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Keynote Speech: ITU Workshop at 3rd IGF Meeting
Including Accessibility and Human Factors in the Universalization of the Internet - How to reach persons with disabilities, the 10% of the next billion
 Hyderabad, India  04 December 2008 
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen

Welcome to this ITU workshop on accessibility, those in the room and those following remotely on the captioning kindly sponsored by ISOC.

ITU and its members recognise that in order to achieve our number one objective – to connect the world – that the ten per cent of the global population with disabilities is an important constituency.

2008 has seen a lot of new activity on accessibility.

Indeed, the theme of this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day was: Connecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All.

The initiative helped to raise awareness of the incredible potential of ICTs to extend the capabilities of persons with disabilities.

This year we established a new ITU group to coordinate standardization activities on accessibility and human factors issues.

It is called the joint coordination activity on accessibility and human factors (JCA-AHF) and is open to all experts working in the field to improve access to the information society by people with varied capability of handling information and the controls for its presentation.

We are very pleased that the coordinator of this group Andrea Saks was recognised by the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day awarding her one of the three laureates.

In addition, ITU took the initiative to establish the Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disabilities and will meet for the first time at this IGF.

At the recently held ITU Global Standards Symposium where we had leaders of industry, government ministers, heads of regulatory bodies and standards bodies, accessibility to telecom/ICT services was recognised as a major enabler to economic and social development especially since a significant percentage of persons with disabilities are poor and live in developing countries.

This event was following by the ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-08) which adopted a historic Resolution recognising the importance of the work on accessibility and mandating ITU to document best practice, review its services and facilities for accessibility, and to work on programmes to progress accessibility in developing countries.

Standards have an enormously important role to play in making ICTs more accessible.

It is important that accessibility requirements are taken into account at the beginning of work on a new standard. Retrofitting is often impractical or very expensive. We have developed ‘Accessibility Checklist’ which gives guidance to the makers of standards on how to incorporate the needs of people with disabilities to ICTs.

So ITU is leading the way in terms of international standards to achieve this goal.

In fact 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 bringing together text telephone protocols allowing different - previously incompatible – text phones in different countries to communicate.

Since then, ITU-T’s accessibility experts have helped to incorporate accessibility needs into standards for multimedia, network interoperability, tele conferencing; next generation networks (NGN) and most importantly created the concept of Total Conversation with real time text.

This year we held a joint Forum with G3ict on the how ICTs can help meet the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We also held regional workshops in Kenya and Zambia.

We will be holding more such workshops next year and as with all ITU workshops they are open to anyone free of charge.

Our ITU-D Guidelines for mainstreaming ICT accessibility issues provides a catalogue of commercially available accessibility technologies that enable access to ICTs and considers the socio-economic barriers that limit their world-wide availability. It is available free on our website.

ITU and G3ict are developing an on-line toolkit for policy makers, regulators and other stakeholders to develop policies and strategies addressing ICT accessibility in line with the UN Convention.

We also have a number of projects to equip schools and multi-purpose community telecentres with assistive devices such as Braille printers to extend ICT services to persons with disabilities.

So you see accessibility is a priority for ITU and we are committed to addressing this important issue in partnership with many other organisations, and many dedicated experts. I am very pleased that we have such excellent speakers with us today. Unfortunately Andrea Saks cannot be with us due to illness but I am sure she is following the captioning, so get well soon Andrea we need you.

I would like to thank all the speakers and members of the steering committee and I wish you a rewarding workshop.

 

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Updated : 2008-12-04