Accessing to Internet offers an opportunity for inclusiveness, to view the global community of its users as one while recognising its rich diversity. Internet technologies have the potential to give persons with disabilities the means to live on a more equitable basis within the global community in a manner that previously was not possible.
Internet empowers persons with disabilities to become more independent and participating in everyday activities such as employment, education, civic responsibilities and social connection.
Regardless of the challenges they may face, persons with disabilities can contribute to society like any other member of the community when barriers are removed. Increasing accessibility to the Internet can help to make that happen. Governments, industry and other key stakeholders need to make accessibility a priority in their ongoing work, individually and collaboratively.
There is considerable discussion about the fact that the internet and other online services are new technologies that open up windows of opportunity for everyone to participate in the new information age, and that there are particular benefits and potentialities for persons with disabilities. This emphasis may reflect the broader goal of providing “'independent life”.
But there are also barriers and different challenges facing persons with disabilities in accessing the Internet.
The different challenges are facing persons with disabilities in accessing internet specifically in developing countries can be identified in:
- Lack of awareness and interest in accessing internet to persons with disabilities, specifically in rural areas in developing countries.
- Lack of necessary ICT accessibility tools and applications
- High cost for broadband connectivity and high cost of ICT accessibility and assistive equipment.
- Lack of on-going support and training on ICT accessibility. In addition limited of complementary Internet services, e.g. assistive technology, ICT accessibility tools software, limited of accessibility features at mainstream ICT training facilities.
- For Persons with disability the potential benefit to be gained from access to the internet is critically dependent on reliable high speed connectivity at affordable prices. For example for persons with hearing impairment and who needs to use high quality video conferencing services for communication, the internet connection needs to be reliable and capable of maintaining high quality real-time synchronised data speed.
- For Persons with a physical disabilities who needs to telework in order to maintain ongoing employment, affordable and reliable connectivity is a pre-requisite.
In this sense, the above identified barriers can be seen as bottlenecks in the path towards using and accessing internet.
Challenges and best practices
- Encourage web developers, they should be work to include accessibility in design of the apps with technology, e.g. VoiceOver, record use of audio description etc.
- Screen readers, enable users with disabilities to hear the contents of a web page rather than read them, a screen reader can only read text, not images or animations. Therefore, it is important that images and animations have text descriptions associated with them that the screen reader can read. This text is called alternative text, or “alt” text.
- A touch screen, allows an individual to navigate the web page using hands without the fine motor control required by the mouse.
- Smartphones and tablets industry can develop use of touch screen devices with audio output specifically for visual media, In these cases, it is very important that essential components of the page work without a mouse.
- Develop mobile web design, developing a web accessibility to achieve social, technical, financial, legal benefits of web.
- Look to successful professional accessibility software developers and ask them how they learnt and how can build of accessibility skills.
- An initiative, before begin, decide how can we build and will make a world of difference in the quality of resulting accessibility.
- How can remove the lack of conformance to W3C guidelines and the poor websites design, websites should be accessible and designed to comply with level AAA of the W3C, AAA success criteria defined in the Guidelines.
- Applying legislative process to adopting a web accessibility policy, websites entire online and resources, need to balance and clear accessible standards.
- Making website accessible is useful for all persons with disabilities and older so we need to be compatible with alternate input devices, Assistive technology and software and we should not forget the native languages.
- Build a group of qualified people and persons with disabilities within the online services company who can manage oversee accessibility projects, e.g. recently a new Chief Microsoft’s Accessibility Officer.
- Need to address the skills gap that currently prevents many persons with disabilities from using internet.
- There is a need to implement innovative approaches to training and preparing persons with disabilities for using ICT accessibility and accessing to internet.
- Efforts and cooperation to develop ICT skills programs to help persons with disabilities to develop their skills in using social media platforms. In fact there are few concrete programs that truly provide the opportunity for equal access to persons with disabilities.
- Identification and adoption of accessibility standards to determine which standards apply to organizations and adopting those standards across the organizations, also establishment of an approach to select tools and techniques to meet the needs and experience in the organizations.
Finally, there is a need to an initiative to expand accessing Internet to persons with disabilities includes, a principle, provisions to ensure not only affordability, but also accessibility and usability, for persons with disabilities through to increase participation, education and employment through deploying our efforts for achieving that specifically, in developing countries. We should look at the economic benefits of assimilating marginalized segments of society as a means of integration.
Author: Nabil Eid
ICT Accessibility & Telcentre Foundation, MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIST