This is now a legacy site and could be not up to date. Please move to the new IGF Website at https://www.intgovforum.org

You are here

IGF 2016 - Day 2 - Room 2 - WS 264: Public Policies to Increase Accessibility

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Jalisco, Mexico, from 5 to 9 December 2016. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

***

>> MONICA DUHEM: Good morning, everyone.  So we have three remote participants, so we'll just wait that we have everyone connected. 

Yes, come.  Three remote.  Yes. 

So does the remote can hear the -- the remote participants can hear as well? 

>> Yes. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Okay.  Yeah.  So, good morning, everyone.  We're just going to start because -- to give you time to be able to ask questions to this very high-profile -- these very high-profile panelists to discuss accessibility in ICTs and public policies.

I'm just going to present.  We have three panelists that are remote and three panelists are here with me.  I'm going to -- just briefly going to introduce them, and then I will give the floor to them so if they can just explain us the objectives of this workshop.

So to my right is Commissioner Labardini, Adriana Labardini.  She's a Mexican commissioner at the Mexican Institute of Telecommunications, a lawyer with a master's degree from Columbia University.  Her expertise lies on public policies and the rights of telecommunications for consumers and users.

As a commissioner, she advocates for disabled citizens as well as for the rights of ICT users.  Thank you for being here with us, Commissioner Labardini.

To my left I have Commissioner Clyburn.  She's serving a second term as commissioner at the FCC, in the Federal Communications Commission.  Prior to her service at the FCC, Commissioner Clyburn spent 11 years on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina, and prior she was publisher and general manager of the Coastal Times, a Charleston-based weekly newspaper.  Commissioner Clyburn is a longtime champion for consumers and defender of the public interest.  She is a strong advocate for enhanced accessibility in communication for disabled citizens as well.  Commissioner Clyburn, very nice to have you here.  Thank you for coming to Mexico.

Then to my left we have James Thurston.  He's vice president of G3ict, the global initiative for inclusive information and communication technologies, a digital inclusion and human rights advocacy organization.  Prior to his work at G3ict, James was director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft Corporation.  His deep knowledge of the global technology industry is key for pushing broader and deeper global implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Good morning.

Then remotely we have the pleasure of having Chandra Roy-Henriksen.  She's Chief of the Secretariat of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  The PFII is a U.N. coordination body for matters relating to the concerns of the rights of the world's indigenous people.  There are more than 370 million indigenous people in some 70 countries worldwide.  The mandate of the PFII is to discuss indigenous issues related to social development, culture, environment, education, health, and human rights.

We also have the pleasure of having with us Shadi Abou-Zahra.  He works with the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative as activity lead of the WAI International Program Office, which includes groups that are responsible for education and outreach, coordination with research, general discussion on web accessibility.  Prior to joining W3C, Shadi was a lead web developer and managed to design an implementation of web online, community platform, and online game.  Mr. Abou-Zahra also worked as a web consultant for the International Data Center of the United Nations Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty organization.

And finally, we also have the pleasure of having Donal Rice.  He's senior design advisor ICT for the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority of Ireland.  Donal has managed to develop a range of resources for ICT developers and design including the Universal Design Guidelines for Digital TV Equipment Services and Universal Design Guidance for Online Public Services.  He's involved in national, European, and international standards development.  Thank you very much for joining us remotely to this panel.

Before giving the floor to our important panelists, I would like to give the floor to IFT so he can explain the objectives of the workshop and some of the points we would like to discuss.  Victor. 

>> VICTOR MANUEL MARTINEZ VANEGAS: Thank you very much, Monica.  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you very much for being present at this workshop.  First, I would like to express our gratitude to speakers and moderator for your acceptance to participate in this workshop.

As many know, the Federal Telecommunications Institute was created by Mexican Constitution as an autonomous and independent regulatory body responsible for developing the sector and also the Institute is an authority for the sector.

Considering that the final document of the high-level meeting of the general assembly on the overall review of the implementation of the wishes, there is still significant divide such as between and within countries and between women and men, which need to be done among other actions, reinforced, and even policy environments and international cooperation to improve affordability, access, education, capacity building, cultural preservation, investment, and appropriate financing.

This workshop has some main objectives identifying the measures to increase the access to ICTs and reduce the digital divide existing towards women and girls, people with disabilities, and all groups as isolated communities and indigenous people, taking into account important elements of accessibility, inclusion, and affordability.

Thanks, again.  Thank you, Monica.  That's it.  Thank you. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much.  We still have plenty of place.  We don't bite, so you can join us at the table if you want.  Thank you very much.

So I would like to start and give our panelists around five to seven minutes to explain their views on what accessibility is from a policy point of view, so I will start with Commissioner Labardini, if you could give some words, please. 

>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Thank you, Monica.  Good morning, everyone.  I'm really thrilled to be here sharing the panel with Mignon Clyburn and with our remote panelists from all of which we have lots to learn.

This is a most important issue in the context of the information Society, which is meant to be inclusive and to have every single person have access to telecommunication, to Internet, to ICT, but not only that, to be in a society where there's really the conditions to live in the same -- have the same quality life for people with -- a person with disabilities that enables them to interact, to develop, to produce, to feel thoroughly communicated.

And so we have a big challenge.  The more services, platforms, features, content that we experience and the more of the economy is set up in a digital manner, the more we need to make sure that all this is also accessible for everyone in a very equitable manner, and in Mexico, upon the telecommunication reform, we, for the first time, have provisions on how exactly telecommunications services should be made available on an accessible way and also broadcasting services, and I feel -- we all feel at IFT that we've been very fortunate to have been accompanied by experts like Monica in this challenging process.  We had a number of consultations on how should we implement all this accessibility to websites, to services, to have -- and how our regulations could better serve this purpose so that devices are available, and this I recognize should have been put in place in Mexico decades ago, but it's only now that there's mandatory provisions requiring telephone carriers and broadcasters and paid TV services doing adjustments to all the way they offer services and the kind of devices that they should make available, and so we opened up public inquiries on how to regulate this.  We used the best standards.

We started by ourselves.  We launched a fully accessible website according -- we learned a lot from Monica, all the standards of the W3C.  We have AA -- accessibility standards in our website and have been giving training and making sure we are inclusive.  We have a program, we have a number of collaborators at IFT with some kind of disability but who are very important, their work is important to us.

But -- and then the second step was to pass these regulations so that services, websites are available for different kinds of -- of disabilities, and so just a few days back, around ten days back, the Board of Commissioners at IFT passed these guidelines on how telecom services should be made, and in another piece of regulation also broadcast services should include all these features, and, of course, we listened very carefully to -- not only to what experts had to say on the subject but people with either visual or hearing or mobility disabilities had to say about it.

The guidelines include obligations, like to provide legal assistance from telecom service providers on contracts, on the accessibility features.  We have deployed a page where we show what kind of mobile devices are available and with what features all contracts, rates, billing information must be accessible as well.

This updated catalog of accessible devices.  At least 6% of all public telephone booths must be accessible.  Carriers must have all their premises -- customer service hotlines and also their premises must be accessible as well.

We are very aware -- and there's much more behind the guidelines, but I want to limit the time I have.

There's much more to do in -- as we look at smart cities, Internet of Things.  We have to make sure that those new ways of living bring people closer and not the opposite.

I have -- I was just been told this very important history about Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of telephone, and yet he started -- and I thank Professor Eli Noam who told me this anecdote.  Sometimes we have unintended consequences of inventions and innovation.  Alexander Graham Bell started by teaching the deaf.  That's how he started and started thinking about hearing devices.  He even married one of his students that was a deaf woman, and yet, when he came up with telephone, he said, oh, my gosh, this device is not at all friendly for deaf people, and, of course, it's never what I intended to do.

And so we have to be very careful on how all these new platforms and features and automated and digital services and apps are either helping or holding apart people with certain kinds of disability so that we are in constant vigilance to make sure that they are inclusive and enablers and not deepening the digital divide.  Thank you very much. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Commissioner Labardini.  And congratulations on the approval of the guidelines because you, as government, has the power to push the industry towards a more accessible path, so the guidelines was the first step in Mexico to push that industry on that path, so congratulations, and, of course, as manufacturers and website developers and telecommunication service providers, if they think about accessibility, not from Graham Bell but since the beginning, it eases the path for all of us.

Thank you very much.

Now I'll give the floor to Commissioner Clyburn. Commissioner. 

>> MIGNON CLYBURN: Thank you.  Thank you, Dr. Monica.  Commissioner, panelists, those remotely, good morning.  Allow me to thank the Institute -- I'm still trying to figure out that IFT thing, but we'll talk about that later -- for organizing this workshop and inviting me to participate on this morning's panel.

As an FCC commissioner, I've been a strong proponent of policies that seek to bridge the communications and opportunities divide.  As a regulator, I believe that it is imperative that we adopt what I call a leave-no-one-behind attitude, particularly for those who could benefit the most from being connected.

For me, this means fulfilling our obligation and accepting our duty to ensure that broadband is accessible and affordable to everyone, including individuals living with disabilities, those in rural and remote communities, people with limited economic means, those in underserved communities, because we all know how connectivity can and will change their lives.

Last April I launched something we call a hashtag, Connecting Communities tour, to hear from those seeking to close the communications and opportunities divide, getting out of our comfortable offices and into communities large and small, rich and poor.  I believes that critical to gaining new insights and ensuring that your agency and our agency -- that we hear from a wide range of perspectives, including voices that often go unheard.

By the time the tour came to an end this fall, we officially visited more than a dozen larger cities plus those surrounding areas in rural communities.  We dropped by some health care centers, met with start-ups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and providers of all sizes.  We spoke with inmates and officials at a correctional facility.  We deepened relationships with organizations focused on promoting diversity, inclusion, and enhancing opportunities for women and minorities, tribal -- those on tribal lands, and, yes, we spent hours with organizations that addressed the needs of persons with disabilities.

And as diverse as these communities are, it may not surprise you that they all delivered the same message.  They all have a desire for robust, affordable connectivity.  They want and they know that through technological enhancements and inclusion that they too can be the very best that they were destined to be.

So with the time I have left, allow me to focus on what a regulator can do to help narrow the accessibility gap for persons with disabilities.  At the Perkins School for the Blind, near Boston, Massachusetts, I saw firsthand what technology can do for people living with disabilities.  The school participates in a program that the FCC administers called I Can Connect, which is providing necessary communications equipment to income qualified individuals who have significant combined vision and hearing loss.  Programs like I Can Connect, they're essential because market forces do not always guarantee access for people with disabilities.

In the United States, the marketplace typically addresses consumer needs by producing products and services that consumers want, but this does not always occur when it comes to devices and applications that can enhance the lives for persons with disabilities.  This type of market failure can occur for several reasons, including the fact that each disability market oftentimes that they're too small for the market forces to work in a way in which we like.

More often than not, in the United States, people with disabilities earn lower incomes, which means less purchasing power, which makes it economically less attractive for those in business, and their need for adaptive equipment can often discourage purchases and investment by these entities.

So when these markets fail to address the critical needs for in the United States more than 50 million people who have been identified -- and that number is growing as we live longer -- you know, people with disability -- the government should not be timid about stepping in when we see the need.

So justifications for government actions include recognition of the limits of a competitive marketplace for people with disabilities.  We should encourage a competition and differentiation, universal service obligations.  I love that blueprint and hope we can talk about how that can be more ubiquitous in so many way, the cost to society of lost access.  It costs us more to leave 50 million plus people behind in the United States as opposed to including and enhancing their lives.  The recognition of pervasiveness of communications in it commercial transactions and personal contacts, I cannot emphasize that enough.  And access to telecommunications as a basic right, and I would love to argue about that if you do not agree.

So the United States passed numerous accessibility laws in the 1970s through the 1990s, including those requiring telephones to be accessible for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants.  am sorry that I offended whoever invented cochlear implants.  Requiring a nationwide telecommunications relay service that provides telephone access for those with hearing or speech disabilities and mandating closed captioning for televisions.

Many gaps in these laws remain, and even these well-intentioned laws fail to keep up with new technologies, so in 2010, with the enactment of the 21 Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act or CVAA, because you know we like acronyms, a landmark disability law was passed by Congress, signed by the President, implemented by the FCC, and that unleashed a whole host of regulations.

The new law fills in gaps not addressed by those prior laws and addresses the accessibility challenges of the day head on.  The law sought to ensure access to advance Internet-based communications technologies, and for example, electronic messaging, SMS, email, instant messaging, and similar communications technology, they must be accessible when available.  And if a product or service, by chance, is not accessible, it must be compatible with specialized equipment.

Internet browsers built into mobile phones must be accessible and usable by persons who are blind or have a visual impairment when achievable.  The law also authorizes rules to ensure disability access to next-generation IP telephone emergency services.  That is critically important.  And it also establishes a permanent national deaf-blind equipment distribution program with a $10-million annual budget available for equipment for low-income people who are deaf-blind.

Now, at the FCC, we have taken several actions to implement the provisions on this new law.  For example, in April of this year, we proposed to update our rules to require support for real-time text to ensure that people with disabilities who rely on text to communicate have effective telephone access when we transition -- and we are transitioning -- to IP technologies.  And later this month, we are poised to establish final rules in this particular proceeding.

In August, we made permanent that national deaf-blind equipment distribution program, and this covers phones, tablets, computers, Braille devices, light signalers, specialized keyboards, vibrating alerts, and other devices.  In addition to national laws and regulations, government can also take other steps to enhance connectivity for people with disabilities.

At the FCC, we have found community engagement to be critical to the understanding of the needs of persons with disabilities and sharing best practices on how best to address those needs, that has got to happen.

So to that end, we established a Disability Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations on disabilities' issues at the FCC.  They're active.  They are permanent.  It will never go away.

One important best practice we have learned from all of this, we -- is that we have encouraged companies to implement a universal design, which means that evaluating accessibility needs at the design stage, at the beginning; developing solutions and building in access features from the start.

And I want to pause here -- and I'm coming -- I know I'm going over my seven minutes, but, look, are when we talk about what we have done and said to, you know, companies about, you know, designing at this -- you know, about putting things in place at the design phase, that's important, but as regulators, when we -- each and every docket that can enable communities, we need to put that same type of that framework -- that needs to be at the beginning of the regulatory phase too, so we don't get a hall pass on that.

So the graphic growth of these new technologies -- I'm coming -- can create gaps for the disabled if appropriate accessibility features are not incorporated from the start.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  This approach can be much easier and less expensive and more effective than trying to retrofit down the road.

So, you know, I'll pause here today.  I took a little bit more time.  Please forgive me.  I am passionate about what we can do and what we should do about bridging the accessibility gap for those who are often more vulnerable in our community.  They, like the rest of us, deserve the very best that we have to offer, and it is up to us to answer their call.  Thank you very much. 

(Applause)

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Commissioner Clyburn, and really updating laws and regulation when we're talking about technology is a never-ending story, so thank you very much for updating.  And also the responsibility of a country like the United States, where countries like Mexico are the software and hardware, making that accessible from the beginning, it's a plus for our countries importing those kind of software and hardware, so thank you very much, and really interesting presentation, and we'll discuss more later.

I'm going to give the floor to James Thurston from G3ict to discuss what are his thoughts on policies and accessibility. 

>> JAMES THURSTON: Great.  Thank you, Monica.  And thank you IFT for inviting G3ict to be a part of this panel.  I've really been looking forward to it.  I'm also really pleased to be on a panel with both of these commissioners,  who, as you've just heard, really are leaders in their respective countries, and I think it makes the -- the work of the rest of us of trying to get more digital inclusion much easier when you have such leadership, so I appreciate that, and am also happy to be on the panel with our remote panelists as well.

Monica, maybe I can just start a little bit by just introducing G3ict.  Some of you may not be as familiar with our organization and what we do.  We were set up actually ten years ago this month, around the time that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UNRCPD replicates coming into force.  It's historic when you look at human rights of persons with disabilities.  It's historic in a lot of ways.  One of the ways that we see it as being historic is that it really elevates access to technology to the level of a basic human right, and G3ict was set up ten years ago with support of the United Nations an as independent nonprofit to help governments around the world focus on the technology parts of that convention, recognizing that technology is -- even ten years ago was becoming increasingly a part of our day-to-day living.  We're sort of connected somehow to technology from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep at night, and there was the recognition in this treaty that persons with disabilities also have to have access to that technology and all that that means, whether it's in the classroom or in the workplace, in banking, just everywhere we're using technology.

So what we do, our organization, is we're doing work around the world with governments, advising governments, working with governments and Civil Society, with disabled persons organizations, on looking at the U.N. Convention and coming up with policies and programs to improve the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities, and we do that in a variety of ways.  We are advising governments on actual policies.  We just, last week actually, signed an MOU here in Mexico with one of the ministries to look at how we can be partnering to make improvements on web accessibility and in other areas of public policy, including the public procurement of accessible technology, and we're doing that kind of work with countries around the world.

We've developed a set of tools that you can get at our website G3ict.org, including model policies where -- that we developed in partnership with the ITU and with UNESCO.  There's a set of six or seven model policies where a government can almost sort of cut and paste into their own legal framework policies to help improve the accessible -- accessibility -- access to technology for persons with disabilities, so there's a model policy for inclusive education that we developed for UNESCO, one for accessibility, one for public procurements, one for an accessible kiosk at ITMs.  They were developed with experts.  We work with more than a thousand experts around the world on these kinds of programs and tools.

A big part of what we do and I think one of the most important things -- and I think this will come up in the discussion today -- is a lot of work with the disabled people with disability organizations, our approach in doing this work around the world is when we're partnering in the country and focusing on the U.N. Convention, we like to work with government, industry, and Civil Society together as equal partners.  We feel pretty strongly that that kind of approach to public policymaking is going to lead to the best results in a country, and we actually heard a little about that approach from the commissioners.

So we do -- but we also realize that Civil Society nonprofits or disabled persons organizations may not have the same level of experience and knowledge about technology, about policymaking, and so we've developed training where we will work with organizations in countries on raising their level of comfort with those topics so that they really are more equal partners in these discussions with industry and government on good policymaking on accessible technology.

We -- one of the most interesting things that we do, and again, you can find this on our website, is actually collecting some pretty unique data on just how accessible the world is today and how much progress countries are making on implementing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Every other year we do an exhaustive survey and analysis of countries around the world who have signed on to the U.N. Convention, and most countries are signed and ratified it at this point, and we published that data.  We did that this year.  You can find it on the website.  It really looks at a few things, one is how accessible is that country today, does it have accessible websites, accessible telecommunications and what extent?  We also look at policy steps our government is making or not making, and even beyond that.  We'll look at has the government passed a policy to make sure its government websites are accessible, yes or no, but we look at if they did, are they actually implementing that policy, and one of the things that we'll, I'm sure, discuss today is making policy is great, implementing policy is challenging, and ultimately more impactful, and there are some issues around that that we'll -- I'm sure we'll get into.

So we collect that kind of data, and we're also every day tracking what's going on around the world in countries, specifically on creating new accessibility policies, so we sift through more than a million news stories every day to find what's going on on accessibility policymaking so that we can stay on top of what's happening.

We host a conference every June called M-Enabling in Washington, D.C.  It's the largest accessibility and mobile technology conference in the world, attended by more than 600 people last year, I think, including with some of our other panelists as part ants and guests, and just recently last summer, we were asked by the Board of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals or the IAAP, which is the global professional society for accessibility, we were asked to run that organization globally because of our reach internationally on these issues, which is an exciting new step for us, and important, I think, because one of the challenges in implementation that I think we'll get into is -- governments are doing, I think, a better job of creating policies on accessible technology, but we reach a bit of a roadblock or a bottleneck in implementation, in part because there aren't necessarily enough trained professionals on accessible technology, IT professionals, to help implement those policies, and that's something -- a challenge that we collectively need to be addressing if we're really going to make a lot more progress on policymaking.

So with that, I think I'll leave it there.  Thanks very much. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, James, and thank you for all the wonderful work and benchmarking that G3ict is doing.  I think some kind of competition and benchmarking amongst countries are a very good incentives to just go forward in the implementation of the accessibility policies, because as James says, creating policy sometimes is easier than implementing them, and also the importance of working with Civil Society but also creating capabilities among Civil Societies on what accessible technologies are and how to exert their rights on accessibility.

And I would like to give now one of our remote moderators, Mrs. Chandra Roy-Henriksen -- sorry if I didn't pronounce it correctly, because I do believe that now that we're talking about accessibility, it also includes indigenous people, indigenous persons, because also, they're among all these minorities that are not reached.  Thank you.  With regulations we can now have assistive technologies that helps the blind, the deaf to have access to ICTs, to Internet, but what can we do about indigenous subject, which is very important, and as we just said, its issues, more than 300 million persons around the world, so Mrs. Chandra Roy-Henriksen, if we can hear from you, please. 

>> CHANDRA ROY-HENRIKSEN: Hello.  Good morning to everyone, and thank you very much for inviting me to this panel.  My apologies that I cannot be there in person, and thank you for allowing me to be there virtually.

This is a very interesting discussion, and I was listening with great attention to the earlier panelists who have been speaking, and I very much believe strongly in what they were talking about when they talk about the digital divide, but the last presenter also brought in what we have been challenged with here at the U.N. for many, many years, and of course, beyond the U.N. to all our partners, and this is the implementation gap.

Now, for indigenous peoples, as you have mentioned, they are amongst the most marginalized in any country that they can be in, whether it's a developed country or a developing country, whether it's in Mexico or in Norway or in Philippines.  It is the same issues that they will confront.

And we'll look more specifically to the indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities.  This is even further compounded because not only do you have greater problems of access in terms of the ICTs, but being a disabled person, you also have other obstacles, other challenges that you have to overcome, and if you add to that creation indigenous women -- and as we know around the world -- I was just looking at some of the statistics that you have put out -- that only 41% of women have access to Internet.  Out of that 41%, how many of them are indigenous women and how many of them are indigenous women with disabilities? 

So these are all elements that I think we have to take very much into account when we look into this question of Internet governance and how are we going to come up with some ways of addressing these issues but also making it much more accessible.

As some of the earlier presenters have said, ICT is actually a great enabler.  It is also a great driver for development.  For indigenous peoples, this is very important in terms that as per the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007 after over nearly 20 years of very intense, very political negotiations.  With the Declaration being adopted, the rights of indigenous peoples are captured in a document that provides the road map, the framework for all of us around the world and, of course, at the U.N. and as adopted by the Member States in their countries of how we are going to go forward in terms of addressing the rights of indigenous peoples.

One of the main elements that indigenous peoples have been very clear in annunciating is the rights of determination.  This includes the right to determine their own priorities for development, and this includes, of course, all these new elements that are coming in.

I know that when we first started out we didn't have all this Internet, we didn't have the mobile phones, but now we have all these gadgets, these tools which can be used to improve the situation, to give people all over the world whatever may be the personal situation or political situation -- have them get greater access to how they want to determine their own lives, their own destinies and their own livelihoods and skills. 

In this way, I was looking into some of the examples around the world where you have seen indigenous peoples, including indigenous persons with disabilities, using the mobile phone, using the Internet in terms of livelihoods, in terms of being able to market their products or paying greater attention to their issues, and in this element, I also wanted to look into what you were discussing about in terms of languages.

From what I understand, it's only about ten languages that are prevalent for the Internet use.  Indigenous peoples have many languages, and each country where they come from they have different languages that are not necessarily easy to translate into the Internet languages.  I am not very versed in all these -- the tools that you have, but I know that there are some challenges.  But we have had some examples of indigenous peoples using the Internet, using the web, and using the -- the apps, the applications in such a way as to strengthen and increase awareness and learning of their own languages, and they have even, in some ways, been able to put up the fonts that have been able to use so that you can read and write in their own -- in their own languages.

I'm not too sure how much of this translates to those who have other challenges that they face, but I'm looking at it from a positive point of view that this may be something that with such meetings as you are hosting now in 2016 that this is something that can also be addressed so that we do make sure that there is no one that is left behind, whether they are from indigenous peoples, indigenous women, persons with disabilities, or other communities that have challenges in terms of access and inclusion into the national development frameworks, national development programs, but also on a global level.

As we know, globally we have all been able to connect sometimes on a much easier way than it is to connect with the community just across the river because of certain aspects of, let's say, geographical location, remoteness, and in that way, the Internet and Internet governance has actually given us a great way forward in terms of how we can use this to better improve, better strengthen, raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, but also in terms of strengthening and advancing and preserving the tremendous and very rich cultural and biodiversity heritage that the world has.

I just wanted to mention that in 2018 the U.N. is going to -- has proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and this could be something we could also look at in terms of how we could go forward using all these apps and Internet and governance.

I will end here, but I just want to say that I would like to just put it on the table that one of the biggest challenges we face is the digital divide and how we're going to use the digital divide to not -- to bridge the implementation gap, and that's my big question that I leave you with.  Thank you very much. 

(Applause)

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much for those important comments, and just -- it's an eye-opening how language challenge is for us and the preservation of indigenous tradition and priorities and how also in another hand, the ICT, to use it as an enabler of having communities together, so thank you very much for that enlightening point of view, and we certainly open the floor to some comments about that.

I would like to give the floor to Shadi Abou-Zahra who is the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative lead, so he can talk a bit about standards and accessibility on an Internet platform.  Mr. Abou-Zahra. 

>> SHADI ABOU-ZAHRA: Hello.  Good morning.  My name is Shadi Abou-Zahra.  It's great to be with you virtually.  Unfortunately, I cannot be there in person.  I have been a regular attendant of the IGF meetings, but this year, unfortunately, I was not able to travel to the meeting.

It's a very great session with great panelists, and it's great to be here today, so just introducing the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, is an international standards development organization that develops the core web standards.  It's been launched and continues to be directed by the inventor of the worldwide web, Tim Burners Lee, and part of W3C is part of the web initiative, WAI, that focuses on making the web accessible to people with disabilities.

I see some comments saying that you don't see my video.  Unfortunately, I do not have a camera installed, so just some technology issues, so I will be just speaking to you. 

So the Web Accessibility Initiative is part of W3C on focusing on making the web accessible to people with disabilities, but it's really embedded in a strong vision of the W3C of the web, making the web available to everyone.

People might remember the famous Twitter message from Tim Berners-Lee at the London Olympics saying this is for everyone, so we do look at -- in W3C at aspects of language and cultural difference, geographical aspects, and as I mentioned, part of it W3C.  And here we do the work in multiple ways.  On the one side we focus on making sure the web technologies themselves that are used for web apps and mobile and coming also on the Internet of Things and all sorts of devices and technologies, they're web enabled, making those available to people with disabilities to support different languages but also support the needs of people can disabilities.

And we also develop the guidelines, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, for example, that have been mentioned before that have been internationally adopted in many policies, and these explain to web developers how to make websites and applications accessible to people with disabilities.

And I think this is really one of the contributions that I'd like to bring in is as policies focus on the adoption of accessibility requirements, on the one side what's very important to accessibility is international harmonization.  The web does not have borders, and I think it was also mentioned earlier by the Commissioner about having applications that are developed in the U.S., for example, and used in Mexico or -- and this happens all over the place, where things are developed in one country and used in another.  And if the accessibility requirements are different in each country, what happens is it reduces the market for accessibility and slows down the implementation, and we've seen this on many occasions.

It is encouraging to see that we -- that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is becoming an international standard or internationally adopted across many parts of the world and countries are certainly moving to harmonization, so harmonizing on a single set of requirements is very important.

Another aspect that is important is to -- as technology evolves and moves that policies are able to keep up with these changes, so on the one side, we want to have stable and clearly understandable requirements; on the other hand, the flexibility that is needed to move along as technologies change.

And last point I want to mention is really the importance of open standards and standards that are freely available, particularly for accessibility to allow the innovation, to allow the development of low-cost and affordable assistive technologies, and, you know, to allow the production of interoperable devices in many parts.  This is actually one of the secrets of success of the Internet and the web is having those open standards, things that everybody can create a website or an application without needing to pay royalties, and this really has led to a lot of innovation, a lot of invention, and including for accessibility.

I will stop here for now and give these -- as the technical perspective maybe on policies, on making sure that we have consistent requirements, updatable requirements that can move along as technology evolves and open and freely available standards.  That's it from me. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Mr. Abou-Zahra, and thank you for pointing out the importance of the international harmonization of standards.  If all of our countries start inventing new standards for accessibility, I do believe that it will be -- make our work much more harder, so thank you very much.

And finally, I'm going to give the floor to Mr. Rice so we can start the discussion, so Mr. Rice, please, you have the floor. 

>> DONAL RICE: Hello.  Good morning, Madam Moderator, Commissioners, fellow panelists, captioners, ladies and gentlemen.  Good afternoon from Dublin, Ireland.  I hope you can all hear me and that the line is good between our two locations, and I can see by the captioners that you're picking up what I'm saying, so I will -- I will continue, and it's very good to be with you today.  It's very good to hear the previous speakers, and I will not cover what has been already covered but to make a couple of interventions.

Part of my work is to be an advisor with the International Telecommunications Union, and one piece of work I'm involved in at the moment is to help a country in the Arab region to develop their policies in relation to accessible ICT, and coming from Europe, where accessible ICT has been a policy topic for over two decades within the European Commission and in Member States and listening also to the Madam Commissioner from the FCC, we must, I think, sometimes remember that the right mix of regulation policy and law take a very long time to get right, and certainly, in Europe we're still at a stage where at the European level, Europeanwide level, we are really only beginning to develop laws around accessible ICT.  It has taken us a very long time to agree amongst Member States what the approach should be.

So the reason I'm saying that is that for a country maybe in -- where Mexico is and certainly in some of the countries that I assist the ITU develop policies for -- and there are some things that very often are important to focus on at the beginning.

One area that I find assists is focusing on the role of government, not just as policy and regulator but also as exemplar, and it was interesting to hear the Moderator at the beginning speak about the accessibility of a website and the learning it took to get that right.

One of the first things any government can do is to get its own house in order and to ensure that its own websites are accessible, and I emphasize that, not as -- well, I emphasize that, not to be preaching to anyone in Mexico about the approach that should be taken, but certainly in Ireland and in what I've seen in other countries, government requiring their own websites and their own ICT services to be accessible has two impacts.  Firstly, government, as consumer and -- influences the market when it decides to buy accessible ICT goods and services, but also government as exemplar can assist industry and others to understand what does accessibility mean, what does an accessible website look like, and it also develops a capacity within the country when government procures accessible ICT goods and services.

So just that point, again, is to say that government while it's developing the policies and regulations that take time to get right and to embed, can improve their own practice by procuring accessible goods and services and by creating a demand within the market in their own country.

The areas of goods and services I'm currently focusing on in my policy advisory work are the following five:  Web accessibility; telecommunications, primarily mobile; digital television; and public access to computers, such as computers in libraries and in schools; and the fifth area are procurement.

And for me, those tend to be the five technology areas that a country ought to focus on when beginning to look at its own policies and laws and regulations in relation to accessible ICTs.  Each take a different approach, but underpinning each of them, as has been mentioned by Shadi and has been mentioned by James, are a clear specification of what accessibility means, and that, as always, comes back to standards.

My own experience in working with the government in Ireland is that when we started off on our journey around accessibility, we were very eager to fund the development of guidelines and standards for our own country on accessibility.  That had its pluses in that it helped build capacity around accessibility and a lot of us in government learned a lot through that process of commissioning guidelines and standards, what accessibility was about, but ultimately it proved to be a few tile exercise because a lot of the requirements we specified were not harmonized, were not available in other countries, and were not -- could not be meshed by manufacturers of IT equipment, such as computers and ATM machines, et cetera.

So just to emphasize again the need for considering which standards to adopt and the importance of adopting harmonized standards, it certainly is one of the first things to be considered, what are the international standards that should be adopted when developing ICT policies and regulations.

And finally to say -- emphasizing again the area of public procurement, I'm currently delivering a course online for the ITU Academy on public procurement, and we're seeing more and more public procurement being used as one of the first policy areas that countries who are looking to improve their own availability and their own practices in terms of accessibility -- public procurement is one of the first areas that governments are turning to to develop new policies in, and the policies that are available from G3ict and ITU are those -- those model policies are also very useful resources in considering how best to adopt and develop a policy in the area of public procurement.

So, again, just to emphasize the three messages I have to provide you today are government as exemplar and consumer; the adoption of harmonized standards; and a focus on public procurement as one of the key policy areas that a government should look at when developing new policies in the area of accessible ICT.

Thank you very much for your time and for listening to me, and I'm very interested to hear any comments or questions that may come from the floor.  Thank you, Madam Moderator. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Mr. Rice, and we have a little less than 30 minutes, so I would like to give now the floor to the audience, so -- if you have some questions -- we had something -- some interesting thought about policies, connectivity, Civil Society participation, creating a market, the government as an exemplar and also as a very important client, so I would like to give the floor to the audience.  Yes. 

>> LUIS MARTINEZ:  Hi.  My name is Luis Martinez.  I'm coming from the university and the Internet Society in Mexico, ISOC.  I'm very curious about the -- how we compare indigenous languages with disabilities because most of the talk has been around disability, and suddenly we bring indigenous languages, which also is a problem of accessibility.  What I feel, very worried about the idea of thinking speaking another language is something comparable to a disability, so I strongly believe that regulators should encourage licensees, operators, software producers to make their products and services accessible to these communities.  Actually, the -- from their point of view and as our experience says in the working status in Mexico is they often feel the disabled, in terms of language is the producer, not them.  Yes, they see from the other side -- from another point of view.  Yes.

And also, I think that governments should support those projects working on translating common platforms on the Internet to languages, such as navigators.

Mexico is lagging compared to other countries in the region, barely just Internet navigators have been translated, and one of the best examples is close to here.  We had a language, which is indigenous people living around Guadalajara who have translated one of the navigators for the Internet.

Also, in the region in Chiapas, the speakers were trying to keep their language alive.  They have developed a way to text using the mobile phone, just simply by the way the language is written, so I think that that's one real challenge.

And another challenge that I put to the -- on the floor is how we should think about being disabled and being indigenous.  That leaves you nearly in the edge of noncommunication.  Thank you very much. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much.  I would like to give the floor to Commissioner Labardini and then Commissioner Clyburn. 

>> ADRIANA LABARDINI: Thank you.  How many here speak Spanish?  Could you raise your hand?  Okay.  Well, it seems like a minority in this room, but when it comes to languages, of course, it's not a disability, it's a diversity, it's a cultural richness, and we have to make sure we preserve that diversity.  I'd love to speak in Spanish in this room right now.  Maybe next IGF we'll -- we'll have different languages spoken in the workshops.

I think it was not meant to say that indigenous people -- we're talking about inclusion.  Some vulnerable groups are peoples with disability.  There's rural people.  Indigenous peoples also have other challenges, not only for connectivity, for -- for education, for health, for many of the development goals.

We have women as -- who are not a minority, by the way, across the world, and yet face special challenges of equality.  So, yes, we have -- I mean, the goal at the end is to leave no one behind whether it's someone with a disability or in conditions of poverty or being another minority group or a majority but vulnerable groups like women.

As you know, Luis Miguel -- and, yes, I only referred in my talk about physical accessibility -- there's also affordability of services.  In Mexico, in only two years, the prices have gone down an average 25%, and when it comes to mobile services, they have gone down 32%.  Penetration is increasing, although we're not happy when it comes to broadband.  We still have only 56 subscribers of mobile broadband per 100 people, and that's clearly not enough, but it has been increasing dramatically as more competition is put in place and, thus, better pricing, so that's -- affordability is an issue, but we have other tools and instruments.

We -- for us, after this constitutional mandate, we have indigenous people licenses.  We don't see them -- and that's also very important -- not only as consumers, we have to look at all these groups as wonderful, productive people and people that also would increase the market.  50 million, Mignon said, in the U.S.  In Mexico, while we have identified almost eight million, but I'm sure there more, our indicators and statistics have also to improve when it comes to counting people with disability.

Indigenous people are license owners.  They are providing community radio in their own languages, more than 60 in Mexico.  They have, for the first time ever, received a license for an 800 megahertz band to have their own cellular mobile network in the mountains in Oaxaca, and hopefully it will go further, but yes, we need to also make content in those languages much more easy to find.

There's an issue being led by Canadian regulator about this coverability, how will the audiences now find relevant content, whether it's in their own language or whether it refers to their local lives.  There's so many more platforms and apps and content that we need to make sure that people with disabilities and rural people and women and everyone can find that content.

In the app -- apps market, only 1% of apps downloaded in Mexico, whether in an iOS system or Android, only 1% are apps made in Mexico.  We have 400 million people speaking Spanish across the world, and yet content in Spanish but even more in these wonderful languages we have in Mexico is scarce or not easy to find, but we are licensing not enough but much more than in the last four decades community radios, and hopefully we'll see digital TV owned by communities, whether rural or urban, but addressing relevant local content for community and citizen participation. 

There's also the elderly.  We need -- we haven't done much for the elderly, and we need to make sure we have accessibility in all these platforms and services and finally see them as contributors.  They could be wonderful for content, of applications, of functions and services that are useful and meaningful to their lives.  Thank you. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Commissioner Labardini.  Commissioner Clyburn. 

>> MIGNON CLYBURN: Thank you.  Forgive me for being informed.  Chandra Ray, only because I can't pronounce your last name, so sorry about that.  When I heard you, I thought the last thing you said almost answered your own question, meaning that we need to make sure that we take what we call back in the States a dig once mentality, and what I mean by that is when we have the potential to do something and it might have multiple applications or means, we should do that, so when we're talking about being more accessible and inclusive, meaning that person that might speak a language that you know -- if I can't say Chandra's last name, you know I can't speak the other language, correct?  That, you know, maybe using the same platform with that being harmonized would be the way to reach that particular community, someone who is disabled in a community.  It is about honestly going back -- you know what we said earlier, not leaving anybody behind and being as inclusive, you know, as possible if -- you know, when Chandra talked about ten languages that are more prevalent on the Internet, you and I both know there are ten languages within 100 miles of where we sit.  It is not serving the people who are the most vulnerable well.

Again, I thought you answered your own question, but I appreciate you putting it out there.  We need to be challenged.  Thanks. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much.  And I'll give the floor to James, and if we can see if some of our remote participants want to say something.

>> JAMES THURSTON: I also want to thank Chandra and Luis for raising this issue and the linkage between accessibility for persons with disabilities and indigenous populations.

One of the great things about accessible technology -- and I think one of -- one of you mentioned this already -- is that there are sort of unintended benefits from it.  If you design something to be usable by everyone, to be accessible for people with disabilities, it's going to be more usable by everyone, and we see that both in it the built environment but absolutely we see it in -- with technology.  If you ever see -- when you see me using my mobile phone, I'm almost always using the accessibility features.  I don't identify with having a disability, but it's just easier for me to use speech recognition, and with -- with -- and there's actually some good data on this as well.

Microsoft, several years ago, commissioned Forrester Research to do a market analysis of the -- of accessible technology, and they make that public.  I think can you still get it on their website, but they basically found, Forrester did, that 57% of all adults benefit from the accessibility features that are built into technology, and adults in this study was working-age adults, so up to 60 -- 55, I think, so it's not even really the older people in society who get a lot of benefit from accessibility.

Likewise, Gartner has done some market research that's also very interesting that shows that 85% of us are what they call situationally disabled at some point during the day.  You're in a loud bar or you're in a quiet church or somewhere where -- or you're driving, but somewhere where the accessibility features of your technology help you use your technology in that situation.

So there are -- for -- with speech-to-text and screen readers and those kinds of -- speech recognition, those kinds of accessibility features are also very helpful to people who are illiterate, and we know that, and I'm sort of making the link here to indigenous populations.  Unfortunately, what we also know is that many of these accessibility features are not developed -- and were you starting to get into this with your apps.  They're not developed in minority languages in countries.  I mentioned earlier that we do this analysis every other year of how accessible countries are around the world, and one of the things that we know is that for things like text-to-speech on smartphones, 70% of the countries around the world who are signed on to the CRPD, text-to-speech on smartphones is available in the national language, the main language of the country, 70%, which is not great but it's good, but if you look at the minority languages in that country, only 23% of countries around the world have text-to-speech in minority languages, and this is going to be a problem, obviously, for -- in countries who have a lot of indigenous populations with their own languages and don't have access to that accessibility.

Likewise, for screen readers, 60% of countries around the world, screen readers are available in the national language of the country.  Again, not great but good.  But if you look at the minority languages, in only 21% of countries around the world who have a commitment under the U.N. Convention are screen readers available in minority languages, and again, this has a big impact on indigenous populations, are particularly those with disabilities. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much.  I would like -- we have ten minutes.  Time flies.  I would like to hear another question, and --

>> Shadi would like to add something.

>> MONICA DUHEM: Yes, of course.  We'll hear from Mrs. Roy-Henriksen and then Armida.

>> CHANDRA ROY-HENRIKSEN: Thank you very much.  I just wanted to come in here.  It's very good that we have the commissioners here because you are the ones who actually set the pace in terms of accessibility and you also have a lot of experts around who can address this issue.

I just wanted to remind you one of the main things we have in terms of indigenous peoples is the issue of population, and I think if we have indigenous peoples involved when these policies and programs are being developed or being crafted, that could make a big difference because then they would be able to give input as to how -- to their own approaches and their own identity and culture, and also the traditional systems can be taken into account when we are developing these approaches.

I wanted to just make sure that there is not dichotomy between the individuals and the collective rights of indigenous peoples and disabilities because, as I said earlier, this is where there is intersection as was also pointed out by some panelists, and we want to make sure that we fully addressed accessing services while preserving the identities so they don't have to make a choice between these two. 

And the third thing that I wanted to point out (Lost audio) is a very important element in terms of defining programming (Lost audio) that it should also include indigenous people into this in the statistics --

>> MONICA DUHEM: Excuse me to interrupt.  I don't know if you could repeat the third thing because the audio wasn't very good here at the floor. 

>> CHANDRA ROY-HENRIKSEN: Okay.  This is in terms of this application of (Audio cutting in and out)

I know there's an echo. 

I'll start again.  (Audio cutting in and out) statistics and to ask --

>> MONICA DUHEM: Unfortunately, we're not getting the audio in the floor. 

>> CHANDRA ROY-HENRIKSEN: Okay.  We'll type it in. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Okay.  Perfect. 

(Laughter)

>> CHANDRA ROY-HENRIKSEN: Thank you. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: So meanwhile, we have another question here from the floor.  Armida.

>> ARMIDA SANCHEZ: Well, it's not a question, it's a comment.  I would like to give a viewpoint from the industry.  My name is Armida Sanchez.  I am director of corporate affairs at Microsoft, Mexico, and I would just like to say that Microsoft is a company which is very committed to accessibility.  This is not a new thing at Microsoft.  The efforts of our work in accessibility started 24 years ago when Bill Gates himself thought that technologies would eliminate barriers of people with disabilities to enable them to realize their potential, and nowadays, just on the engineering side, we have 150 senior engineers working on the accessibility of Office 365.  We have a chief accessibility officer, a very brilliant British woman, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, who has a very serious hearing impairment, and in Microsoft Mexico, our receptionist and the person who receives the call in the central commuter is a blind woman who works with a narrator, so our strategy at Microsoft has mainly three components: Investing substantial resources in innovation and in creating accessible technologies and improving the accessibility of our technologies; increasing the percentage of hiring people with disabilities and retaining them at our company; and also, strategic partnerships with government and with NGOs, especially to advance in the public policy matter.

Just a last week, with Monica and with Lourdes at my left, we created the working group at the Ministry of Economy to start working on the Standard EN 301 549, which refers to public procurement of accessible technologies.

We also worked closely with G3ict, and I wanted to mention for seven years we had a partnership with the Trust for the Americas of the OAS where we founded more than 120 community technology centers with accessible technologies for people with disabilities.  In it Mexico, we have 50 of them.

So I want to say Microsoft is very committed to accessibilities and you can count on our company and our hard work and efforts to advance accessibility. 

>> MONICA DUHEM: Thank you very much, Armida, and I think we have five more minutes.  Someone else would like the floor to ask -- last chance to take advantage of our panelists and ask a question.

Do we have a better connection with Mrs. Roy --

>> We lost her microphone.

>> MONICA DUHEM: Okay.  So I would like to close this.  Thank you very much for attending, thank you very much, our panelists, for being here.  I think that we can leave this workshop taking into account ICTs as an enabler and as really a tool for communication, and also, we can -- I love the no-leave-behind attitude, which really is the key to address these kinds of issues.  I think that a lot of work has been done from a policy point of view.

I wanted to speak more about implementation, which is the very difficult stone under way, but thank you very much for being here and thank you all for attending this workshop. 

(Applause)

 

(Session concluded at 10:28 a.m.)

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411