2002 Conference Proceedings

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IT Accessibility: Japan's Challenge, Time to Harmonize

NAKAMURA, Hiroyuki
Institute for Communication Environment
ice@iceice.com

Background

In 1998, JISC (Japan Industrial Standards Committee) established a Special Committee for older persons and people with disabilities. This Committee carried the deliberation for about four months, and submitted "Proposal of the Ideal Method of Carrying out Standardization Policy for Older Persons and People with Disabilities" to the Minister of International Trade and Industry.

This proposal shows basic policy about "Fundamental Principle of the Needs of Older Persons and People with Disabilities" or "The Ideal Method of Carrying out Standardization of Older Persons and People with Disabilities". By this proposal, developments of the products for both individuals without limitations and people with disabilities, and activities related to the standardization have been started.

In 1999, JISC organized "Special Committee for Standardization Activities in the 21st Century". The Committee pointed out the necessity of standardizing the method of product design (universal design, accessible design) and standardizing the collecting and measuring method of human data such as visibility of older persons.

Before the suggestions of the policy, guidelines have been prepared for each technology field.

From 1974 to 1976, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI, currently changed to Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) entrusted "Investigation of Contribution Plan of Rehabilitation toward People with Disabilities" to Japan Electronic Industry Development Association (JEIDA, currently JEITA after unification with Electronic Industries Association Japan). It became the start of the long activities of the guideline preparation by MITI.

In 1988, MITI ordered JEIDA to do an investigation for providing against the super-Aging society to prepare "Electronic Products Accessibility Guideline" in order to promote the development of electronic industry, which was friendly to people with disabilities and older persons. This was realized as "Computer Accessibility Guidelines" in 1990.

In 1995, MITI did the revision based on the above guideline, and announced Notice No. 231 "Accessibility Guidelines for Use of Computers by People with Disabilities". In 2000, it was revised and announced.

In 1998, The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT, currently Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications) announced "Description of Accessibility Guidelines for Use of Telecommunication Equipment by People with Disabilities" in Notice No. 515. In the same year, "Telecommunication Access Conference" was established for preparing a guideline with the basis of this description, having an office in Communication Industrial Association of Japan. This Conference announced "Accessibility Guidelines for Use of Telecommunication Equipment by People with Disabilities (the first edition)" in 2000.

MITI and MPT are making two similar guidelines for computers and telecommunications equipment. This fact symbolizes the problems of the vertically divided bureaucracy. Along with the progress of the technology, distinction between information processing and telecommunications becomes vague. If the products are distributed in different standards (but still looks alike), consumers will get confused. People concerned should start the activities for harmonization of this matter.

Struggle for Collaboration

After taking into account both the needs of people with disabilities and older persons and the global trend of accessibility issues, INSTAC (Information Technology Research and Standardization Center) keeps maintaining the standardization activities. In July 2001, the new committee (see note 1) was established by the several organizations related to information and telecommunication accessibility issue to collaborate on the following.

1. A sector guideline of information and telecommunications field based on ISO/IEC Guide 71 for the domestic standard. As for the activities for making a sector guideline, it should be conducted by combining the methods of top-down and bottom-up, such as lining up the items from Guide 71 by top-down, and extracting the specific standards by bottom-up for each item from individual guidelines.
2. Sharing information among organizations related to this field.
3. Harmonization among guidelines that each information and telecommunication related industries makes. Harmonization among governmental organizations and harmonization among guidelines e.g. web accessibility guidelines in some countries. It is important to bring specialists in human science and social science field to participate in the harmonization activities because we see the language related issues in guidelines e.g. WCAG of WAI for instance.
4. The policy that makes people with disabilities and older persons participate in the standardization activities and the research and development. The government may need to prepare education programs, and corporations and academic communities should cooperate for that.

Discussion

First, we overview Japan's on-going struggle to standardize information technology accessibility guidelines and share the findings such as contradictions among guidelines, which may be found among international guidelines. Second, we discuss the harmonization of guidelines and standards. The more the Internet becomes global infrastructure of information and communication services, the language related issues in guidelines e.g. WCAG of WAI appears for instance.

Note
The committee members are from the following organization and society.
AEHA (Association for Electric Home Appliances)
CIAJ (Communications Industry Association of Japan)
JBMA (Japan Business Machine Makers Association)
JEITA (Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association) JES (Japan Ergonomics Society)
JISA (Japan Information Service Industry Association)
JPSA (Japan Personal Computer Software Association)
JSA (Japanese Standards Association)
TAC (Telecommunication Access Council)


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