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UNIC Moscow: The Russian Translation of G3ict-CIS White Paper "Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective"
On Thursday, 16 December, the UNIC Moscow, jointly with the Resident-Coordinator’s Office in Russia, held at the World Bank Moscow Office a presentation of the Russian translation of the survey Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective - a “White Paper” - produced by the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) in collaboration in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).
The advocacy event, intended mainly for local decision-makers, experts and civil society groups, was organized in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and dedicated to access by persons with special needs to the Internet and the available international experience in this area.
Our objective was to introduce participants to some of the workable solutions and best practices which have been adopted by countries around the world for the sake of policy formulation, legislation, and specific directives assisting in building more inclusive societies. Those examples, reflecting different national environments in countries rating from Australia to India to the United States, would be very relevant, we believed, in current Russian circumstances.
In his opening comments, the host, Mr. Pedro Alba, World Bank Country Director for Russia, said that it was highly important to ensure the web accessibility to everybody without any restrictions. In his view, ICTs are a powerful tool for achieving the goals of sustainable development for all.
Mr. Daniel Novichkov, expert in the web accessibility and the translator of the Report into Russian, focused on the responsibility of developers of the web-content. He also stressed the importance of using the term “universal access” in the context of web accessibility. Mr. Novichkov draw attention to the report's recommendations , in particular, the idea to establish a national-level committee or board to review and monitor the implementation of chosen policies, to ensure compliance with guidelines as well as to review changes to the legislation and practices. In our expert’s view, the use of such surveys may be quite effective in measuring the progress made towards fuller accessibility at the national level. Finally, he said that in a near future it would also be necessary to have a trustworthy complaints mechanism in Russia.
Mr. Alexei Liubimov, research associate at the Institute of Correctional Pedagogy of the Russian Academy of Education, presented what he called a “review of the web accessibility policies in the Russian Federation through the eyes of a visually impaired user”. He described main features of the current federal legislation related to this issue and spelled out availability requirements for visually disabled people. The expert also stressed the importance of developing a modern legislative framework and the Internet access standards for all people with special needs without exception, not just for selected groups of them.
Ms. Tatiana Ershova, Director of the Institute of the Information Society, made some suggestions as to how Russia could maximize the benefit from e-accessibility for creating a knowledge-based society. She was of the opinion that, instead of focusing on disability issues, one should rather pay close attention to the problems of the overall environment, where disabled people are hardly considered as equal citizens. The necessary changes in the environment should concentrate in three main fields: infrastructure, legal framework and morals, she pointed out.
Mr. Andrei Untila, Programme Officer of the ITU Area Office in Moscow, commented on his Agency's projects for the CIS countries aimed at addressing the digital divide. In particular, he spoke about holding a series of regional seminars, designed to promote access to ICTs for persons with disabilities.
Ms.Julia Sarviro, Manager of social projects, Microsoft Russia, said that the company fully adhered to a policy where ensuring the availability of software programs is a task of the manufacturer. She also reminded the audience of the recent launch in Russia of a new Microsoft portal on accessibility.
Ms. Janina Urusova, Deputy Director of the Marketkompas Company, noted her firm’s intention to head in the direction of social partnership in the field of ICT accessibility. She highlighted the task of bringing together representatives of various groups, including disabled people, government agencies and international organizations. The main purpose of such a collaborative mechanism would be to ensure adequate communication both with authorities and the expert community.
Mr. Alexander Lysenko, Chairman of the advisory board of a foundation working to facilitate the implementation of the Disability Convention, concentrated his remarks on the need to develop a strategy of the “universal design” in Russia.
Mr. Vadim Makeev, web-designer, Opera Software Company, admitted that there were practically no training programs for web designers in the Russian system of education. He, however, shared good news with the audience: the Russian professional community of web-developers has recently devised a special set of “Web standards”, which is available on the RuNet.
Mr. Anatoly Popko, a leading expert of the All-Russian Association of the Blind, noted that in Russia, there is no structure empowered to give an opinion about the level of accessibility of a website. He called on the audience to comprehensively consider the available external experience. As a prime source of international accessibility regulations, he added, local experts should consider achievements of Web-Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
All in all, it was a very substantive discussion. The event was attended by 50 persons – leaders of disability NGOs, experts in web accessibility and usability, industry representatives, specialists in legal and information issues, researchers. High quality speakers, knowledgeable partners who brought to the table a diversity of expertise – these factors combined to make our advocacy event a meaningful exercise.