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 Opening remarks, 2nd Internet Governance Forum
 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  13 November 2007 

Making Accessibility a Reality in Emerging Technologies and the Web

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to open this workshop today.

I know we have very little time for this topic. So I will be brief…

I believe that standards have an enormously important role to play in making ICTs more accessible. Equally, I believe that ITU can lead the way in terms of international standards to achieve this goal. Indeed ITU was the first international standards body to address accessibility issues – back in 1991. By 1994 the international text telephone standard, ITU-T Recommendation V.18, was published. V.18 was a major landmark tying together text telephone protocols allowing different – previously incompatible – textphones in different countries to communicate.

Since then, ITU’s accessibility experts have helped to incorporate accessibility needs into standards for multimedia, network interoperability, multimedia service descriptions and multimedia conferencing, and most importantly created the concept of Total Conversation with real time text which you will hear about later today.

Our latest work has focused on taking accessibility needs into account in the development of all our standards, from the very beginning. Indeed, the recently published “Accessibility Checklist” gives guidance to the makers of standards on how to include the needs of those people who find access to ICTs restricted. The Accessibility Checklist is an excellent tool helping to ensure that accessibility needs are included at an early stage of standardization, rather than industry having to retrofit products and services at a later date. Retrofitting can be costly to the industry. It makes sense to design – for all – from the beginning. In this way we end up with better products and services.

One of our current and most important and intensive standardization activities is on the creation of the Next Generation Networks (NGN). Accessibility features were included at the first stage of the standards work when we defined the requirements for NGN. However, it is important that these features are implemented into the technical aspects of the NGN.

So, as standardization work progresses, ITU is working to ensure that this continues to happen. The next important step, after the standards are established, is for industry to use and implement them, including the accessibility features so that everyone benefits. By the way all 3000 ITU standards can now be downloaded from our website without charge to help meet this end.

Finally, I would like to thank the very dedicated people that are active in the accessibility work in ITU. There has been much effort put into this workshop. We have some excellent speakers so I wish you an informative and enjoyable event.

Thank you.

 

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