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Name : KOFMEL, Erich
Date : February 15, 2016
Organization : Autistic Minority International
Country : Switzerland
Job Title : President

Contribution : Oral statement made during the Physical Open Consultations at ITU in Geneva on 15 February 2016: "Hi, my name is Erich Kofmel. I am the President of Autistic Minority International, an NGO run by and for autistic persons. Since autism has been mentioned in a number of written submissions, we would like to stress that the accessibility needs of autistic persons should not be generalized. Autism is a spectrum condition and our needs are different from individual to individual, depending on where on the autism spectrum we are. Some of us are so-called computer geeks or nerds, who may be web developers themselves, while others have an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment. In the development of Internet access policies, it is important to involve autistic adults themselves, not just the parents of autistic children. For some of us, the first hurdle in accessing the Internet is to access the necessary hardware and software and services. The vast amount of information and specific details can be overwhelming. Sales staff should be trained in dealing with autistic persons, and be given sufficient time to explain to us at our own speed, or alternatively electronics stores that specialize in selling to persons with disabilities should be subsidized. A possibility is also to attach such specialized access providers and stores to existing support and service centres for persons with disabilities, for example those that already advise on assistive technology products. Commercial materials and packaging should be easily understandable. Particularly for those autistic persons who do not speak it is important that customer service hotlines of producers and providers should be accessible by text, not just by phone. Browser plug-ins should be made more accessible and the development of specific plug-ins, add-ons and extensions aimed at making the user experience more accessible should be encouraged. Government portals and websites need to become fully accessible, to encourage the private sector to become more compliant with accessibility legislation and guidelines as well. Governments should liaise with business sectors, such as big industry, to get them to develop and adhere to common standards for website accessibility. In EU countries, these standards would be over and above the Internet accessibility requirements resulting from any final text approved with regard to the European Accessibility Act. Again, all of this should be done in close cooperation with organizations of persons with disabilities, including organizations run by and for autistic persons. Thank you."