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
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