UN TO FOCUS ON IMPROVING WEB ACCESS, TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ON 4 DECEMBER

30 November 2006
Note No. 6054

UN TO FOCUS ON IMPROVING WEB ACCESS, TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ON 4 DECEMBER

30 November 2006
Press Release
Note No. 6054
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Note to Correspondents

UN TO FOCUS ON IMPROVING WEB ACCESS, TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS

 

FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ON 4 DECEMBER

E-Accessibility Is Theme of International Day of Disabled Persons

The need for improved accessibility by persons with disabilities to the Internet and other information technologies will be the focus of the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December), which will be observed at Headquarters on 4 December.  Two events are planned for the Day:

-- Conference on e-accessibility -- 1:15 - 2:45 p.m., Conference Room 4; and

-- First Meeting of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Technologies -- 3:30 p.m., Conference Room 8.

In addition, a new report, “Global Audit of Web Accessibility”, commissioned by the United Nations and conducted by the British firm Nomensa, will be launched on Tuesday, 5 December at 11:00 a.m. in room S-226, by two of the report’s authors.

“Access to information and communication technologies creates opportunities for all people, perhaps none more so than persons with disabilities,” said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement issued for the International Day.  “As the development of the Internet and these technologies takes their needs more fully into account, the barriers of prejudice, infrastructure and inaccessible formats need no longer stand in the way of participation.”

The Internet, e-mail and cell phones played a vital role in allowing members of the international disability movement to communicate and coordinate their activities during the negotiations for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that countries agreed upon this summer, and which the General Assembly is expected to adopt in mid-December.  Because of the widespread use of new technologies in the course of forging the agreement, some observers have called the treaty the first “e-convention.”

But many persons with disabilities still encounter numerous obstacles on the Internet, particularly due to websites that do not provide options for persons who are blind, visually impaired, and those who cannot use a mouse to navigate the web.

The International Day will be marked at Headquarters on 4 December with a panel discussion on e-accessibility taking place from 1:15 to 2:45 in Conference room 4.  Speakers will address e-accessibility from a variety of perspectives:

-- What does the user experience if websites are not accessible?  Dr. Betsy A. Zaborowski, Executive Director, Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind;

-- How many websites are accessible?  Simon Norris and Leonie Watson, two of the authors of the Nomensa report on global accessibility;

-- Why should businesses care?  Preety Kumar, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Deque Systems;

-- Setting the standards for web accessibility.  Judy Brewer, of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which sets the standards for web accessibility; and

-- Achieving web accessibility.  Frances West, Director, World Wide Human Ability and Accessibility Center, IBM.

Dr. Harold Snider, World Blind Union, will moderate.

Following the panel discussion, the first meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Technologies will take place at 3:30 p.m. in Conference room 8.  The meeting will launch an effort to standardize technology for persons with disabilities to dramatically lower production costs.  A similar initiative to harmonize standards for microchips brought down the cost from $45 to $3.  The Global Initiative is led by the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development and the Digital Inclusion Forum, a Division of the Boston-based Wireless Internet Institute, in partnership with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The Nomensa report to be launched on 5 December looks at 100 major websites in 20 countries to see whether they meet international guidelines for e-accessibility.  The report sought to determine whether websites met de facto international standards on web accessibility.  The websites were chosen because they are likely to be accessed by persons with disabilities as part of their daily activities, and include leading newspapers, banks and retail outlets.

For information, please visit www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable or contact, at the Department of Public Information, Edoardo Bellando, tel.:  212.963.8275, e-mail:  bellando@un.org; or Daniel Shepard, tel.:  212.963.9495, e-mail:  shepard@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.