World Telecommunication and Information Society Award 2008 Laureates
Andrea Saks Andrea Saks is a known advocate for ICTs for persons with disabilities.
Her father, Andrew Saks, together with James C. Marsters and Robert Weitbrecht
were pioneers of deaf telecommunications using surplus teletypewriters and
modems – the precursors of textphones and today’s real-time text messaging. She
grew in a family of two deaf parents and assisted them from an early age as
their interface with the hearing world: getting doctors’ appointments, arranging
guests’ visits, etc.
She took that role to the next level when she relocated from the US to the UK in
1972 to promote the use of textphones internationally. She was able to
successfully lobby the British Government Post Office (the then-regulator of
telecommunications) to allow the first transatlantic textphone conversation
(1975) and to grant a license for connection of text telephones on the regular
Her first involvement with ITU standardization activity started in 1991 and has
ever since increased in scope. Self-funded, she currently
attends many ITU-T study group and focus group meetings promoting the inclusion
of accessibility functionality in systems being standardized by ITU, such as
multimedia conferencing, cable, IPTV and NGN. After the recent creation of ITU-D
Q20/1 on accessibility matters by WTDC-06, she also started attending that group
and now performs as a bridge between the two sectors on the issue.
She has been a key person in the creation of all accessibility events in ITU,
and currently is the convener of the recently formed joint coordination activity
on accessibility and human factors, as well as the coordinator of the Internet
Governance Forum’s Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability.