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Cynthia Waddell

  ICT Accessibility & Government Services Blog


ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Mainstreaming ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, August 2009

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Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Forum addressed a range of critical policy and regulatory measures to promote accessible information and communication technologies (ICT) for persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Forum was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 25 through 27 August 2009 and was hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) of Thailand.  Approximately 140 participants were welcomed from 21 countries, including policy makers, regulators, operators, industry representatives, NGOs and organizations representing persons with disabilities.

Session at ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Forum

In my capacity as the ITU Senior Accessibility Expert, it was a privilege to provide several presentations on the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as technical training on the procurement of accessible ICT and accessible web design.  To my surprise, an attendee who teaches a class in accessible web design brought her copy of my book, Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance, and asked me to autograph it.  It was an honour to do so at a time when both the English and Japanese translations of the book have been so popular.  It certainly helps that my colleagues and co-authors are the best in the field!
 Web Accessibility book
Published by Apress 2006 ISBN: 1-59059-638-2

Published in Japanese 2007 ISBN: 978-4-8399-2220-7


The Forum was opened by Ranongruk Suwanchawee, Minister of MICT, who told the delegates that the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities is "a significant step for all of humanity, since its main purpose is to protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity."

Many resources were shared during the three day Forum, including the Joint ITU and G3ict online Toolkit for Policy Makers on e-Accessibility & Service Needs for Persons with Disabilities.  As one of the Editors and Authors of this Toolkit, I am encouraged that national regulators, policy makers and legislators have a helpful tool to support the digital accessibility agenda of the UN Convention.

During the Forum, CART was provided in English and a number of participants told me that the captioning made it easier to follow the speakers since English was not their native tongue.  Captioning was displayed on the Forum screen as well as on a website that laptop users could follow.  Here is a picture of the captioning underway as viewed on my laptop:
 Captioning at ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Forum
During the Forum, we learned that the Government of Thailand had ratified the UN Convention and is working to establish learning centers nationwide that include assistive technologies such as Braille printers and digital talking books for use by the visually impaired. We also learned about plans to use closed captioning for television programming and accessible telecommunication services for persons with hearing disabilities.

Dr. Eun-Ju Kim, Head of the ITU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, stated that the Forum demonstrated that the Asia-Pacific region is leading the ICT accessibility agenda of the UN Convention through multi-stakeholder partnership.  She said, "There is significant momentum in the region and a great level of awareness of the need to promote ICT accessibility. This Forum enabled countries in the region to not only provide a platform to all stakeholders but also share their innovative practices."

Everyone returned home with a greater appreciation of the efforts underway to address the mainstreaming of accessible ICT in the Asia-Pacific region.