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ITU’s suite of accessible publications for people with disabilities is now more readily than ever — available on a dedicated online portal. With over 60 titles available, and many translated into different languages, this is one of many ways ITU is working to advance digital inclusion.
In addition to global initiatives including the ITU Accessibility Fund, which supports information communication technology (ICT) accessibility policy advice, basic training in accessibility awareness, among other projects, it is another way that ITU is prioritizing accessible ICTs.
As one of the donors to ITU’s Accessibility Fund, Rwanda is working with ITU to ensure an accessible future for all.
“Based on this principle of conviction and in response to the call of the Secretary General of the ITU, Rwanda committed to regularly contribute to the ITU Accessibility Fund so that global actions could be carried out for a systematic inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Ministry of Information Technology, Rwanda.
“ICTs… improve the quality of life of people with disabilities by providing access to information and knowledge, new jobs and opportunities for socialization” –Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Ministry of Information Technology, Rwanda.
Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, ITU is announcing that it has streamlined its publications in accessible formats to make them more easily available for persons with visual impairment.
Making publications accessible for individuals with visual impairment
Traditionally printed, ITU’s publications moved online almost 15 years ago to our e-library. The decision to make content accessible to persons with visual impairment followed the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, when ITU Member States approved Resolution 175, which mandates “telecommunication/information and communication technology accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with specific needs.”
Following through with the mandate, ITU consulted with a number of organizations, including G3ict, Microsoft and others, to develop a system enabling ITU to create publications that are in compliance with web and publishing accessibility standards while allowing editors to easily modify and edit content. Since the launch of the project, around 60 English-language publications have been made visually accessible.
Compatibility with mobile systems has been an integral component of making ITU’s content accessible.
Furthermore, 20 accessible publications were translated into the 6 official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) – a significant challenge considering the variety in standards and guidelines across language and geography.
What makes a publication accessible?
ITU adhered to many important elements for making publications accessible for persons with visual impairment including:
- Machine-readability – Fonts that allow characters to be extracted to text and a security system that will not interfere with Assistive Technology allow for the smooth conversion of text-to-speech or Braille through screen readers.
- Text/color contrast – By using color combinations that provide sufficient contrast and by including customization options, readers can adjust font size, light sensitivity, and other options in accordance with their needs and preferences.
- Navigational aids – Interactive hyperlinks, bookmarks and other navigational aids are crucial in facilitating use of the publication by the end-user without having to read through the entire text.
- Alternative text descriptions for non-text elements – Non-text elements like images and interactive form fields need alternative text descriptions to be read by a screen reader user.
- Structure – Document structure is crucial for screen readers, and content needs to be structured in a logical manner in accordance with reading order. Another key element is ensuring that content is separated from the final presentation to ensure operability across different devices and systems.
Mobile compatibility is key
Mobile phone technology that combines audio, text and voice has been an indispensable enabler for persons with disabilities, and has rendered possible the accessibility of material previously difficult or impossible to access.
This is why compatibility with mobile systems has been is an integral component of making content accessible. ITU publications are machine-readable, platform-independent and accessible on both iOS and Android systems.
The move ties in with ITU’s other accessibility-oriented initiatives, such as the joint ITU-G3ict Model ICT Accessibility Policy Report and ‘Internet for @ll,’ the recently-developed ITU National Capacity Building Program on Web Accessibility, which includes training on both Accessible Digital Content and Remediation and Designing and Developing Accessible Websites.
The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework to which ITU has contributed, along with other organizations including G3ict, also pushes to ensure that ICTs are part of “a disability-inclusive development agenda.”
“Persons with disabilities are like everyone else. [ICTs] are central to their lives – from education to work to social activities, political rights, personal safety, travel, e-commerce, health services and many more.” — Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of G3ict.
“The downside of ICTs,” says Leblois, “is that when they are not designed following accessibility standards and guidelines, individuals with physical, sensorial or cognitive impairments are ‘disabled’ by the technology and excluded from essential services otherwise available to all citizens.”
By Pamela Dahlia Lian, ITU News
© Photo by Artyom Geodakyan TASS via Getty Images
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