Strong commitment to leveraging the potential of the web and advanced communication tools to empower persons with disabilities
Geneva, 15 February 2010 — ITU has again demonstrated its commitment to improving access to the information society for all, through a joint workshop aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of taking accessibility principles into account when developing websites within the UN system.
In 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which obliges its signatories to provide public information in formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities. Universal Design principles which make new technologies accessible for persons with disabilities are now becoming more of an imperative, with the wide adoption of the Convention.
Organized jointly with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and held from February 2-5, the workshop was designed to help UN technical staff engaged in web design better meet the needs of disabled users.
Speaking at the opening session, Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, highlighted the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve access to information for persons with disabilities, noting that ITU has been "embracing the challenges of accessibility through standardization efforts, and has long championed the principles of inclusion and Universal Design enshrined in the UN Convention." Johnson also stressed that ITU practices what it preaches, and is working hard to make itself more accessible to the disabled.
WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry, underlined the general importance of accessibility and reaffirmed WIPO’s commitment to establishing a web environment that promotes easy access to intellectual property information. This, Gurry said, is in line with WIPO’s visually impaired persons (VIP) initiative, launched in 2008, which is exploring ways to facilitate and enhance access to literary, artistic and scientific works. He noted that only five per cent of all published works are currently available in formats accessible to the VIP community. A first web accessibility workshop was hosted by WIPO in May 2009, following a request from the VIP community.
This year’s workshop brought together leading experts in the field of accessibility from around the world, including the World Wide Web consortium, the Mobile Web Initiative, Yahoo!, Adobe Systems, and the Royal National Institute for Blind People. It also featured a full day of training sponsored by Adobe.
In the field of accessibility, ITU focuses on strategic issues ranging from the rights of the disabled, to ensuring that new ICT technical standards incorporate accessibility principles, to providing education and training on accessible ICTs. An estimated 650 million people live with disabilities worldwide.
This year’s participants agreed on the need for an annual workshop to keep abreast of technological developments and to share knowledge and experience within the UN system. "There is no better place to demonstrate our accessibility than the online resources that act as our window to the world. This is why this workshop has been so important," concluded ITU’s Johnson.
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