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Axel Leblois

The Access Line

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Interview with Andrea Saks, Coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum DCAD and Convener of the joint coordination activity on accessibility and human factors, ITU

 Andrea Saks

Andrea Saks, Coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum DCAD and Convener of the joint coordination activity on accessibility and human factors, ITU

Axel Leblois (A.L.): The DCAD will meet for the second time in Sharm El Sheikh at the Internet Governance Forum.  What outcomes do you envision for this meeting?

Andrea Saks (A.S.): We envision the finalization of the Message on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities from the DCAD to be presented to the main session of Access and Diversity at this IGF meeting and to establish our work plan for the following year.  We also want to invite new members to join and to discuss the continuation of advising the administration which will host the next Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to ensure that the 5th meeting of the IGF is accessible to Persons with Disabilities.  Our editor, Gerry Ellis will be overseeing the editorial development of the message and I will be moderating the discussions from the floor.  We will have many speakers in the 3 hour super workshop on Global Internet Access for Persons with Disabilities, which precedes the DCAD meeting, and will add the outcome of that workshop to our DCAD report of the events of Sharm El Sheikh.

During the main session on Access on Diversity, there will be a demo of a screen reader by Gerry Ellis and a discussion of solutions by Shadi Abu Zahra of W3C-WAI, followed by a best practices workshop on web accessibility Best Practice Forum 540: Web Accessibility as well the presentation of the Message.

A.L.: How may the IGF influence policies or standards on accessibility?

A.S.: The IGF is a body of individuals from civil society and administrations, as well as representatives of many organizations such as standards bodies and NGOs from around the world.  The IGF, like any other organization, is learning to become more accessible with passage of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.  IGF had to be enlightened itself by members through the DCAD.  This process continues via the membership and is hopefully carried back to the participating countries.  IGF does not set any standards, but it is a forum for exchange of ideas to increase inter-operability, convergence for the web and ICT communications, in general, and now includes accessibility for Persons with Disabilities.  We have formed committees that help with information regarding existing standards for greater accessibility to the Internet and ICTs.

DCAD has evolved into a global think tank of advocates, including many disabled participants.  In DCAD we have participants from 5 continents and we meet virtually via conference calls in English every 6 weeks or so.  We “real time caption” those calls so that the deaf community and people whose first language isn’t English can participate.  The captioning can be accessed via the web.  All members of DCAD receive by email the caption file after the virtual meeting.  This is especially helpful for members who are not able to participate in the calls

It’s a nice informal group and everyone meets interesting colleagues.  It is exciting when some of us meet for the first time face-to-face in the IGF meeting.  We welcome new people who want to share best practices for inclusion for Persons with Disabilities.  We look forward to seeing you there.

A.L.: Would you have any examples of changes which the DCAD helped trigger? 

A.S.: After the Rio meeting, it was abundantly clear that the organizers were not aware of the needs of persons with disabilities.  Throughout the year, in our conference calls which were also real time captioned on the web, we created a declaration that was presented in Hyderabad stressing the need and the solutions for accessibility for PWDs.  Also, we produced a second report making IGF meetings accessible for PWDs.  This turns out to be useful generic set of guidelines for any meeting organizer seeking to have PWDs participate effectively.  There was a remarkable improvement in Hyderabad, but gaps remained.  The DCAD has worked with the administration in Egypt and had a good response and cooperation.  The venue is on a single floor, captioning is scheduled for a greater portion of the meeting; sponsorship, however, is still needed.

The ramifications of captioning are far reaching.  Captioning is done via many techniques on TV and in films but is often static, or pre-published.  Real time requires a human being and is labor intensive.  However, captions files can be kept and attached to meetings files, or used in conjunction with web cast archives for hard-of-hearing persons.  Also, captioning is useful for persons whose mother tongue is not the same as the speaker’s.  We found at the ITU that captioning files have proven useful for more than the originally intended audience.

A.L.: How do you envision the evolution of the DCAD?

A.S.: I envision two core functions: organizing speakers for various other workshops, since the DCAD does not organize workshops by itself.  The other function is facilitating individual contributions to DCAD declarations and documents.  I would like more people to join the Dynamic Coalition.  The IGF had a 5-year mandate, and the DCAD will evolve based upon the evolution of the IGF.  DCAD members could contribute to the Joint Committee on Accessibility of the ITU; so, one way or the other, the work will continue.  It’s a democratic group and I only facilitate its decision making to produce recommendations and documents.

A.L.: Where should people register?

A.S.: They should visit our web page on the ITU web site.  http://www.itu.int/themes/accessibility.  Individual communications or questions should go to Alexandra Gaspari at: Alexandra.Gaspari@itu.int.

Thank you!


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