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Step 3: Policy development

Step 3: Policy development


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

This section provides advice on the developing of policy making to implement the obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It provides:

  1. Quick reference to the core ICT accessibility areas requiring consideration for policy makers by key areas of government

  2. Listing of the "owners" of various forms of legislation and regulation relevant to e-accessibility 

  3. Examples of good practice of how government has intervened to help build consensus between the various stakeholders such as regulators, industry and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPO)

  4. Cooperation between government and the private sector

1. Quick reference to the core ICT areas requiring consideration for policy makers by key areas of government

If you are a:

Telecom/ICT Regulator, Broadcasting authority/ ministry of telecommunications / communications / technology:

  • Hold public consultations with persons with disabilities and disabled persons organizations on developing accessibility policies and regulations

  • Promote availability of accessible cell phones

  • Relay services for the deaf

  • Accessible public phones

  • TV closed captioning for the deaf and/or sign language interpretation

  • Fund the customization of basic assistive technologies tools in local language including text to speech, voice recognition and screen readers (with or instead of ministry of education)

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards and promotion of accessible private websites

  •  Accessible emergency communications for disaster management (in coordination with ministry of interior, homeland department)

  • Use of universal service/access funds to support of ICT accessibility programs, e.g. , in schools and vocational training centres

  • Collect disaggregated data on ICT use by disability and type of ICT

  • Require any public procurement of ICTs to purchase accessible ICT

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

  • Benchmarking, measuring and reporting progress on actions taken is an essential tool for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of country policies and programs

Ministry of Interior, Homeland Department:

  • Hold public consultations with persons with disabilities and disabled persons organizations on developing accessibility policies and regulations

  • Accessible electronic voting machines

  • Accessible emergency communications for disaster management

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Require any public procurement of ICTs to purchase accessible ICT

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

  • Benchmarking, measuring and reporting progress on actions taken is an essential tool for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of country policies and programs

Ministry of Education:

  • Hold public consultations with persons with disabilities and disabled persons organizations on developing accessibility policies and regulations

  • Fund the customization of basic assistive technologies tools in local language including text to speech, voice recognition and screen readers

  • Promoting the availability of text books in digital format along DAISY standards

  • Selecting and making assistive technologies tools available for education application

  • Training special education teachers to support disabled students in using assistive technologies

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards

  • Require any public procurement of ICTs to purchase accessible ICT

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

  • Benchmarking, measuring and reporting progress on actions taken is an essential tool for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of country policies and programs

Ministry of Labor / Social Affairs:

  • Hold public consultations with persons with disabilities and disabled persons organizations on developing accessibility policies and regulations

  • Selecting and promoting assistive technology tools for persons with disabilities

  • Supporting employers and programs offering accommodations with assistive technologies in the workplace

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards

  • Require any public procurement of ICTs to purchase accessible ICT

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

  • Benchmarking, measuring and reporting progress on actions taken is an essential tool for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of country policies and programs

Ministry of Transportation:
Hold public consultations with persons with disabilities and disabled persons organizations on developing accessibility policies and regulations

  • Accessible digital signage in public transportation

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards

  • Require any public procurement of ICTs to purchase accessible ICT

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

  • Benchmarking, measuring and reporting progress on actions taken is an essential tool for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of country policies and programs

All other ministerial departments and local government:

In coordination with other sectors of government:

  • Accessible e-government web sites as per W3C-WAI standards

  • Accessible electronic documents across all areas of government

  • Provisions for reasonable accommodation for the work place

2. Identifying the "owners" of each category of legislative and regulatory initiative
The following is a listing of the "owners" of each category of legislative and regulatory initiative needed for translating the Convention into national law:

Legislators
Ministerial department or national communications regulators
Ministerial departments for the promotion of ICT accessibility by areas of application
Public procurement agencies
Local governments
Private sector initiatives
Civil Society initiatives
Voluntary Code of Practices


Legislators
(General dispositions, amending or creating legislation in compliance with the Convention)  As pointed out by the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention, one of the fundamental obligations of the Convention is that national law should guarantee the enjoyment of rights set forth in the Convention.  Legislators should consider the best way to give effect to the rights guaranteed by the Convention in domestic law and this consideration will vary according to the constitutional and legal systems of individual States:

  • In some countries, the ratification of the Convention at the international level may automatically form part of national law; 

  • In other countries, the legislature might have to adopt an act of ratification at the national level which would have the effect of incorporating the Convention into domestic law; and

  • In other countries, such as common-law countries, only when specific provisions of the treaty are directly incorporated into national law will there be enforceable rights and duties [1].

Ministerial department or national communications authorities for regulations on ICT devices and services with accessibility features in support of international standards and good practices
In general, legislators pass laws while government regulators issue regulations in order to carry out or implement laws.  It is in the best interest of regulatory authorities to support international standards and good practices since it enables the country to be competitive in the global economy.  For example, in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. It was not until 1990, when legislators enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, that persons with hearing and speech disabilities were provided with the ability to use telecommunications services.  As the regulatory authority, the FCC was authorized to establish and manage the telecommunications relay services (TRS) program.  Today there are nine types of TRS calls that can be made by a person with a disability depending on the needs of the user and the equipment available [2].

Likewise, in 1998 the U.S. Congress enacted the Workforce Investment Act to strengthen the ICT accessibility provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Also known as Section 508, the Act directed the U.S. Access Board to promulgate Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards [3]. The Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards cover the following ICT:

  • Software applications and operating systems;

  • Web-based Intranet and Internet information and applications;

  • Telecommunications products;

  • Video and multimedia products (including television displays and computer equipment with display circuitry that receives, decodes and displays broadcasts, cable, videotape and DVD signals);

  • Self contained, closed products (having embedded software such as information kiosks, information transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators and facsimile machines); and

  • Desktop and portable computers.

The Standards also include gap provisions for products that may not be designed to the technical standards but rather incorporate new methods, design or technologies to achieve accessibility.  In addition, the Standards include a provision for Information, Documentation and Support requirements, specifically:

  • Product support documentation provided to end-users shall be made available in alternate formats upon request, at no additional charge;

  • End-users shall have access to a description of the accessibility and compatibility features of products in alternate formats or alternate methods upon request, at no additional charge; and

  • Support services for products shall accommodate the communication needs of end-users with disabilities.

Ministerial departments for the promotion of ICT accessibility by areas of application
Another "owner" of ICT accessibility and service needs may be a ministerial department responsible for a certain sector. The scope of the Convention addresses a broad range of sectors or application areas, from Employment and Voting, to Education and Health, to name a few. The policy maker will look to the appropriate ministerial departments for implementation of these particular Convention Articles. After identifying priorities and evaluating disability policy approaches, the policy maker should engage the ministerial department for the promotion of ICT accessibility. From the legislator, to the regulator, to the ministerial department, all three play an important role in impacting the ICT accessibility and services.

Public procurement agencies
Another significant player in the availability of ICT accessibility and service needs are public procurement agencies. Government public procurement agencies are on the front lines in the acquisition and deployment of ICT and services. One way to have a systemic impact is to provide ICT public procurement toolkits. There are at least four countries that have implemented this approach: Denmark, Ireland, Canada and the United States. Each country procurement approach is discussed below as a case study to demonstrate the scope of ICT products and services impacted as well as the public policy basis for the toolkit. By focusing on the public procurement processes in the public sector, the toolkit leverages the ICT budgets of these countries and can play a significant role in promoting accessible ICT.

Denmark
Although there is no national special procurement legislation requiring the procurement of accessible ICT, the toolkit was created by the Centre of Excellence based at the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency. The Centre of Excellence was created in May 2003 and its goal is to support a government IT policy strategy of an inclusive society. The current version of the toolkit was presented to the public in 2005 as a tool for assisting public procurers in successfully implementing e-accessibility requirements in their tenders and contracts.

A web-based application, the technical development was carried out by Adapt, a private company that provides web solutions.  Products covered by this tool include hardware, software, websites and web-based applications. It applies a number of sources for accessible technical design standards, including the U.S. Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, the "Guidelines for Procurement of Accessible Personal Computer Systems" as set out by the EU ACCENT project, industry guidelines from IBM and Microsoft, the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and the Danish Government Guidelines for Public Homepages. According to the eInclusion@EU report, information is not yet available concerning its actual use and impact [4].

Ireland
Launched in 2007, the Accessible IT Procurement Toolkit is designated for Irish public service bodies as well as anyone seeking to procure accessible hardware or software. Developed by the National Disability Authority, the Toolkit is based on NDA IT Accessibility Guidelines [5] and is a web-based application that covers four topics: Principles of Accessible Procurement, Stages of Procurement, Accessibility Targets and Supporting Information [6].

Accessible procurement is a legal requirement for all public sector bodies under the Disability Act (2005).  The ICT Accessibility Targets cover the following products and services:

a.      Web Technologies (all information services, including web sites and online applications)

b.      Public Access Terminals

  • ATMS (Automated Teller Machines)

  • Information Kiosks

  • Ticket vending machines

  • Information displays (e.g. flight information)

  • Point of sale customer card payment systems

  • Card door entry systems

c.      Application Software (For any operating system or runtime environment such as Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux, and Java);

d.      Telecoms (Fixed or mobile telecommunication devices and services delivered via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, Hardware and Software aspects of public or private telephones and videophones, and menu-based services such as voicemail); and

e.      Smart Cards (and related media).

In Stages of Procurement, the tool covers writing a Request for Tenders, Assessing Candidates and Tenders, Development and implementation, evaluating deliverables and maintaining accessibility.  As of the writing of this chapter, data on the use of the tool was not available.

Canada
The Accessible Procurement Toolkit for Canada is a web-based application that delivers accessibility guidelines and standards for use in the procurement process of mainstream ICT products and services. Developed by the Assistive Devices Industry Office, it was launched in 2000. As discussed in the learning example at eInclusion@ EU [7],  the toolkit can be used by:

  • Purchasing managers to inform public procurers of their product requirements;

  • Public procurers to add accessibility clauses to purchasing documents;

  • Manufacturers to see what standards might apply to their products for planning and development purposes; and

  • Vendors to compare the compliance level of their products to government or national standards.

Although Canada does not have specific federal legislation requiring the procurement of accessible ICT, regional procurement legislation is in effect for Ontario as part of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. The tool applies various standards including the U.S. Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, the Canada Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet [8], and other best practices. As of the date of the posting of the learning example at eInclusion@ EU, the tool had been used in "five major procurements and in two smaller procurements" [9].

The Accessible Procurement Toolkit is available online in both English and French language versions [10].

United States
The Buy Accessible Wizard is a web-based application that assists procurers of ICT products and services to comply with the accessible ICT procurement law of Section 508. A procurement law wrapped around a civil rights requirement, Section 508 is mandatory for all federal ICT procurements, with some exceptions. The Wizard is a tool used by federal agencies and is open for public use. It resides on the U.S. General Services Agency (USGSA) web portal gateway along with resources and tools for meeting Section 508 requirements.

Because the Section 508 procurement law is supported by a complex regulation structure that contains extensive guidance for implementation, the Buy Accessible Wizard integrates access to technical guidance and simplifies the procurement process. A procurement officer is guided by the Wizard through a process of gathering data on the ICT product or service to be bought and at the same time receives information about the product conformance to Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards. The Wizard includes a market research database supported by vendor submissions of Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates [11] that show the extent their ICT products conform to the accessibility standards. Finally, the Wizard has a summary report feature that enables the procurement officer to draft a compliant request for proposals and at the same time serves as documentation on how the procurement officer met the Section 508 requirements. There are many other features of the Wizard, including learning tools that are also helpful [12].

According to the learning example at eInclusion@ EU:

Initial uptake was very good and users reported noticeable positive effects regarding the effectiveness of their procurement processes as well as an increasing success in adequately meeting all applicable requirements of Section 508 for a given product [13].

Role and responsibilities of local governments
Implementation of the Convention will need to be coordinated with local governments partly because it is at the local level that persons with disabilities can be more readily impacted by ICT accessibility and service needs. It is also at the local level that persons with disabilities and NGOs can serve on advisory bodies in their community for consultations on the Convention implementation. As national laws, policies and regulations are conformed to the requirements of the Convention, local government codes, regulations and ordinances may also need to be conformed. For example, local governments that have an online presence will need to ensure that there web site is accessible and that they provide information in an accessible manner. Emergency response plans will also require coordination and review to ensure that citizens with disabilities also benefit from emergency response plans. Local governments will need to coordinate their ICT accessibility and service needs as appropriate with national implementation plans for the Convention.

Private sector initiatives
As a developer and marketer of ICT products and services, the private sector is directly impacted by government requirements to acquire accessible products and services. It is expected that there will be increased efforts towards harmonization of international ICT standards in the accessibility arena. This is due to the global growth of ICT and consumer electronic markets and the acknowledgement that innovation is the foundation of the global economy. According to the Japan/US/EU Trilateral IT Electronics Associations, compliance with international standards helps to "promote technology diffusion, production efficiency, product compatibility, interoperability, enhanced competition, consumer choice, and lower costs" [14].

Collaborative ventures between the private sector and governments will continue, such as Internet infrastructure development in Africa and other regions of the world. Telecenters and community multimedia centers will be upgraded and built with ICT accessibility in mind. The possibilities for private sector initiatives and collaborations with NGOs are unlimited.

Civil Society initiatives
Another venue for policy making development is in civil society initiatives. Civil society initiatives can promote outreach, education and training about all aspects of the Convention and serve as one of the many conduits to the community of persons with disabilities for Convention implementation activities underway in the country. One example of a Civil Society initiative was the collaboration of two NGOs and a private sector business: The International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet; The Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter; and HiSoftware. A free online web accessibility checker was developed and posted online to aid in the evaluation of whether or not a web site is designed according to both U.S. and international technical standards for accessibility [15]. 

In the private sector, it is true that businesses have a vested monetary interest to fund their representatives on standards-setting committee. Similarly, government has a vested public policy interest in funding NGO representatives of persons with disabilities for public policy consultations. For example, in the U.S. the National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency led by a 15 member board appointed by the President, approved by the Senate, and composed of members from across the disability spectrum. A unique leader in the development and analysis of disability policy on behalf of 54 million Americans with disabilities, the agency staffed by federal employees had an authorized budget of $3,125,492.00 US in the fiscal year 2007.  Advisory board members receive no salary but have their travel expenses covered when attending and participating in official meetings.

In Europe, the European Disability Forum (EDF) is an independent non-governmental organization representing the interests of 50 million persons with disabilities in the European Uniion [16].

European Research Agendas for Disability Equality (EuRADE)
One interesting project underway from February 2008 through August 2009 is the European Research Agendas for Disability Equality (EuRADE) Project. Funded under the Seventh Framework Programme discussed earlier in this chapter, this project is led by EDF in partnership with the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) and the University of Maastricht (Netherlands). The key goal of EuRADE is to build capacity of NGO's representing persons with disabilities in order to participate in European Commission funded research. Information about this project is drawn from the EDF, University of Leeds and Maastricht University websites [17].

This project is discussed in detail because of its relevance in the development of policy making, research and collaboration between civil society, academia and government. 

Three additional sub-goals of the EuRADE project are:

  1. To enable EDF and its members to identify and provide information on the research priorities of NGOs representing persons with disabilities;

  2. To provide training and information on research knowledge and skills to NGOs representing persons with disabilities; and

  3. To identify opportunities for research collaboration between academics and NGOs representing persons with disabilities.

Under the first sub-goal, the EuRADE project deliverables are the following:

  • Review EDF policy documents to identify key goals;

  • Reflect on how research could contribute to achieving those goals;

  • Publication by EDF of key research goals; and

  • Consultation with NGO's representing persons with disabilities to identify research priorities.

The end product for the first sub-goal includes the development of a document identifying research priorities for NGOs. This document is expected to inform European Commission decisions when research is funded in the future. The document will also inform academics of research priorities.

Under the second sub-goal, the EuRADE project deliverables are the following:

  • Provide a residential research knowledge summer school at the University of Leeds at the end of July 2008;

  • Offer individuals the possibility to follow an online course on more advanced disability research methods and project design; and

  • Fund individuals to attend academic research conferences.

And finally, under the third sub-goal, the EuRADE project deliverables are the following:

  • Identify new research collaborations on disability equality and non-discrimination in order to potentially qualify for funding by the European Commission;

  • Facilitate meetings between NGOs representing persons with disabilities and selected research partners; and

  • Produce initial outlines and/or a framework for possible research in the future.

Supporting voluntary Code of Practice or Guidelines Issued by Multi-Stakeholders
Finally, policy makers can support and promote the implementation of Code of Practice or Guidelines issued by multi-stakeholders. As referenced earlier in this chapter, the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium is an example of a voluntary effort by the ICT industry to identify accessibility guidelines and develop tools for implementation.  International technical standards for web accessibility have been codified and referenced in country laws, policies, and procurement practices around the globe. 

3. Examples of Good Practices to Establish Consensus and Foster Multi-Stakeholder Cooperation
Looking across the globe, there are a number of efforts that demonstrate good practices for consensus and multi-stakeholder cooperation.  Five in particular are of interest: 

  • Japanese Standardization Committee on ICT Accessibility;

  • U.S. Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC);

  • EU Mandate 376 on accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services; and

  • International Standards Organization Joint Technical Committee 1- Special Working Group on Accessibility.

Japanese Industrial Standards Committee and ICT Accessibility
Japan is a leader in seeking international standardization in the accessibility of ICT.  In January 1998, the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee established the Ad Hoc Committee on Standardization for Elderly and People with Disabilities. It was believe that the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities could be addressed through the standardization of products and the environments for a barrier-free society. Six months later in June 1998, the Ad Hoc Committee issued a report to the Minister of International Trade and Ministry that made the following recommendations to promote:

  • The basic principle of "universal design" and stating that JISC should actively work with ISO and IEC to form an international consensus to produce an international guide on basic principles and considerations for the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities;

  • Standardization for technical aids for persons with disabilities to live independently and participate in social life;

  • Standardization for the universal design of products;

  • Standardization for the environments;

  • Technical research program on standardization; and

  • Universal Design for accessibility in products, services and the environments [18].

Subsequently, in response to a proposal from Japan, the Committee on Consumer Policy of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) at its general meeting adopted a resolution to set up a task force. The ISO task force was charged with developing a policy statement on general principles and guidelines for the design of products and the environment to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities. The working group, led by Japanese members, actively carried out the task and finalized the general principles in 2001 as the ISO/IEC Guide 71- Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities.

Since that time Japan has moved forward to develop ICT Standards for Older Adults and Persons with Disabilities through the Japanese Industrial Standards JIS X8341 Series. The following is a breakdown of the ICT accessibility components for the series:

  • Part 1:  Common Guidelines - Finalized May 2004

  • Part 2:  Information Processing Equipment - Finalized May 2004

  • Part 3:  Web Content - Finalized June 2004

  • Part 4:  Telecommunications Equipment - Finalized October 2005

  • Part 5:  Office Equipment - Finalized January 2006.

The JIS X8341 Series were submitted to international organizations with the following results:

  • Part 1 resulted in ISO 9241-20 in 2008

  • Part 2 resulted in WD 29136 in JTC1 SC35

  • Part 3 is being incorporated into the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative

  • Part 4 resulted in ITU-T F.790 in 2007

  • Part 5 resulted in ISO/IEC 10779 [19]

U.S. Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC):  involvement of organizations representing persons with disabilities in public procurement rules
In September 2006, the U.S. Access Board organized the first meeting of the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC). The purpose of TEITAC was to review ICT standards and guidelines and to recommend changes to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the 1996 Communications Act. The committee's membership included forty-one representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. Members were selected from applications received in response to a Board notice published in April 2006.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal agencies and all electronic and information technology while Section 255 applies to equipment manufacturers and service providers in telecommunications and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). According to Andi Snow-Weaver, the need for the review was due to: 1) Frequent requests for clarification and technical assistance on Section 508 2) International harmonization concerns and 3) Technology advances causing products to migrate across the six categories used in Section 508 as well as the widespread adoption of wireless and VoIP [20].

On 3 April 2008 the TEITAC report was presented to the U.S. Access Board along with Minority reports from members of the committee. The reports are online at http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-a-it. The U.S. Access Board will review the reports and propose updates for public comment on the Section 508 standards and telecommunication guidelines as a part of the rulemaking process.

European Commission Standardization Mandate 376
Recognizing that public procurement policy and practice for accessible ICT can play a vital role in removing barriers to participation in society by older adults and persons with disabilities, the European Commission issued a mandate to the European Standardization Organizations on December 7, 2005. The mandate seeks to harmonize and facilitate the public procurement of accessible ICT products and services by:

  • Identifying a set of functional European accessibility requirements for public procurement of products and services in the ICT domain; and

  • Providing a mechanism for public procurers to have access to an electronic toolkit so they can use the harmonized requirements in the procurement process [21].

Two parallel project teams are working to address this mandate. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has launched Specialist Task Force 333 to produce an inventory of European and international accessibility requirements. The second project team of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) is conducting an assessment of suitable testing and conformity schemes.

In particular, the ETSI Specialist Task Force 333 is preparing a technical report that:

  • Lists ICT products and services bought by public procurers;

  • Lists existing functional accessibility requirements;

  • Lists existing national, regional and international standards that might comply with those requirements;

  • Provides a proposal for standardization work for requirements that do not currently exist [22].

The CEN Working Group is tasked to prepare a report that:

  • Provides an analysis of testing and conformity schemes of products and services meeting accessibility requirements; and

  • Provides an analysis on conformance schemes of this nature and at the European and International level [23].

ISO/IEC JTC1
ISO/IEC JTC1 is a joint technical committee created by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electro technical Committee (IEC) to provide a single, comprehensive standardization committee to address ICT standardization.  JTC 1 standards are globally recognized and provide interoperability capabilities in order to promote sustained development and retention of investment [24].

In October 2004 JTC 1 established a Special Working Group on Accessibility and the first meeting was held in April 2005.  Referred to as JTC1 SWG-A, the Special Working Group on Accessibility has wide membership open to all standards development organizations, consortia, consumer organizations and user representatives.

According to the terms of reference, the JTC1 SWG on Accessibility will:

  1. Determine an approach, and implement, the gathering of user requirements, being mindful of the varied and unique opportunities  such as direct participation of user organizations, workshops, liaisons;

  2. Identify a mechanism to work proactively between meetings to make forward progress;

  3. Gather and publish an inventory of all known accessibility standards efforts;

  4. Identify areas/technologies where voluntary standards are not being addressed and suggest an appropriate body to consider the new work

  5. Track public laws, policies/measures and guidelines to ensure the necessary standards are available;

  6. Through wide dissemination of the SWG materials, encourage the use of globally relevant voluntary standards; and

  7. Assist consortia/fora, if desired, in submitting their specifications to the formal standards process [25].

In April 2005 development started on a three-part technical report, ISO/IEC 29138, addressing the following:

  • Part 1:  User Needs Summary

  • Part 2:  Standards Inventory

  • Part 3:  Guidance on User Needs Mapping.

Publication of the report is expected in March 2009.  For more about the effort and the activities of the stakeholders, visit the comprehensive website at http://www.jtc1access.org/swga_index.htm.

4. Cooperation between government and the private sector
Joint Initiatives
Accessible ICT and service needs for persons with disabilities cannot be met if the ICT industry in the private sector does not incorporate accessible design in their product development cycles and has no incentive to do so. It also cannot occur without significant private sector financing. However, governments can assist in correcting accessible ICT market failures and encourage competition such as the U.S. Section 508 effort. There are many examples of government and private sector model partnerships where the private sector has played a significant role in investing in ICTs and governments have encouraged this investment.  But the difference today is that both the private sector and the government must work together with consumer stakeholders to ensure that barriers are not being erected for accessible ICT.

Partly driven by the U.S. Section 508 effort, the private sector is engaged in ongoing work to address the accessible design of ICT. There are many industry efforts underway and unfortunately this toolkit cannot address all of them to the fullest due to space limitations. However, Nokia, Fujitsu, Motorola, Microsoft and IBM are highlighted for your review.

For example, Nokia has been involved in inclusive product design and product development for over a decade. As discussed at the Nokia website, the award-winning Nokia loopset was the first inductive coupling loopset in the wireless industry that enabled customers with telecoil-equipped hearing aids to use digital handsets without electromagnetic interference. Nokia was also the first to include text-to-speech software so that blind and low vision customers could navigate the features of their handsets [26].

At Fujitsu, accessibility is an integral component of corporate branding and the corporate mission. Not only is "human centered design" a top design priority in the design of products and services, but additional links at the Fujitsu website at  http://www.fujitsu.com/global/accessibility/ outline the corporate responsibility for accessible web sites. Fujitsu also provides free diagnostic software tools for website creators and developers called "Fujitsu Accessibility Assistance" at http://www.fujitsu.com/global/accessibility/assistance/. Fujitsu also implements the best practice of providing an "Accessibility" link on the home page for transparency about their accessible ICT efforts.

Motorola is another example of a business developing accessible products and features such as products that include hearing aid compatibility, voice recognition and text to speech features. Motorola is a past member of the Board of Directors of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and has contributed to AFB outreach and education programs [27].

In addition, Microsoft has increasingly added accessibility features to its products and services and maintains an Accessibility website containing extensive information on accessibility product solutions, tutorials and training and case studies with business resources. Their website includes extensive accessibility information not only for consumers but also for developers. One helpful offering is their free monthly newsletter entitled Accessibility Updates [28].

And finally, IBM has also had a long history of addressing accessibility solutions in ICT. Recently, in July 2007, Aaron Leventhal, a senior engineer in IBM's Accessibility Architecture Development, was tapped the winner of the Google-O'Reilly Open Source Award for Best Accessibility Architect. This award was for turning Firefox into the "preferred accessibility solution going forward" [29] Also, in March 2007, IBM announced the launch of the Accessibility Common Courseware Exchange for Software studies repository. This initiative builds a worldwide repository of materials that will enable student developers to make software more accessible to persons with disabilities and older adults. It is part of IBM's ongoing effort to "promote universal access of software applications, websites and documents" [30].

Two examples of private sector/government collaborations are the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) and the ICT Policy Support Programme 2007.

a. UN GAID G3ict - The Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies [31]
The Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) is a flagship advocacy initiative of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID). Launched in December 2006 by the Wireless Internet Institute (W2i), G3ict is a public-private partnership dedicated to facilitating the implementation around the world of the digital accessibility agenda defined by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

G3ict was incorporated in 2008 as a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit U.S. Corporation in the State of Georgia, where it maintains an office in Atlanta. G3ict's key constituents include policy makers, ICT industries, international standards development organizations and civil society. Leading institutional participants include:

  • International Telecommunication Union;

  • United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development;

  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research;

  • National Council on Disability;

  • European Commission; and

  • Global Partnership for Disability and Development.

G3ict mission priorities are to:

  • Raise awareness on effective public policies, private sector initiatives and standardization references;

  • Facilitate the sharing of solutions and good practices;

  • Foster harmonization and standardization; and

  • Support policy makers with capacity building programs and benchmarking.

Support for policy makers includes the "Toolkit for Policy Makers" and on going work on the Digital Inclusion Index research project. The Index will evaluate and provide national rankings on how accessible and inclusive ICTs are in a given country. It will assist policy makers in understanding the basic building blocks of ICT accessibility in a country. The Digital Inclusion Index will promote the Toolkit by covering the countries that have ratified the Convention in addition to three "benchmark" countries with significant achievements: one large, one medium and one small. Initially, the Index will include thirty countries.

b. EU ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP)
One of the main financial instruments of i2010, the ICT PSP will run from 2007 to 2013 with a budget of EUR 730 million. It aims to stimulate innovation and competitiveness through a better use of ICT in the products, services and processes. The first call for proposals is now open and Theme 2: ICT for Accessibility, Ageing and Social Integration, supports a pilot action focusing on the accessibility of Digital TV for all, including persons with disabilities and older adults. One of the expected impacts is the full mainstreaming of the Design for All process to ensure accessibility of future digital Audio Visual products and services as well as sustainable business models for industry to stimulate investments [32].

Research and Development and Other Incentives
Finally, another policy development vehicle is through research and development, as well as other incentives. For example, government support of university research and development efforts are traditional approaches. In addition, government procurement of accessible ICT can reward businesses for their investment in producing accessible ICT products and services. 

Perhaps as the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities moves forward into the monitoring phase, a growing number of innovative solutions for implementation will emerge. As we move forward towards participation for everyone, it is absolutely critical that we maintain accessible design in the coming complexities of technology convergence. Accessibility provides redundancy, flexibility and prevents persons with disabilities from being locked out from participation. It is absolutely essential that public policy and standards be informed by accessibility because technology changes, but civil rights do not [33].

 


 

[1] See Handbook, pp. 53-54.
[2]  See Federal Communications Commission, Telecommunications Relay Services FCC Consumer Facts at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/trs.html.
[3] U.S. Access Board, 36 CFR Part 1194 at http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-a-it.
[4] See eInclusion@EU Learning Examples: Accessible Procurement Toolkits Denmark, Canada and USA: Description and Synopsis, page 6 at http://einclusion.hu/2007-09-30/accessible-procurement-toolkits-denmark-canada-and-usa-description-and-synopsis/, a project website supporting Information Society policy-making in Europe by strengthening eInclusion and eAccessibility across Europe.
[5] National Disability Authority IT Accessibility Guidelines are online at http://www.universaldesign.ie/useandapply/ict/irishnationalitaccessibilityguidelines.
[6] See toolkit online at http://universaldesign.ie/useandapply/ict/itprocurementtoolkit.
[7] See eInclusion@EU, supra, page 9.
[8] Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet, Treasury Board of Canada, at http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/index_e.asp
[9] See eInclusion@EU, supra, page 11.
[10] See Accessible Procurement Toolkit at www.apt.gc.ca/.
[11] For more about Information Technology Industry Council Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs), see http://www.itic.org/.
[12] See Buy Accessible Wizard at http://www.buyaccessible.gov/.
[13] See eInclusion@EU, supra, page 11.
[14] Japan/US/EU Trilateral IT-Electronics Association Meeting, Brussels, April 2008, at http://www.jeita.or.jp/english/press/2007/0427/index.htm (Common Views Paper on Trade).
[15] See the web accessibility checker "Cynthia SaysTM" at www.cynthiasays.com.
[16] See European Disability Forum (EDF) website at http://www.edf-feph.org/.
[17] See EDF website at http://www.edf-feph.org.

[18] See Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC) Ad Hoc Committee on Standardization for the Elderly and People with Disabilities Summary, 16 June 1998, Consumer Life Standards Division, Standards Department, Agency of Industrial Science and Technology at http://www.meti.go.jp/english

[19] See Hajime Yamada, Recent ICT Accessibility Related Activities in Japan, 19 June 2008, at Open Seminar of Information Accessibility in the World, Tokyo, Japan, posted at http://www.jtc1access.org/additional.htm.
[20] See Andi Snow-Weaver, Recent Activities in the US: TEITAC Outcomes, 19 June 2008, at Open Seminar of Information Accessibility in the World, Tokyo, Japan, posted at http://www.jtc1access.org/additional.htm.
[21] See European Commission Information Society portal at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/library/communications_reports/annualreports/15th/index_en.htm.
[22] See ETSI Specialist Task Force 333 portal at http://portal.etsi.org/stfs/STF_homePages/STF333/STF333.asp.
[23] See CEN portal on Conformity Assessment for EU Mandate 376 at http://www.econformance.eu/.
[24] See JTC1 SWA reference document at http://www.jtc1access.org/documents/swga_214/swga_214.txt.
[25] See JTC1 SWG on Accessibility website at http://www.jtc1access.org/tor.htm.
[26] See Nokia Connecting People website on Accessibility at http://www.nokiaaccessibility.com/.
[27] See Virginia Business Leadership Network (BLN) publication on Arizona BLN at http://vabln.org/‎
[28] See Microsoft Accessibility website at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/.
[29] See Google Code Update at http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2007/07/drum-roll-winners-of-2007-google.html
[30] See IBM Press release at http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/21275.wss.
[31] See G3ict Fact Sheet and portal at http://www.g3ict.org.
[32] See European Commission Information Society Thematic Portal on the ICT Policy Support Programme at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/.
[33] See supra, Waddell, Cynthia D. Growing Digital Divide.