2004 Conference Proceedings

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DEVELOPMENTS IN GLOBAL ACCESSIBLE ICT POLICY AND LAW

Presenters

Cynthia D. Waddell, Juris Doctor
Executive Director
International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI)
1677 Fairwood Avenue, Suite 200
San Jose, California 95125-4939 USA
Phone: 408-266-3822
Fax: 408-266-4566
Email: Cynthia.Waddell@icdri.org

Brian Hardy
Manager Information Services Development,
National Information and Library Service
Consultant, IT-Test Consortium
454 Glenferrie Road
Kooyong, Victoria, 3144
AUSTRALIA
Phone: +61-3-9864-9525
Fax: +61-3-9864-9650
Email: brian.hardy@nils.org.au

Abstract
This presentation provides an update on accessible Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) policy and law being developed and adopted by
United Nations and other multi-national bodies and countries around the world. These developments will be compared with the approaches being implemented by Federal and state governments in the USA.

Introduction
This presentation addresses the global drive for international law and policy addressing accessible ICT design. Over half-a-billion people in the world have one or more disabilities. This means that 10% of the world's population could be excluded from the information society if the accessibility of information and communications technology is not addressed. The global community has recognized this issue and action is underway in many countries and in major multi-government international institutions to ensure that every person can participate in the information society. The explosive growth of electronic commerce and on-line services has made it obvious to people with disabilities - or anyone without the latest state of the art technology - that barriers in design of technology, software, web services, and multimedia can have significant detrimental effects.

United Nations
Rule 5 of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993, annex) considers "accessibility" with reference both to the physical environment and to information and communications services. Although the Standard Rules were drafted before the recent and significant expansion in information technologies and communications networks in countries, rule 5 provides useful guidance for policy design and advocacy.

In its resolution 52/82, of 12 December 1997, the General Assembly Accessibility identified as a priority in furthering equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. The experience suggests that a focus on accessibility is an effective approach to reversing exclusion and enhancing equalization of opportunities in a positive and sustainable way. The complexity of the issue requires that the concept of access must be addressed in a systematic way if it is to add value to policy processes.

The United Nations first published a special report on 'People with Disabilities, Accessibility on the Internet' in June 1998 (http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/)

In the last year there has been substantial activity through UN forums and groups around the world in promoting accessible ICT. For example:

* The Interregional Seminar and Regional Demonstration Workshop on Accessible
ICT and Persons with Disabilities prepared guidelines for ICT accessibility that
focussed on the issues facing developing economies (The Manila Declaration
http://www.worldenable.net/manila2003)

* United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific,
Committee on Emerging Social Issues proposed that by 2005 Governments should adopt ICT accessibility guidelines for persons with disabilities in their national ICT policies and that persons with disabilities should have at least the same rate of access to the Internet and related services as other citizens in a country (http://www.unescap.org/esid/meetings/papers/CESI2-4b-Disabilities.pdf)

European Union
The European Union has a relatively long history in the area of disability issues.

From 1991-1994 the Commission oversaw the TIDE project (Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly People) and in July 1996 the Commission presented a Communication on 'Equality of opportunity for people with disabilities: a new European Community strategy'. December 1966 brought a Council Resolution on equality of opportunity for people with disabilities and the EU Amsterdam treaty of October 1977 provided the power for the EU to tackle discrimination based on disability.

In December 1999 the Commission launched an eEurope initiative. In response to a request from the Council in March 2000, an eEurope Action Plan 2002 was issued in June 2000. This plan identified 10 main issues, including e-accessibility, to be tackled by 2002. The Action Plan e-accessibility priorities were:
* Policies to avoid 'information exclusion';
* Guidelines for public websites by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI);
* Publication of 'Design for all' standards;
* Review of relevant legislation and standards; and
* Establishing "Design for all" national centres of excellence.

These accessibility priorities have been reiterated in the eEurope Action Plan 2005.

In line with the eEurope Action Plan, a European network of Centres of Excellence/National Contact Centres was launched in April 2002. The European ICT Standards groups (CEN and ETSI) have been working the development of universal design standards for ICT products and services. (Guidelines for ICT Products and Services: Design for All. ETSI EG 202 116, 2002). In April 2003, the EuroAccessibility Consortium was launched in Paris to foster European co-operation toward a harmonised methodology for evaluating the accessibility of Web sites.

Individual Countries
Around the world many individual countries and sub-national regional jurisdictions are developing there own accessibility guidelines, laws and standards. Generally these are derived from principals of universal design and each set borrows heavily from previous work. Here appears to be little "reinventing the wheel", but much adaptation to particular institutional and legal environments.

In some cases prescriptive rules are developed that compel compliance in particular sectors. In other cases exhortative guidelines are used to encourage better design. In some jurisdictions the general provisions of anti-discrimination laws can be applied effectively to accessibility issues for ICT products and services.

Discussion of Impact
These developments in ICT accessibility laws and guidelines have been underway for more than 10 years. (For example, the Nordic Guidelines for Computer Accessibility were first published in 1993). This provides an opportunity to review the practical impact these laws and policies have had on the availability of access CT products and services.

This presentation will discuss the impact of various approaches in different jurisdictions and draw some general conclusions about the factors that seem to enable some approaches to have more practical impact.

The discussion will include the impact of US Section 508 laws, US State laws, the Australian Disability Discrimination Act and initiatives in Europe and elsewhere.

References
Constructing Accessible Web Sites at:
http://www.icdri.org/constructing_accessible_web_site.htm and http://www.icdri.org.

Databases of International ICT accessibility laws and guidelines
http://www.it-test.org/guidelines
http://www.icdri.org/Global Legal Resources/global_legal_resources.htm

Policies Relating to Web Accessibility
http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/

Overview of US Accessibility Laws, Policies and Standards
http://www.icdri.org/legal/us_legal_resources.htm
http://www.ittatc.org/laws/stateLawAtGlance.cfm


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