G3ict is the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs

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Axel Leblois

The Access Line


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10/06/2009

Interview with Co-Chairs of Georgia (U.S.A.) Alliance for Accessible Technologies (GAAT)


Below is a brief interview with the Co-Chairs of the GAAT Initiative, Bill Curtis-Davidson and Arthur R. Murphy.

Bill Curtis-DavidsonBill Curtis-Davidson is a Business Development Executive in the IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center (http://www.ibm.com/able/), a corporate function in IBM Research, where he is responsible for integrating IBM accessibility services and technologies into mainstream IBM solutions. Mr. Curtis-Davidson leverages over 11 years of accessibility experience including work in teaching and education (research scientist at Georgia Tech), private industry (The Coca-Cola Company, IBM), and government (an alternate member of the committee that drafted the U.S. Section 508 Standards, sponsored research for local, state and federal governments).

 Arthur MurphyArthur R. Murphy teaches part-time in Georgia Tech’s HCI Master’s Degree Program and owns a consultancy, Aeolian Solutions (http://aeoliansolutions.com/), that assists clients in accessibility evaluation and user interface design. Mr. Murphy has over 25 years of experience in accessibility, including in teaching and education (research scientist at Georgia Tech), private industry (SunTrust, IBM), and government (a member of the committee that drafted the U.S. Section 508 Standards and a peer review panelist for the National Science Foundation’s SBIR grant program to fund innovative technology to assist people with disabilities).

Axel Leblois (A.L.): You are co-chairs of GAAT, a Georgia based grassroots initiative promoting accessible and assistive technology applications with an initial focus on Travel and Tourism.  Can you tell us more about its participants and objectives?

We would be delighted to.  First of all, we would like to say that, as residents of Atlanta who have had the opportunity to work in support of people with disabilities in academia, government and private industry, we are pleased that Atlanta is home to G3ict, a vital outreach component of the United Nations.  

We are excited to serve as Co-Chairs of the GAAT Initiative, an exemplary local project in support of G3ict’s international outreach program. GAAT was started in late 2008, and in the months since, it has become apparent that Atlanta and Georgia are home to a unique blend of motivated organizations with expertise and interest in accessible tourism and transportation: the busiest airport in the United States, the largest air line in the world, major museums, public transportation systems, a leading Convention business, several global hospitality industry leaders, leading academic programs on accessibility, information technology companies, research centers and health and rehabilitation related institutions.   

The objectives of GAAT aim to harness this innovation by:
1.    Providing a forum for public and private sector Georgia-based organizations who are interested in or pursuing accessible ICT research and development in six innovation theme areas: (1) Culture & Human Rights; (2) Education; (3) Employment; (4) Healthcare & Rehabilitation; (5) Technology; and (6) Transportation & Tourism.
2.    Pursuing formal, innovative public-private sector collaboration projects in accessible information and communication technologies (ICT) research, development and implementation.
3.    Helping enhance Georgia’s economic and cultural vitality through academic research, I/T innovation, healthcare and rehabilitation, civil and human rights, and other areas important to the State.
4.    Exploring the potential for Georgia to serve as a global hub for accessible ICT research, development and implementation.

Participants in the GAAT Initiative include a diverse blend of Georgia-based organizations:
•    Private sector companies (e.g. Delta Air Lines, Intercontinental Hotels Group, SunTrust Banks, Verizon, etc.)
•    Government organizations (e.g. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, City of Atlanta, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Department of Labor, Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, MARTA, etc.)
•    Universities and research centers (e.g. Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center, Emory, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, etc.)
•    Disability support and advocacy groups (e.g. Center for the Visually Impaired, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, Shepherd Center, etc.)
•    Technology companies and professional associations (e.g. Aeolian Solutions, Computer-Human Interaction-Atlanta, IBM, UserInsight, etc.)
•    Attractions and commerce (e.g. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Atlanta History Center and Museum, Center for Civil & Human Rights Partnership, Georgia Aquarium, Georgia World Congress Center Authority, High Museum of Art, New World of Coca-Cola Museum)

A.L.: Which areas of technology do you see as most promising for accessible and assistive ICT travel and tourism applications?

Travel, tourism and cultural activities are an essential part of people’s lives.  The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other accessibility laws require adopting states to take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities can access, on an equal basis with others, the physical environment, transportation, and ICT/information systems.

Many jurisdictions (e.g. Chicago/Illinois, European Community, South Africa, Québec, etc.) have implemented inclusive travel and tourism programs that not only provide access to disabilities travel resources (e.g. information about airport, hotel, attractions, tours accessibility, etc.) but also support travel services providers as they work to improve the accessibility of their physical spaces, ICT and services. Such programs are helping both the residents and visitors to the jurisdictions, and adding many economic benefits (e.g. increased tourism, conferences, etc.).

The areas of technology that we see as most promising include:
•    Propagation of accessible, inclusive travel and tourism websites or portals that offer consolidated information from a multitude of travel, transportation and tourism providers in a region
•    Mobile applications that help persons with a range of abilities freely navigate interior and exterior physical environments, get information about surrounding resources and points of interest
•    Accessible ICT to support access to exhibits, historic sites and other informal learning environment content
•    Social networking and social media that support sharing of resources among travel services providers, residents and visitors with disabilities, and their families

A.L.: You are organizing an Executive Forum this December. What is the purpose of this Forum, who will participate, and what outcome do you expect?

 
GAAT and the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) are jointly organizing, in collaboration with lead sponsor Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the 9th Annual GCDD Discovery Day in early December.  The purpose of this half-day Forum is to introduce the GAAT Initiative to the Georgia community, learn how accessible travel and tourism has provided positive economic and cultural impact in other jurisdictions (e.g. Chicago/Illinois).

The expected outcome is an increase in community support to form an NGO/non-profit organization to help Georgia become a destination of choice for persons with disabilities and a global center of excellence for accessible travel and tourism research, development and implementation.

We anticipate this important Forum will draw up to 120 participants from the media, state and local governments, the private sector (e.g., tourism/travel and IT industries), and civil society (e.g., NGOs representing Persons with Disabilities, research institutions and universities).

The agenda for the half-day Forum currently includes:

08:00 – 09:00    Continental Breakfast
09:00 – 09:30    Opening Remarks & Introductions from leading state/local government officials
09:30 – 09:45    GAAT Introduction & Progress Report
9:45 – 10:30      Keynote Speaker (from another jurisdiction)
10:45 – 11:15    Disabilities Advocacy Community Remarks
11:15 – 12:00    Return on Accessibility - Industry Perspectives
12:00 – 01:15    Lunch & Panel Discussion on the theme: Synergy in Georgia Inclusive Travel & Tourism Research, Public Support, and Economic Development
01:15 – 01:30    Closing Remarks and Call to Action from leading state/local government officials

It is our expectation is that the networking done during the past year, combined with the collaborations with the existing sources of research and development already underway, will enable Georgia to play a leading role on the world stage – to be a more vital contributor to the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life.

For more information about the 9th Annual GCDD Discovery Day, please contact Francesca Cesa Bianchi at: fcesabianchi@g3ict.org

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Related Items:

• Georgia Takes Lead in Travel/Tourism for the Disabled


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