Saturday, December 22, 2018

Accessible Americas V: Five years of promoting mobile accessibility

A short report from ITU’s 5th Accessible Americas event

At the end of November 2018, Jamaica hosted the ITU’s 5th Accessible Americas event, which every year brings together government representatives of Latin American countries, telecom providers, manufacturers of wireless devices, innovators in ICT, researchers, representatives of the disability community, older users and a wide variety of stakeholders in accessibility.

The event addresses challenges and opportunities related to the accessibility of mobile phones and services, television and websites, public access and public procurement as well as innovation in ICT accessibility and broadcasting. It also serves to create awareness among Latin American governments about effective measures they can take in ICT accessibility that can help ensure an inclusive society in which all citizens have full access to products and services.

Indeed, a survey run in the months before the conference in 14 countries of the region showed that the countries of the Americas region are at different stages in regards to promoting accessibility on national level. Several countries are in the phase of discussing the introduction of national regulations on accessibility of ICTs and inclusion of persons with disabilities. Some countries already have such regulations in place and focus now on awareness raising and capacity building. A third group of countries is in the phase of creating accessible services and infrastructure adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, and the most advanced countries try to mainstream accessibility through inter-sectorial collaborations among difference sectors of government and society.

Since the event in Jamaica was the 5th Accessible Americas event, it also provided the opportunity to take stock on how much progress there has been over the past 5 years. One remarkable difference is how organizations of persons with disabilities have been involved into the event, the trend going clearly towards more interaction between representatives of governments and regulars on one hand and representatives of civil society and the disability community on the other hand. This has evolved to a full-day training session as a pre-conference workshop on how countries deal with accessibility on a national level and on what can be done better.

Building on this positive development and recognizing the key role of ICTs in creating an inclusive digital society, the ITU opened the Accessible Americas to other groups with specific needs such as women and girls, youth, the elderly and indigenous people, facilitating open discussions on how to empower all groups of persons with specific needs.

The event was also preceded by a Regional Competition for Latin America and the Caribbean “Mobile Applications for Accessibility” in partnership with SAMSUNG Brazil and SIDI. The 2018 winners are Shawn Melville from Trinidad & Tobago with the MobiAssist app for persons with visual impairment, enabling them to navigate independently by providing the user with real time feedback about their environment through the use of wearable electronics that pairs with an application on their cellular phone; and João Marcos Barguil from Brasil with the Guia de Rodas, the largest mobile guide for accessible places offering over 150k reviews in more than 60 countries.


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