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ICTA 2009 - The Second International Conference on Information and Communication Technology & Accessibility 

  • Hammamet, Tunisia
  • May 7-9, 2009

Conference Report

BASMA Association for the employment of persons with disabilities receives the G3ict "Enabling Technology Excellence Award"

University of Tunis UTIC Research Unit: Programs discussed at ICTA 2009

  • Advanced solution for text messaging to Arabic sign language avatar for mobile phones
  • League of Arab States sets up implementation and monitoring processes for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Web platform to harmonize Arabic Sign Language
The second International Conference on Information and Communications Technologies and Accessibility took place in Hammamet May 7-9. More than 400+ participants from over 40 countries shared a very rich program covering all aspects of digital accessibility. 

ICTA organized a special event for G3ict to present for the first time the “e-Accessibility Toolkit for Policy Makers which it is currently developing with the International Telecommunication Union.  During the inaugural panel chaired by Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Donal Rice, Toolkit Editor, presented the different sections and functionalities of the Toolkit, Axel Leblois, Executive Director of G3ict gave an overview of the e-Accessibility dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Susan Schorr, Head of the Special Projects Unit of ITU-D, presented the objectives of the Toolkit.   A second panel representing G3ict’s stakeholders and chaired by Kevin Carey, Chair elect of the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) included Richard Scherdtfeger, Distinguished Engineer at IBM responsible for Accessibility Strategy for Emerging Technologies and Nasser Ketani, Director of Strategic Relations Middle East and Africa for Microsoft.   The panel gave a strong endorsement to the Toolkit as an important tool to foster harmonization and the sharing of good practices among decision makers involved in e-Accessibility.

ICTA 09 provided a unique forum for all research related to ICT and e-accessibility. Panles and a number of breakout sessions addressed new trends and challenges, emerging technologies and progress in standards relevant to today's fast moving areas of Information and Communication Technologies.

One area of considerable interest to participants was accessible e-learning with a goal to provide instruction and education to all kind of learners independently of their different places, different cultures or of different abilities. W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines were reviewed: they help ensure that Web resources can be accessed by people with disabilities.

ICTA 2009 covered state-of-the-art technologies, theoretical concepts, standards, product implementations, ongoing research projects and innovative applications of e-learning and e-accessibility. The conference discussed how e-learning can deploy practical usability techniques in interface design, contents, tools and e-learning environments to make e-learning accessible for everyone, including people with visual, motor, cognitive or hearing impairments.
ICTA 2009 Web site: http://www.icta.rnu.tn

BASMA Association for the employment of persons with disabilities receives the G3ict "Enabling Technology Excellence Award"

The Basma Association is designed to complement the Tunisian State’s action in the field of vocational integration of the disabled persons, particularly by contributing by enhancing their employability, and helping them find jobs in the public and private sectors, or launch self-employment projects.  BASMA endeavors to foster in the disabled persons a sense of initiative and self-reliance to counter the spirit of dependency, and to achieve socio-economic integration.

The Association contributes to the training and employment of disabled persons, and helps them to market their products and attend various commercial shows and events.  It also organizes training sessions for a number of applicants in order to facilitate their professional integration. Those include computer training such as:
•    The use of screen reader for blind persons
•    The organization of training sessions in Computer Science & Multimedia for a number of university graduates allowing their integration as trainees in both the public and private sectors.
•    The creation of the “Basma” computer center for the unsighted and the partially sighted, offering  2 months training sessions. 
•    Training sessions are also organized for applicants with different types of disabilities at BASMA's e-services unit located in Ariana.
•    Finally, BASMA created 3 unique initiatives serving persons with disabilities and leveraging information technology in an innovative way:
Tele-servicing unit (e-services)
This unit allows the on-line access through computer applications and hardware adapted to the different disabilities.  It allows persons with disabilities to have access to:
•    Administrative forms,
•    Social services (services offered by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad),
•    Other remote services such as: the follow up of filings submitted  by persons with disabilities applying for work, training, education, health, social security, fiscal policy, etc…
•    Internet access.

Call center

The BASMA Call Center was launched on 15 November 2005.  It offers remote telephone services for the benefit of enterprises and of the public. Collaborations were launched with « Tunisie Télécom » and « La Poste Tunisienne » for the reception and handling of customer phone calls. The Basma Call Center is composed of 20 positions and employs 40 tele-operators.  80% are persons with disabilities.


E-tasswik is an electronic shopping center for e-marketing handmade items produced by disabled handicraft persons.  This e-commerce web site helps disabled persons to sell, promote, and distribute the products they have manufactured through the Net.  http://www.tasswik.tn

University of Tunis UTIC Research Unit: Programs discussed at ICTA 2009

  • Advanced solution for text messaging to Arabic sign language avatar for mobile phones
  • League of Arab States sets up implementation and monitoring processes for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Web platform to harmonize Arabic Sign Language

The University of Tunis UTIC Research Unit is developing several programs which were discussed during ICTA 2009 including the text to avatar application in Arabic sign language for deaf persons, a platform to allow experts from around the Arab world to cooperate on-line to augment the Arabic sign language dictionary and advanced e-learning user interfaces for deaf users.  Among the topics covered by the proceedings of ICTA 2009:

•    E-learning and accessibility
•    E-learning tools and environments for disabled users
•    Accessibility guidelines for distance education instructional delivery
•    Improving computer access for disabled users
•    Human Computer Interfaces for disabled persons
•    Accessibility guidelines
•    Web accessibility
•    Innovative e-learning applications
•    Adaptive e-learning
•    Accessibility standards.
•    End user tools for accessibility
•    Assistive technology
•    Technology design for people with multiple impairments
•    Accessibility and usability
•    Software engineering for accessibility
•    Educational software for the children
•    Improving computer access for elderly users.
•    Human Computer Interfaces for elderly people with impairment.
•    Design for All
•    Biomodeling and Human Computer Interaction

Research Laboratory of Technologies of Information and Communication (UTIC)
Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de Tunis,
5, Av. Taha Hussein, B.P. 56, Bab Mnara 1008, Tunis, Tunisia
Phone : +216 496 066 Fax: +216 71 319 166.
E-mail: mohamed.jemni@fst.rnu.tn

Advanced solution for text messaging to Arabic sign language avatar for mobile phones

Whereas text messaging has worked very well for deaf persons to enhance their communications via mobile phones, it obviously does not work when deaf persons are illiterate. 

The University of Tunis Research Unit UTIC has developed “websign” a solution to convert text messages into Arabic sign language played by a programmed avatar.  The application resides on the server of the wireless service provider which allows the avatar to be played on low cost mobile phones.  The application uses the Arab sign language dictionary adopted by the Arab League.  The same programmed avatar based sign language user interface may be used in a number of other devices or system interfaces.

Websign proposes a user friendly interface designed to create easily the sign. The user can rotate every join by the use of 3 sliding rulers; each ruler scale represents the value of rotation of join around a specific axis using the Euler representation of angle.
The user can copy, paste, delete, add, or modify the movement. In addition the user can generate a symmetric rotation, or clone the movement of one hand to animate the other.  

Dr. Mohamed Jemni, who oversaw this development at UTIC showed to G3ict the live demonstration on two cell phones, one sending a text message, the other one  receiving it as a sequence of avatar animations translated by an application residing on the mobile phone operator.

League of Arab States sets up implementation and monitoring processes for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Council of Ministers of Social Affairs of the League of Arab States, has set up a process to oversee the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has formed a special commission on disability which, according to Dr. Raafat Ghoneame, Expert in information systems for the Economic Sector of the Arab League, serves as the focal point for all monitoring and promotional activities of the Convention. 

The Commission proposes decisions to the Council of Ministers which issues mandates to member states.   Its first step has been to issue a mandate to all members to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The Office for Disabilities, which reports to the Council of Ministers, currently conducts systematic gap analysis for each country.  The Commission on disability is now looking at specific areas of implementation.  Digital accessibility is an important component of this approach.   Dr. Rafaat Ghoneame will join the G3ict Research Committee.

Web platform to harmonize Arabic Sign Language

Among significant accomplishments, the Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs adopted an Arabic sign-language dictionary for the deaf. The dictionary, which has been adopted by all the Arab States and is used by Arab satellite television broadcasting stations, includes 1500 sign-language terms. The General Secretariat has organized numerous training sessions for sign-language interpreters working in this field.  This unified Arabic sign language continues to be augmented by a committee of experts.  A proposal is currently under consideration to use a web platform developed by the UTIC of the University of Tunis to allow this on-going work to be conducted over the Internet.

This standardized Arabic sign language is now used for automated text messaging to avatar translations over mobile phones for illiterate deaf persons in Tunisia (see report in this newsletter).

Arab countries have been very active in promoting the Convention and launched the Arab Decade of Disabled Persons in 2004 while participating actively to the Ad’Hoc Committee for the Convention.  http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/contrib-arab1.htm