"Accessible Europe: ICTs 4 ALL" is held within the fra mework of the Regional Initiative for Europe on Accessibility, affordability and skills development for all to ensure digital inclusion and sustainable development adopted by the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2017. This regional initiative aims at bridging the digital divide and equipping all groups of society, including persons with disabilities and other groups of people with specific needs, to take advantage of ICT, by enabling capacity building in digital skills.
The Regonal Forum on "Accessible Europe: ICT for All" takes place in St George's Bay, St. Julian’s, Malta, from 4 to 6 December 2019. This regional event for Europe is being jointly organized by the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and European Commission (EC), and is hosted by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Persons with Disability & Active Ageing (PSDAA). The Regional Forum will focus on further promoting the development of accessibility in countries and institutions, through the collective effort and cooperation of stakeholders and through sharing of successful outcomes of projects and initiatives implemented, in order to interchange resources and solutions and make the European region a more inclusive society.
In this context, three Background Papers have been prepared to provide more in depth knowledge about three specific topics: artificial intelligence, universal design standards & public procurement and audiovisual media services. Background papers will be presented at Accessible Europe, setting the context for the sessions addressinf these topics.
1) Artificial Intelligence and Information Technology Accessibility
Did you know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist in removing barriers through usable and accessible ICT, whilst enhancing skills with innovative AI driven assistive technologies?
- Through Universal Design and Digital Accessibility policies, devices and services can be equipped with visual and auditory controls that make them accessible, thus allowing People with Disabilities and specific needs to live independent lives, participate in cultural events or political processes, benefit from education or entertainment, or obtain a job.
Artificial Intelligence for Media support is a key assistive service that can change how people enjoy media content
- Through assistive AI, additional means of viewership and interaction can be made available: not only AI can offer auditory and visual formats for streamed and stored media, such as audio description or translation, but it can also enable media capture in the physical world For example a person with visual impairments would benefit of instant sound capture of a written menu at a restaurant.
Artificial Intelligence must be considered an augmentative technology that should be tailored to personal needs.
- Developers, content creators and all those within the ICT world need to address the difficulties encountered by people with special needs
- In the world of ICT and disability, as it is at present, the aim is to augment users’ skills, not provide artificial intelligence to replace them.
- We need to accept that AI has the potential to enable ICT accessibility changes, but still cannot cope without the reasoned input of digital accessibility experts.
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2) Standards in the Procurement of Accessible Products and Services
Did you know that public procurement is a fundamental component of any economy, estimated at around 15% of a country’s GDP, which helps deliver basic services such as health and infrastructure and achieve innovative policy objectives?
- Embedding accessibility requirements in public procurement policies can greatly help achieve ICT accessibility goals and that all citizens can access government services on an equal footing.
- In this context, the ITU Academy Self-paced Online Training on ICT Accessibility provides extensive background knowledge on technology trends, standards and procurement rules.
International and regional accessibility standards are invaluable tools to set minimum accessibility requirements for products and services.
- By incorporating standards such as the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG 2.1) into procurement rules, governments can lead market change towards greater accessibility of ICTs.
- Within ITU, both the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) and the Radiocommunications Bureau (BR) play a fundamental role in developing accessibility standards for the industry.
Current regulatory trends in Europe promote regional and international harmonization of standards by incorporating them into most recent legislation.
- The European Accessibility Act, the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Electronic Communication Code are examples of the effort to ensure greater standards of accessibility in the regulatory environment.
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3) Future of Accessible Audiovisual Media Services, TV and Video Programming
.Did you know the transition from analogue to digital television has been one the biggest technological leap in the history of television? For Persons with Disabilities, it has brought new possibilities for delivering accessible services and with new promises for improving lives.
- A multitude of challenges have become ever-more present in this new era of television, including increasing difficulty in providing accessible Audiovisual Media Services, at pace with innovation.
- Legal and regulatory challenges, as well as the large degree of variation in international television markets matched with a lack of unified global standards and regulation are key issues that still need solution.
Collaborative efforts can help to solve these challenges through a mix of cross-platform solutions, capacity building, as well as tailoring international policies and standards to national contexts.
- Enhancements in television accessibility are now being addressed through the creation of broadcasting standards, for example hybrid broadcast-broadband platforms, and IP based TV.
- The International Telecommunication Union and the European Broadcasting Union play a fundamental role in regard.
Barrier-free access to audiovisual services has been recognized as a fundamental human right established under UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, thus necessitating the use of subtitling, audio subtitling, audio description, and signed programs.
- State parties have an obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities have access to TV programs.
- EU regulation has ensured that the UN CRPD is implemented appropriately through the AVMS Directive.
Technology is not a savior, but an enabler and its development must keep a human-centered focus that is inclusive to ensure accessibility for all.
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