19], as implementation for the U.S. National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards [20], FNB Netherlands, the largest library for the blind in the Netherlands [21], and at the TPB Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille [22]. In general, DAISY enables organizations to:

Produce a Digital Talking Book that enables a person to navigate it in a way comparable to how a print book would be used. For example, readers can examine the book by page, section, or chapter, or use a table of contents or an index. It can be accomplished by creating a structured text file integrated with a human-narrated audio file;

Synchronize an electronic text file with an audio file to provide readers with the choice to examine the text and/or listen to the audio version of it;

Generate an electronic Braille file from the electronic text used to create the DAISY book; or

Produce a structured digital "text-only" document which can be read with a DAISY software player in combination with a Braille display or speech synthesizer [23].

4. Development of consultations with representatives of persons with disabilities and possible surveys to be conducted
An important step in identifying priorities for policy making is the development of consultations with organizations representing persons with disabilities. A fatal flaw in disability policy making is the failure to consult the community of persons with disabilities. After all, they are in the best position to evaluate appropriate solutions to accessibility barriers. In fact, representatives of persons with disabilities can facilitate the administration of surveys needed to obtain data about accessible ICT and assistive technology needs.

Every country around the world has residents that are persons with disabilities and it is rare to find a country that would not have non-governmental organizations serving as representatives of persons with disabilities. For example, take a look at the extensive list of organizations at the United Nations Enable website. The list includes organizations by country as well as those that represent persons with disabilities on an international level.

Developing consultations with representatives of persons with disabilities requires the policy maker to be informed about effective communication and accessibility so that persons with disabilities can provide consultations. This means that accessible meetings, documents in alternate format, and teleconferences must be accessible for participation. 

If surveys are used, then the survey design and deployment must meet ICT accessibility requirements if persons with disabilities are to participate in the survey. Frequently, persons with disabilities are not represented in the data collection. For example, a telephone survey may not reach persons with hearing or speech disabilities if calls are not made to persons using text telephones, Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) or "Total Conversation."

Likewise, a survey posted on the World Wide Web may be inaccessible because it fails to meet the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. As a result, persons with visual disabilities and specific learning disabilities may not be able to access the survey with a screenreader, and persons with mobility disabilities may not be able to access the survey by keyboard with assistive technologies. It would also be inaccessible to persons with hearing loss if the survey including a video or multimedia component without captioning.

Experience has shown that if a policy impacts the community of persons with disabilities, the community needs to be consulted or the implementation will run the risk of being inappropriate as well as a poor use of resources. For this reason, the international disability rights slogan is "Nothing about us, without us" [24]. There also needs to be organizational education, outreach and training about ICT accessibility implementation. 

See tips on Tips on conducting accessible meetings and conferences.

5. Establishing a ranking of technologies and application areas to be addressed

The final step in identifying priorities for policy making is to rank order technologies and application areas to be addressed while keeping in mind the gaps in e-accessibility and service needs for persons with disabilities. One hallmark for successful policies and strategies is the implementation of ICT barrier removal action plans. A successful plan is informed by these steps for identifying priorities and budgets accordingly. 

Although the Convention calls for the removal of ICT barriers, there are action plans already underway in countries with rights-based legislation. Looking across the globe, here are some examples of policies and implementation plans for accessible ICT.

European Union
United States

Having ratified the Convention, the Australian Government is currently developing a National Disability Strategy aimed at addressing the needs of persons with disabilities by setting a consistent national direction for the enhancement of disability legislation, policy and standards, which is inclusive and aligns with the tenets of the Convention [25].

Australia has a practice of using Action Plans under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1992. Under the DDA, it is unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods, services or facilities against people on the basis that they have, or may have, a disability. It is also unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis that one of their associates has, or may have, a disability. The DDA provides for organizations to develop Action Plans as a strategy for eliminating discriminatory practices and the plan can be lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

Should a disability discrimination complaint be filed, the HREOC is required by the DDA to consider the organization's action plan.  The success of an Action Plan for the removal of disability discrimination depends on the effectiveness of the actions taken and can be used as a defense against the complaint.

The HREOC maintains a website for registered Disability Discrimination Act Action Plans that includes almost 400 plans for viewing so that 1) organizations developing action plans can benefit from other organizations' work and experience 2) persons with disabilities can see what an organization has committed itself to achieving and 3) persons with disabilities can contribute their views on the improvement of the action plans and their implementation. Entities register their Action Plans under the following classifications: Business (private and government business enterprises), Commonwealth Government, State and Territory Government, Local Government, Education and Non-government Organizations. The HREOC website also provides resources on developing effective plans [26].

Each of the 400 Action Plans in Australia are downloadable but the website does not provide a searchable database. Business registrations include filings from banking, public transport, and telecommunications. This database includes the Fourth Action Plan filed by Telstra, the primary Universal Service provider.

European Union
Although the European Community has signed the Convention, as of the writing of this chapter the Convention has not been ratified. In the European Union, efforts to address barriers experienced by persons with disabilities and others when trying to access ICT goods and services is called eAccessibility. Today, the i2010 strategy encompasses all European Union policies, initiatives and actions that seek to boost the development and use of digital technologies in the workplace and in private life. eAccessibility is considered part of the broader concept of eInclusion which seeks to enable equal participation in the information society. eAccessibility is a component of eInclusion, one of the three pillars of the i2010 initiative.   

In the framework of i2010, both the eAccessibility Communication of 2005 [27] and the 2006 Riga Ministerial Declaration [28] on eInclusion provides the political agenda for eAccessibility. The European Information Society strategy builds upon earlier actions under the eEurope 2002 eAccessibility targets. 

The eAccessibility Communication of 2005 aimed at mobilizing both the industry and Member States towards Europe-wide harmonized solutions. Three policy approaches were offered:

1.      Using public procurement contracts to improve accessibility requirements in the ICT domain;

2.      Exploring the possible benefits of certification schemes for accessible products and services; and

3.      Making better use of the eAccessibility potential of existing legislation.

It also recommended continuing various activities such as:

1.      Development, implementation and use of eAccessibility requirements and standards;

2.      Promotion and take-up of the Design-for-all concept;

3.      Web accessibility of online public services;

4.      Setting targets to benchmark accessibility and monitor progress; and

5.      Developing European data comparable across Member States.

The 2006 Riga Ministerial Declaration announced the following targets related to ICT accessibility:

  • Have the gap in internet usage by 2010 for groups at risk of exclusion, such as older people, people with disabilities, and unemployed persons;

  • Increase broadband coverage (i.e. the availability of broadband infrastructure) in Europe to at least 90% by 2010. In 2005, broadband was available to about 60% of businesses and households in the remote and rural areas of the EU15 and to more than 90% in the urban areas);

  • Ensure that all public websites are accessible by 2010;

  • By 2008, put in place actions in the field of digital literacy and skills to reduce gaps for groups at risk of exclusion by half in 2010;

  • By 2007, make recommendations on accessibility standards and common approaches, which could become mandatory in public procurement by 2010; and

  • Assess the necessity for legislative measures in the field of e-Accessibility, and take account of accessibility requirements in the review of the electronic communications regulatory framework beginning in June 2006  [29].       

Today, the European Union's main instrument for funding research is the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Expected to run from 2007- 2013, research activities include:

Ensuring equal access and participation through the removal and prevention of technological barriers through the application of design-for-all methods and tools, and new assistive technologies; and

Horizontal issues such as the identification of ICT policies as best practices examples, benchmarking, indicators and cooperation across Member States and internationally [30].

United States
The United States has an accessible ICT procurement law and practice that requires reporting. The 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act [31] requires that the Attorney General conduct biennial surveys and report to the President and Congress information and recommendations regarding the extent to which the electronic and information technology of the Federal Government is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Also known as Section 508, this statutory approach to the removal of ICT barriers to persons with disabilities is discussed in this toolkit under the chapter of public procurement. Except for the Interim Report, the accessible ICT determination is based upon the December 2000 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards promulgated by the U.S. Access Board pursuant to the 1998 law.

The first interim report was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in April 2000 and is entitled Information Technology and Persons with Disabilities: The Current State of Federal Accessibility [32].

Since that time, additional federal-wide surveys have been conducted in 2001 and 2003. Results of the 2001 survey are online at the U.S. Department of Justice at while the 2003 survey has not been released as of the writing of this section.

[1] See 10 December 2003 Secretary-General address at the World Summit on the Information Society at

[2] ICT Task Force on Disability-related Concerns, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Report on Access to Information and Communication for persons with disabilities with the special reference to the Biwako Millennium Framework, August 2007, posted at

[3] Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, The Global Information Society: a Statistical View, at

[4] Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, The Global Information Society: a Statistical View, at

[5] Text telephones are utilized by persons with hearing and speech disabilities.

[6] See discussion of "Total Conversation" later in the chapter.

[7] Talking ATMs are automated transaction machines primarily used by banks to enable customers to conduct transactions using both audio and visual features. By providing a jack for headphones, customers with visual disabilities can listen and follow audio prompts and perform transactions without viewing the ATM display screen. This means that banking services are available around the clock for all customers, including customers with visual disabilities.

[8] See MeAC - Measuring Progress of eAccessibility in Europe, Assessment of the Status of eAccessibility in Europe, Policy Survey at

[9] See Measuring Progress of eAccessibility in Europe, Flyer, at

[11] See "The Team" at

[12] See web portal at

[13] Ennio V. Macagnano, "A National Accessibility Portal for South Africa: Innovative application of ICT for Disability in the developing world" in Assistive Technology: From Virtuality to Reality, A. Pruski and H. Knops (Eds.), (IOS Press: 2005).

[14] See Report of the International Conference on Tsunami Preparedness of Persons with Disabilities in Thailand at

[15] Phuket Declaration on Tsunami Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities, Adopted March 1, 2007, at

[16] See ITU-T SG 16 Work on Accessibility, Total Conversation, at

[17] See EU, 112-the Single European Emergency Number,

[18] See U.S. Library of Congress website at

[19] See NIMAS website at

[20] See background information at

[21] See TPB Swedish Library website at

[22] See DAISY website at

[23] See UN Chronicle Online Edition "Nothing About Us Without Us" Recognizing the Rights of People with Disabilities at

[24] See 2008 National Interest Analysis and attachments concerning the ratification of the Convention, p. 11, at

[25] See HREOC website at

[26] Communication on eAccessibility COM (2005) 425.

[27] Riga Ministerial Declaration signed 11 June 2006 and posted at

[28] See eInclusion@EU News summary at

[29] Information Society and Inclusion: Linking European Policies, European Commission 2006, p.5 at

[30] Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended 29 U.S.C. §794(d), at

[31] See Information Technology and Persons with Disabilities: The Current State of Federal Accessibility at