The importance of extending ICTs to persons with disabilities and special need has become more critical than ever.
Within this context, Article 8B in the recently amended International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) calls on ITU Member States to promote access for persons with disabilities to international telecommunication services.
The first step in promoting access to persons with disabilities is to understand what kinds of features are required. Accessibility refers to users who live with some form of disability and giving them the means of gaining functional access to ICTs.
For example, if a user cannot see a typical screen, there must be a function provided for them to understand what is on it; If a user cannot hear the information being broadcast across myriad devices, a functional alternative must be provided to ensure that they receive that information; and if a user cannot input a command on a device, a mechanism must be provided for them to do so.
The ITU’s Development Sector (ITU-D) report entitled – Making TV Accessible describes the features that persons with different kinds of disabilities require to access TV; and the ITU-D report, Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible describes the features that persons with disabilities require in order to use mobile phones as well as the key services tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities provided on mobile phones, such as GPS services for the blind.
The next step to ensuring access to international telecommunication services by persons with disabilities is to identify the roles and actions to be taken by government and private sector stakeholders, such as the development of policies, regulations and industry codes of conduct.
Stakeholder roles and actions are explored in the two publications mentioned above as well as the ITU e-Accessibility toolkit and the work of ITU-D Study Group Question 20-1/1 in addition to a range of awareness-raising workshops ITU-D has held in all regions of the world.
Only by better understanding the needs of persons with disabilities can policy makers, regulators and ICT companies act to ensure that truly accessible ICTs are available and affordable for persons with disabilities.
I invite all ITU Members to make use of these resources to implement Article 8B of the ITRs.
From Principles to Practice
In order for greater levels of accessibility to ICTs for disabled and special need persons to be realized, there needs to be a movement from principles to practice.
Over-arching, structural principles should include the implementation of accessibility policies and business codes of conduct; the use of grants, tenders and public procurement to facilitate accessible ICTs; as well as the availability of universal access funds.
Palpable, on the ground practices to ensure greater levels of accessibility to disabled and special need persons would include; incubators to that focus on developing accessible apps; ICT accessibility training to create new jobs for youth, women and persons with disabilities and special need; and the training of teachers to use accessible ICTs in the classroom.
The ITU Development Bureau has been a driving force ensuring e-accessibility is made available to all.
By: Brahima Sanou
Mr. Brahima Sanou was elected Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau by the Plenipotentiary Conference, 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He took office on 1 January 2011.