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Cynthia Waddell

  ICT Accessibility & Government Services Blog


ITU and the Internet Governance Forum 2007

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In my first blog entry I mentioned a paper that ITU commissioned for their June, 2007, Seminar in Geneva on Sharing Best Practices and Services for Persons with Disabilities. If you would like a global snapshot of the situation on accessible ICT, best practices, major issues in developing and implementing successful policies and strategies, as well as a discussion on the potential role of the private sector, take a look at the paper. It is titled, "Meeting ICT Access and Service Needs for People with Disabilities: Major Issues for Development and Implementation of Successful Policies and Strategies" and is posted online.

This year the United Nations Internet Governance Forum was held in Rio de Janeiro and yours truly was invited to give several presentations. Wearing my hat as Vice-Chair of the Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter, I spoke at two sessions. On the first day of the conference I spoke at “The Intersection of Open Standards, Development and Public Policy” and discussed the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and how countries are impacted by the accessible ICT mandates of the new treaty. I then called for all the IGF Dynamic Coalitions to mainstream the disability perspective in their platforms.

In the second presentation organized by the International Telecommunication Union, I discussed accessible web design and legislative efforts in Argentina for accessible web at “Making Accessibility a Reality in Emerging Technologies and the Web.” The presentation also addressed technology convergence and included a live demonstration of remote captioning of the workshop. The workshop was audio streamed with a writer in the United States posting the captioning of the words being spoken at the workshop on a website. Through the generous funding by the government of Japan, Caption First ( provided the services so that we could read what was being spoken. My colleague from Argentina, Jorge Plano, also presented on accessible web design.

The Internet Governance Forum addressed connectivity under the theme of "Access" and accessibility under the "Diversity" theme. Elon University was at IGF and produced a short video on the Diversity theme.

Anyone watching me during the IGF plenary probably wondered what I was doing. I discovered that the translation device had hard-wired the headphones so there was no jack for me to plug in my neckloop. No, this is not a piece of jewelry, but my neckloop is actually an antennae that enables me to send the audio directly to my hearing aids. Since I could not use the neckloop, I could not use the listening device. I was in the plenary room, but could not hear! But wait - I discovered that the plenary was being videocast and that I had wireless access to the Internet! I plugged in my neckloop into my laptop, went to the videocast and voila! Houston, I hear you loud and clear . . . . Now all I had to do was activate Skype and talk to my colleague in the UK about the plenary speeches . . . So, if you were sitting next to me at the IGF plenaries, you would have seen me not wearing the headphones to hear the English translation, but listening to the speeches as they were being translated into English via the videocast AND you would have seen my Skyping away. Text chatting with my colleague via Skype enabled her to both read my text and hear the plenary speeches. All in a day's work!

If you are still reading this blog you must wonder what's next. On Friday I leave for Belgrade, Serbia, to assist in an accessible ICT effort there and to give several keynotes. I'll also be meeting with the cabinet ministries to discuss the challenges for outreach, education and training for accessible ICT implementation. Anyone have an extra suitcase I can use? My sweaters take up too much room. I know, Rio in the summer and now Belgrade in the winter. Who would have thought that accessible ICT included a culture and climate education?