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IGF 2019 – Day 2 – Raum V – WS #64 Internet Accessibility Empowering Persons with Disabilities - RAW

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. 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. 

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>>  Hello, everyone. Welcome. I realize we're a shade late. There wasn't a break between the last session. Everyone is here so we should probably get going. Welcome. My name is Brian Scarpelli. I'm in an association called ACT, the app association. Really just want to welcome everyone to this very interesting and compelling panel we have here, Internet Accessibility Empowering Persons with Disabilities.

What is this panel about and table‑setting for us. More than a billion people ‑‑ and that's a growing number globally ‑‑ have some form of a disability. It represents the world's largest minority. Internet‑enabled ICTs absolutely, I think ‑‑ I think we all agree probably, not to speak for panelists, but ICT, I think we are here because we agree ICTs need to play a role in enhancing accessibility and providing equivalent experience across use cases, both enterprise and consumer, for those with disabilities.

While saying that is easy, you know, getting it done is another story. I think most people would probably acknowledge that, too.

I think we're all going to talk about some existing successes we can learn from and build on. But also what more needs to be done? Really in the IGF context, intergovernance and otherwise.

So I hope here today we'll explore innovative uses of ICTs to empower persons with disabilities and to engage with all of you, have this be a dialogue, rather than a monologue from us. Don't want to do that.

Maybe we can develop on consensus points, actions that might be needed to enhance disability access to ICTs and lastly to, of course, talk about why IGF is hosting us on this panel in the context of internet governance, too.

So really quickly before I introduce our panels, I mentioned my own organization. Why am I here?

My organization ACT, the app association, is an international not for profit trade association for thousands of small business software developers and high tech companies. 

We are pretty actively engaged from ‑‑ the widget we're making for members, I guess I should say, is advocacy and being a spokesperson for the industry across contexts but primarily before governments and in key international fora like this. I can definitely speak for my association's membership globally when I say that the developer community is committed to disability access and does not shirk its role. And we seek as a community to advance key concepts that I think we'll talk about here like accessibility by design, universal design.

Lots of member examples, but engagement with key policy makers like European commission, various EU member states, United States government, and other governments, and through key international fora such as this. The M‑enabling summit is another key forum. That's enough about my organization.

I think our time is valuable here and I want us to all get engaging and start the dialogue. I'll just share the names of our panelists and the idea is that each of the panelists will provide some opening remarks. They can introduce themselves to you rather than me reading a bio you could find on the IGF website anyway.

Starting from my far right, Guinella Asbring, Nano, Budi and Tim. Sorry. And George. So we have ‑‑ I'm glad we have this number of panelists and these different perspectives. They'll tell you, they are from all over the world, different viewpoints, different backgrounds, different roles ‑‑ government, private sector, academia, et cetera.

So after that, after everyone gives their opening remarks, I have some kind of maybe get things going questions, but would love to hear from you. So please don't be shy. Where should we start? Want to go right to left?

>>  Sure.

>>  Okay. Go ahead.

>>  Thank you very much, Brian. My name is Guinilla Asbrink and I'm president of the accessibility special interest group and I'm also pleased to say that I have just been appointed incoming member of AMAG for the IGF. There will be opportunities in the future to ensure accessibility is even more considered within the IGF planning processes, hopefully.

So I would like to touch on a number of different points. One of them I think is ‑‑ I'll start straight in because we are being hosted ‑‑ and thank you very much for the invitation ‑‑ from an app association.

We want to make sure developers are incorporating accessibility when apps are developed. While it's good to hear that commitment, often there needs to be reminders about this and how do we ensure that it becomes automatic that developers just say, well, of course we have to have accessibility. Why don't we have training in high schools for including accessibility in IT training so if young people go to university, fine. There should be some accessibility included in IT courses.

But if people go into an IT career, they need to understand accessibility from the start. Of course we have to use accessibility guidelines, understand the disability perspective when we are designing various apps.

On the other hand, we also need to consider careers of young people with disability. And so if we incorporate tech training for people with disability in high schools, then they may be more supported to take up an IT career and obviously that would be beneficial both for the app industry and for people with disability. We have also heard a lot about inclusion.

We talk at this IGF a lot about digital inclusion. When it comes to disability we talk about inclusion. Aren't we automatically thinking that we are potentially excluding people? It shouldn't be necessary to use those words. We should just naturally have everyone at the table and not segregate according to what some people can and can't do. We are all one society. We see the theme of the IGF is talking about one world and that means one people, too.

We are talking about attitude in all issues and that takes generations to change. The more we can spread the word into our own communities the better it would be. I think I'll finish there. There are other points I can make later on. Thank you very much.

>>  My name is Shadi Wazara. Thank you, Brian. I work for the World Wide Web consortium, WTC. The topic is empowering people with disabilities through ICTs, so I'll take a personal dive first and share with you that I was only able to complete school and later on computer science studies thanks to a laptop.

Back then, much bigger and heavier, not internet‑connected yet. But the point is that technology is what allowed me to be able to take notes, write something that I could not do. That's one example of ICT empowering and allowing people to reach higher goals that they are otherwise not able to.

At the same time, the same technology that so enabled me to reach many aspects that I would otherwise not have been able to do, a few weeks ago I was literally stuck in a garage because the only way to pay with this automated ticketing machine was mounted too high. I could not reach it. I could not put the ticket, the credit card. I could not pay.

Before this technology when there was somebody physically sitting there I could knock on the glass and say, can you let me out or can you help me?

So it's this paradox. Technology is neither good nor bad. Technology provides opportunities. Imagine all these online forms for applying to jobs that are inaccessible. Imagine the online courses that are inaccessible that students with disabilities cannot benefit from.

All these issues that can just as well have the exact opposite rather than including and empowering and allowing, disempowering, excluding, all these negative words. It is our choice on how to design them. How to create content. How to create apps and products and services that are inclusive that allow everybody to participate, as Guinilla was saying.

Now how to do that? I work for a standards organization. You would probably expect me to say standards, that's the way to go. That's the one thing.

But I don't believe so. I think this is one piece of many that are needed. I think accessibility though I'm a technologist, a firm believer in technology, it is foremost a societal aspect. It's changing perspective, changing aspects, changing the stigma that's often associated with that.

That's one part. The cultural aspect, if you will, the societal aspect. This includes policies starting off with high schools. Maybe even earlier. Many areas when children are separated away from society. When there are no job interviews how can you expect there not to be difficulty in interacting rather than growing up with each other and having it be normal as you were saying earlier.

There are definitely societal aspects that need to complement the technical aspects and the technical solutions.

As advancement of technology grows and continues the opportunities and also the challenges become even bigger, the multitude.

I'll throw in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Just opportunities. I don't know if the colleague from Microsoft ‑‑ I don't want to say maybe take it away, but there are applications, for example, that recognize a friend of mine was visiting me and he's blind. He was using an app to orient himself at a hotel at night when he's checking in. The app will read to him the layout of the hallway, the room numbers as he's going through the hallway so that he can use the hotel perfectly on their own.

At the same time, we know the challenges with AI bias. So this one last point, I think, is really important.

Technology encodes human bias that we build in and naturally have. It reinforces it to a degree.

There was an experiment with self‑driving vehicles. Thankfully this was only in a simulation. The self‑driving car did not recognize a wheelchair user moving backwards behind the car. The car drove over the person in a simulation, thankfully. That's also to show you the problems if we have AI, for example, supporting decision‑making in hiring, for example.

We feed the AI all the job applications and the AI extrapolates and says, hmm, it extrapolated that there were little women being hired so the computer support system automatically suggested that women applicants are less qualified. But it would be worse, I think, with people with disabilities. There would be likely a chance.

What I'm trying to say is as technologies evolve, as technologies converge ‑‑ so web and app and TV and physical now with IOT, the physical and the technology world are converging into each other. The opportunities are immense.

Imagine the self‑driving car that will be a benefit to many people who cannot drive for whatever reasons. Get them to where they want only if it actually is designed to work for those people. Otherwise these people will be further disempowered and further segregated.

I think I'll stop there and pass it on. Thank you very much.

>>  Hi. So my name is Nano Catchy from the CRTC, the federal regulator in Canada for broadcasting telecommunications. I am with the government, so I apologize. But we are friendly because we're Canadian.

I struggled when I was invited to be on this panel to think about what I wanted to speak to because we have subject matter experts here, people in the industry, people who are doing things. I wanted to really be able to contribute to this conversation.

So I thought I would come at this from a different perspective and give some insights to you on how you should engage your governments. I think you should be really expecting more from your respective governments. To be an informed advocate for inclusive design, accessibility, to ensure accessibility is not just a stand‑alone policy but is something that's incorporated within government policy writ large whether it's employing staff, procurement, whether it's developing policies for television programming, whatever it might be. Accessibility should be incorporated in all those elements. It should not be one piece of stand alone legislation but an umbrella.

I would argue that you need to demand different ways of engaging with your government. CRTC, we are a regulator. We pride ourselves in reaching out to Canadians to find out what their needs and wants are. But it was raised by a number of groups that our processes were not accessible. We try to improve. One of the key things we were able to do is get people to submit accessible documents. A pdf isn't accessible for a screen reader. It became a barrier for Canadians who wanted to express themselves but could not react to what was on the public record of a proceeding.

People expected better of us. They informed us of the barrier and we worked to eliminate the barrier. We wouldn't have known about it unless we had heard from the various constituents.

I would argue you should be demanding for different ways to engage with your government. Ask for roundtables. Ask for different opportunities to have your voices heard. Use organizations like this.

In Canada, we base all of our policies on what we hear on the public record. As a result, we have been able to push the bar forward in terms of accessibility of ICTs. It is only through the input and understanding what Canadians need, what the users need.

From my perspective, I could think someone might need XY or Z from the service provider, but I don't have that lived experience. I need to hear it from you. But I want to engage with you to hear from you in a way that is meaningful and that allows you to truly express what your needs are and why they are so that I can then regulate the industry to be able to provide services that provide access which we equate to as opportunity, right?

My job is to try to create the regulatory framework to break down barriers, to eliminate the sense of isolation, to ensure that people have a way of becoming full participants in Canadian society.

I have a video, and this video explains a service called VRS. It's a video relay service. It's for people whose first language is sign language to communicate broadly with society as well as have Canadians whose first language isn't sign language to interact with them. It's a lovely illustration of the positive impact that government can have. It's also a really good example of the lack of inclusive design. So the video is lovely. It will play in a minute. But the video doesn't have any audio description. So I apologize for that.

Again, I'm not going to claim we are in any way perfect. It is always an evolution. It is making sure those things are always top of mind. So I'll ask that they play the video. It really just expresses what government can do to help break that isolation to sort of create opportunities for everyone. We'll see if it plays.

 

>>  As a deaf doctor, this doctor uses technology to connect with hearing patients. When she has to make a call to a hearing colleague she uses the free Canada video relay service app. It connects the doctor with a video interpreter. She signs using her computer's camera and the VRS app. The video interpreter delivers her message to Dr. Greg War, a hearing person, by voice. He responds to the video interpreter. The interpreter listens to his response and signs it to Dr. Dunkly. She responds and thanks her colleague. She's helping Canadians and Canada VRS in both official languages. If you get a call don't hang up. It might be Dr. Dunkly.

Learn more at don't hang up.CA.

>>  Thank you for your time.

 

>>  Hi. Can you all hear me? My name is Bumi ‑‑ and I am from Microsoft. I'm based in the UK. Proudly west African west Londoner as I like to say. I am part of the business development organization. Within the business development organization I work in the areas of AI and the intelligence cloud. Again, you have probably seen this on my bio. It's good to bring it up in terms of my perspective today.

As well as being part of that organization, I also work in the emerging markets and look at strategic partnerships in emerging markets. For transparency, I completely follow what's happening in the accessibility space because I always and often do see some of the solutions that we are bringing in from an accessibility perspective and seeing how actually there can be solutions we are trying to solve for in emerging markets with respect to ‑‑ and such like. I want to say I'm in the position as many areas I deal with converge into this fantastic conversation.

In addition to that, and almost an extension, I'm part of the Microsoft women's board in the UK. On that board I also represent underrepresented ethnic groups.

Of course the word inclusion pops up there all the time. Again, when we follow and also I'm an ally for many of your different initiatives. Let me kind of follow what we are doing in Microsoft with respect to accessibility. Again you get cues as to how we should be really feeling and approaching inclusion for everyone from all perspectives.

But let me sort of focus on what Microsoft really is doing in the accessibility space with respect to disabilities. I'm not going to be here bringing out sexy gadgets saying we have created this thing and it will be the solution for all.  That's a point I would like to focus on.

If you have been following what we have been doing in Microsoft, we are having a huge cultural shift with having people like myself coming to speak to you. People really having it within our DNA. Inclusion, accessibility for all within our DNA. The approach is one where everybody is responsible to tell the tale. And everybody is responsible to find something within their day to make it easier for the next person to be included into the digital arena we are all working with.

That's something we have at Microsoft which is why we are empowered to talk about it. If I break it down to the buckets when we talk about the disability areas, the areas and we had this interesting sort of conversation over lunch in terms of what disability are we talking about, who are we talking about what have you and from a Microsoft perspective we look at vision, hearing, mobility, mental health, speech and learning as well. So those are the areas that we try to put a lot of thought in. When I say a lot of thought it's not just how we are creating tools and looking at our development although incredibly important piece, but also how are we operating in our physical space and then how are we hiring and ensuring that we have a company where we can hire anybody and everybody with those disabilities and more that I have mentioned.

When we now start thinking about putting those pieces in place we start getting fun ways and interesting ways in the way we are trying to address that. From an accessibility perspective we are tasked with ensuring we are communicating correctly. We have had this example and really looking at details like how am I creating a presentation. How am I creating my team's resources? Am I ensuring that that can be accessed by somebody with vision impairment, hearing impairment and the answer is, yes, we can do that. It's not a sales pitch. It's important to know that.

There are a lot of tools that are already at our hands. It's on your desk right now. You just do not know that they are there. It's for me to tell you. It's for me to tell you you can switch a narrator and you should be able to hear everything that you are looking at.

It's for me to be able to tell you when you are creating a document and you know you have someone with a disability on your team use our accessibility checker to ensure you have thought through every way that you could have made the document easy and accessible.

Again, all of these things are already there. So when we talk about that, and I mentioned hiring as well. Hiring is really, really important. It's something, again, I would like to kind of press that button to you.

My lovely colleague mentioned our favorite ‑‑ one of our favorite products, seeing AI which is absolutely phenomenal. But the amount of people I hear using CNA I to read a menu because they can't see what's going on just shows you what you solve for one, you solve for all. Seeing that beautiful product wonderfully explained, walk around and it sees what happens visually around you and interprets your surroundings.

He touched upon the fact that, however, once we start throwing out the concept of AI in the area we have all sorts of hurdles, particularly from the bias perspective. Wonderfully mentioned here.

Again, I could talk forever, but I want to link it back to smart hiring. I talk a lot about bias in AI. I talk about it from a woman's perspective, from a black woman's perspective, from a mother's perspective, and I talk about it from a gender‑inclusive perspective.

The two pieces, without going into one of those talks, the two pieces that are incredibly important especially in the development of AI are data sets ‑‑ ensuring you have the widest set of data on which to build your algorithms and also that you have an inclusive AI team who are going to catch things that you and I are not going to catch. It's fine. I'm not saying we get rid of bias totally. It's not humanly possible. Not even the machines can do it. What I am able to say is we need to think about what the teams look like who are there generating and creating this.

How can I do that without ensuring my team, my AI team? I need visually impaired people on my team. I need people who have hearing disabilities on my team. I need people who have got autism on my AI team. I need them trained, which is why the importance is, as I said, from a technology perspective going right down to who I'm hiring in the team becomes incredibly important if we are going to make sure this one billion people are included in the digital economy.

So I could talk forever. I hope there were interesting pieces. I have great examples of what we are doing and I'm sure we'll get there eventually.

>>  Does this work? Yes, it does.  I have a pathological hatred of sitting on a panel. I can feel the body weight in the room falling down. Excuse me if I wander around. For those of you with visual impairments, I'm probably the oldest guy in the room. You can tell from the voice. I'm white. I'm male. So I'm the world's worst person. I was at a session last night which really wrote us off.

But I have been working in Africa for 40 years. I used to be secretary general of the commonwealth communications organization. In that role, for those who don't know it's like the ITU but for the commonwealth I championed accessibility in disability. I led it for the paralympic games in London.

You mentioned lunch before. I suggested we sat around a hearth here and we sat all together. I have some notes but I want to tell stories. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have a commitment to accessibility and disability issues.

Let me just share three quick stories and then four points. Or maybe four stories and three points.

On one of my early visits to Africa I was in a school for the blind and I noticed ‑‑ I'm not going to tell you the countries. I noticed the floor of the school was covered in water. One of the people said to me, it doesn't matter, they can't see.

Another story from my own life, my son potentially had a major disability that prevented his mobility. Thank God, it healed. We were going and looking at secondary schools.

I walked into the secondary school. We were shown around by the nice teachers. I asked, how do you cater for people with disabilities in your school? Do you know what they said to me? Can you believe this? My son is now 28. This was 17 years ago. We don't have any children with disabilities in our school. Wow.

 

And then another story. I was talking with a minister of education in an African country about the lack of provision for education for people with disabilities in that country. He said, Tim ‑‑ it was a he. Tim, I have a limited budget. Surely I must spend that money on those who can contribute most to our country's future.

I'd always argued on moral grounds that it is right, it is right that everybody in our society has equal opportunities to the best education possible, but moral arguments failed and that taught me a moral lesson that we have to use their language and make the economic arguments.

Imagine, in many countries people with disabilities are seen as a drain on the economy. They need looking after. They need extra resources. So I learned to say, wow, you have a double win if you provide education for the poorest, the most marginalized, people with disabilities. They are no longer a drain when they can earn their own economy and they can pay taxes.

Sadly, that didn't win. But stories, stories, stories matter. We must share them.

So we were told we could speak for ten minutes. We were also told at the same time we were going to have lots of discussion. I'm trying to get you to smile, discuss, be active. But I will put my assistive technologies on and I have just four conclusions. Maybe you asked us to speak about what we can do about this.

The first, to me, is paramount. Absolutely paramount. Digital technologies, unless they are inclusive, universally marginalize those who cannot use them. Digital technologies across the board marginalize the most marginalized people already. The poorest, those with disabilities. Unless we build inclusion into every single digital technology, people with disabilities will be further marginalized.

We have to stop doing that now. Everybody. It's no good saying just assistive technologies we could do wonderful things. No. If we don't enable everyone with disabilities access we are wasting our time talking about inclusion and universal access.

Secondly, that implies, as was said earlier, we have to change the whole design mentality around digital technologies. Not only on gender, but that's not the focus of this session.

If the kids in our schools aren't learning to code, to build technology that is universally accessible, we are going to produce a generation of designers in the industry who are going to fail our citizens with disabilities.

Thirdly, everyone in this room is guilty. We may not like to think we are, but I sure as ‑‑ am. I continually fail to make my presentations as user‑friendly for people with disabilities as possible. Microsoft is fantastic. Now when on a Powerpoint slide I forget to put in a text description of the image it comes up and says, Tim, you're an evil idiot. I know that.

It also says, Tim ‑‑ well, not Tim. It's not that personalized. Why not add a little bit? Fantastic Microsoft, thank you.

We all continue to make the mistakes because we are in a hurry. This digital technology makes us hurry, hurry, hurry.

Please, remember, when you leave this room, there is no point in you being here unless you go out doing something different. That difference is always please to remember the person with disabilities who might ‑‑ nobody ever reads academic papers so I don't have to worry ‑‑ but who might need access to your information.

Finally, on an optimistic note because despite what my wife says, I am an optimist. There are amazing assistive technologies out there. But so many people who could use them don't because ‑‑ I have a tiny little website I try to create and share as much as possible out there.

For all the diversity of disabilities. Disability organizations are competing with each other for the limited money available. Let's work collectively.

There are great assistive technologies and amazing stuff happening. Does anyone here know Opti‑key? I felt a right idiot when someone told me. It's open source solution for people particularly with motor neuron issues but it tracks eye movement. They can make money exploiting poor people. Create technologies that aren't universal so you have to create assistive technologies that you can make money out of by exploiting people with disabilities. That's mad.

So let us build this open, free community of assistive technologies because we can do it. We can do it. You're all here. This is the most important session. Not just because I'm speaking at it. But it is the most important session if we are going to change the internet to be truly inclusive in support of the most important people in the world ‑‑ those of us who have disabilities. I have a vested interest because I'm aging. I have my assistive technology. My memory is going. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

 

>>  Well, thank you so much. Again, my name is George Meniki. I am from Mozambique. I'm from a region in Africa supporting people with disabilities to do advocacy for people with disabilities. And sustainable development goals.

As part of this work, obviously include also accessibility and information and communication technology. I started a few months ago to a Ph.D. program. I'm doing research on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international development. So how persons with disabilities are influencing the development programs and especially in the global ‑‑

So all of these big programs that development agencies are implementing and persons with disabilities are influencing those.

It's also related to the conversation here today. I want to start by also bringing up the picture from the global sort and when we talk about it are we talking about this issue? I think the first thing is to acknowledge that it's a ‑‑ where infrastructure is poor or doesn't exist.

It's a context where persons with disabilities also at the same time are also poor. That means they don't have resources to acquire those expensive technology, an iPhone or et cetera, et cetera. They can be excluded from education, employment.

So if you look to this picture, we are not beyond the guidelines, the standards that we fix the problem. We have also the fact that tariffs for data and so on, they are very expensive. It's not just guidelines or standards that will fix the problem.

It will have to be a combination of a series of policies. We have to talk about opening up the market to be able to be more competitive which eventually will bring up the prices down.

We have to talk about social policies and how they address specific disability needs. We know in the global social policy, social programs are very weak in general.

We have also to talk about to which extent they address specific needs of persons with disabilities. Let's say to get, for example, assistive devices which will be important for them to enjoy the internet or added technology as well. The conversation here becomes more and more complicated.

There is also the issue of language. So in most of the African countries, the language that we use is not our mother tongue, not the language that we mostly grow up speaking. Most of the technology produced here in the global north, to which extent a computer done here is sensitive to, let's say, my mother tongue or Swahili or a local language in Africa or elsewhere.

So it's very complicated. I'm trying to bring this up and it's complicated. I think we have to acknowledge that and really think deeply about ‑‑ I mean, a series of policies that need to be bringing to the table and discussed about and how can we address those multiple problems?

One way African governments have tried to tackle disabilities is through the universal access fund. I'm sure you may know about this. Universal access fund is international telecommunications initiative.

So essentially what happens is governments apply a tax for telecom operators. That tax goes to a fund and they call it universal access fund. This fund is invested in areas where it's not economically appealing for business. So it's usually rural areas or places where mostly inhabited by poor people.

But the thing is ‑‑ well, this is great because we'll bring some of the ‑‑ expand services so persons with disabilities in rural areas have access to telecommunication. What you see in practice is that eventually a particular community will be built a tele‑center for the community to access internet, computers, et cetera, et cetera.

But physically, that tele center isn't accessible. So they don't really go to also talk about specific needs. So, again, the issue is very complex. For me, demands multiple eyes, multiple perspective to address. So, yeah, I'll stop here.

>>  Thanks to all for the opening remarks. That's great. Like I was saying, we would love to engage with you, the IGF community here today. So if anyone has a comment or a question ‑‑ excellent. We've got one already.

>>  Hi. My name is Mike Harris. I'm a software developer. I would like to give a perspective. If you're creating an app and you're in a start‑up, accessibility is actually very expensive. You don't really have the resource to do that. Perhaps what governments could do or even big tech is incentivize start‑ups with some kind of small grant saying, if you can prove that you have developed something accessible then you're entitled to some small amount of money and it can be something that's inclusive. I think it's a shame that Apple and Google aren't represented here. Most of the app development goes through them.

It isn't so easy to just plug and play like it is with if you want to scan a QR code or anything else that's nonaccessible. The functions aren't so easily switched on as they could be. Thank you.

>>  Thank you very much. Yeah, we hear that very often. I would like to counter a little bit. I think there are several aspects.

No doubt, as I said, one of the issues is that developers get educated wrongly, unfortunately. Very often they will complete whatever teaching, whatever background they have without hearing about accessibility, without having the capacities.

But I think it is often also seems much scarier than it is, the assumption of costs. It's not always there actually. Actually adopted a user‑centered design process which you should to to maximize the usefulness of your products and software. This is part of it.

What we say is, you know, adopting these processes and accessibility is kind of like, it highlights very often the issues that you have for the main stream population.

There is sometimes also somewhat a stigma associated with that. I have seen developers who overnight learn the latest framework and the latest new technology or something. But when it comes to accessibility it's like, oh, well, that will take too much time, it's so expensive and stuff like this.

Definitely more support and more encouragement. I have seen examples where governments provide training as support or encourage training. Or sometimes even put a little pressure that universities and other technical institutions that are not only technical institution accessibilities meanwhile cross disciplinary but that accessibility is included in teaching so that there is, first of all, this competency that comes with it and also not this stigma and scare.

I'll compare it with security, for example. I don't hear the argument very much with security. Everybody knows we have to do it. There is no way past that.

Why do we then start finding reasons not to for accessibility, right? This is the kind of stuff that needs to be looked at.

>>  Can I answer that point? The reason is purely cash‑based. If you do security and get a security breach, you will probably lose your product. But if you lose accessibility, you have lost a certain amount of users. But you are aiming for a user capture. I'm not saying that's a good thing. I'm saying it's the reason.

>>  It depends on what type of security issue and what type of accessibility issue. With accessibility I would argue you could break just as well your application because it's not useable. We need to move away ‑‑ I think Gwenella put it nicely. It's already a significant portion of the population that has a disability.

Microsoft did a study back in the days of early 2000s when they were looking at, you know, profit‑making organization. Very justifiably why should we invest in this? That's a good question to ask.

The study for us to research the data would show not only this amount of around 15 to 20% needs the accessibility but two‑thirds benefit from it. From then on ‑‑ I'm sorry I'm speaking on your behalf. This is just one example. I can show you examples from other organizations as well. I'm not making an advertisement here for Microsoft.

But the idea is they started changing the name from accessibility to ease of use. To signal how it impacts so many more. With that mindset, the cost to benefit discussion, it's like the elevator here. I here this argument often. How much does the elevator cost? We only have three wheelchair users. Then I say, okay, well, then give me the key and nobody else is allowed to use it.

So it's mainstreaming features so we don't think of it as assistive technology anymore, but just as features that benefit everyone with ease of use.

>>  Very quickly, there was a strong economic argument. In the UK, it's a charter for something. Governments and big companies have a huge role they can play through procurement. If governments just ‑‑ and this is a threat to you if you don't do it. If governments and major corporations that have procurement policies which say if your software is not inclusive you will not even be allowed to tender for anything. That's a hell of a threat.

Also, the rise in ethical shares. I know as a start‑up shares don't really matter much yet. But increasingly the moral agenda is coming back. Every single government and every single major corporation should insist on all of their software being inclusive. Done.

>>  It's really good. You asked the dream team the question. Just to add more. Exactly ease of use. Let's just mainstream this in a respectful way as well.

Then also, I would ask the start‑ups to really stop thinking in terms of future what they are doing as well. If you start to remember that by 2025 there's going to be 75% millennials in the world already, all who have this moral compass already. They are literally going to be expecting this kind of thing already.

When you start enabling or letting the start‑ups know about that it becomes, okay, maybe that's a cost we should be absorbing. Like you said, I like what you are thinking about. Is there ways of funding it? If the honest truth is I need 5K now to go get an extra developer to go and act and get that piece done. I get that, respect that.

If it means you start being creative about it, not necessarily the government, maybe how you are talking to investors saying, when you invest in me, I have that market and that one billion plus the crew over in the emerging markets.

You start looking at a different set of business modeling which then starts getting exciting.

>>  That's great. I see numerous hands up. The gentleman right there ‑‑ I apologize, sir. I don't know your name. Yes. I saw you raise your hand. Do you have a comment? Then there and there.

>>  Yes, thank you. For the record this is Muhammad Awan. I'm from Pakistan and I speak on behalf of accessibility special interest group.

Very interesting things highlighted here. First to respond to cost versus benefit comment. Yes, it is the cost. But in Pakistan, my experience has been that more often than not, the start‑ups, what they do is they build a product and then they come to a person with disabilities in the organizations and they say, look, here is the product. We have built it. Now, tell us how to make it accessible and tell us the shortest way.

It is tantamount to seeing that now we have built a building and we forgot to insert a lift into it. My answer is to tear down the building, install the lift and build a new one. If you are taking that approach and if you are not including or incorporating accessibility issues right from the start, and you have not thought about the idea and what you want to do. So the end result is going to be that you are going to spend more time and more money and more resources.

Secondly, we also talked about here about ‑‑ so what we do is that we also need to include persons with disabilities in the discussions then. First we build a product and then go to persons with disabilities and their expert organizations and tell them here is the product. Now tell us how to make it right. Rather than going to them and discussing the ideas that here is the idea, how can it be improved? If we follow that approach, I think it would be beneficial for more audience. Thank you.

>>  Thanks. Yes, please.

>>  So I like this comment about, well, there is only this many people, why do we have a lift? Invisible disabilities exist. There are people with severe disabilities that pass as bio‑typical and you are not going to know who they are. There is an economic disincentive of outing yourself as disabled. Even if you can do your job, businesses will find reasons to fire you.

I have talked to HR departments and they say, this person has a disability. Doesn't that mean they'll be in the hospital all the time? Are they going to get the work done? So you might have people in your communities, co‑workers, customers with accessibility needs. There is an economic opportunity as well as the moral obligation to include as many people in digital technologies as possible.

The other thing is I went to the O'Reilly velocity conference which is heavily techie, all dev‑ops people. Emily is a person who doesn't touch the computer when she's coding. She uses software called talon and does everything with her voice and shows a live demo of coding. There were a lot of nondisabled people and their response was, oh, my God, that's so cool.

And most of us are temporarily abled. Age‑related disabilities are coming for us. Particularly in the tech world if your hands and wrists are fine now you may encounter repetitive strain injuries. You have people banging on keyboards and you want to keep them on for most of the careers, it would behoove most businesses to think of disabilities for their own self‑interest as well.

>>  That's a great comment, thank you. I apologize. I don't know who was first.

>>  Thank you. Well, I had my two cents earlier in the other. I'm autistic. So my main interest is in cognitive accessibility, observation. Nearly everything today concerning physical and sensory disabilities. I understand why that is, to some extent. It's partly because understanding cognitive access, understanding cognitive disabilities is a little bit like trying to hold water. It's difficult if you're not concerned.

For me, a website is not accessible it's obvious as night and day, but to people around me it's not clear. Even people who are in the field.

The other problem is, of course, a financial one. It's very easy to see a return on a technical investment to a technical solution to a physical problem.

Do not use justified text format. There is no money in that for anyone. That's something we just have to be aware of the extent to which cognitive accessibility all of this. It's synonymous with universal design and absolutely essential.

The question before was a fantastic question. It was great that it came up about the cost of accessibility.

From my point of view, from the point of view of people in the autistic community, it's free. It does not cost anything to have your logo once on a page instead of three times, for example.

It's very simple to implement cognitive accessibility but it's not being done and this community is basically being thrown under the bus. There is no other way of putting it.

Through a lack of understanding, a lack of education and also obviously this is not a zero sum game. It's fantastic, all the initiatives we're hearing today.

But we're here and there are a lot of us. Our time needs to come as well. Thank you.

>>  Just a quick comment, but thank you so much for that. Thank you for your other comment about nonvisible disabilities as well.

One thing I'll say and maybe on Brian's behalf, we have tons to cover and actually neuro diversity is one of the key areas that I know we look into. We haven't got there yet. I hope you can stay until 10:00 and we'll get everything covered. So respectfully, there is the whole notion particularly from autism and from a Microsoft perspective I'm yet again proud to say we have a whole hiring set‑up created specifically to hire people with autism into the company because they are what we consider the ‑‑ forgive me if I use the wrong language, but what's needed from people with autism is absolutely identified.

That's for me and it's good for us to say it and say we need more of it. We are trying to do it. And let's get other people to do it. That's why we're in the room.

And the other piece is, thank you so much for highlighting the fact that it doesn't cost anything. You have seen me scrolling. Not like a millennial, but literally having an awesome site here. I was literally able to click on your diversity page and see straight away what we are being told about when we're dealing with someone on our team, how we are talking about scheduling, making sure there is a space for them to be able to focus, not necessarily in an oversensory environment. I have the tools to make somebody as comfortable as possible and hopefully be able to learn more about it as well.

But exactly that point that it doesn't take much. It doesn't ‑‑ that's why I said I'm not hear to talk about sexy tech at all. It's a bit of understanding, reading materials. How are we making that clear? How we are using narrator, immersive reading tools. I can already tell you things I should be thinking about. Thank you. Maybe we're not doing it enough. I hope everybody else can be thinking about it, too.

>>  So, first I want to apologize if I was not clear enough. When I mentioned the example of the relevance, I meant cognitive and learning disabilities. This is where you have the most return on investment often actually. I would like to counter your argument that don't do justified text has a high return.

There are tons and tons of usability and readability stuff that show that this ‑‑ I mean, it's common sense. You know, break up the content with headings. Make it more readable, useable. Use consistent navigation. All the requirements that just help make the product become so much more useable by so many more people.

We have older people, people who are new to technologies. It was mentioned the global south and people who have little interaction with digital technologies. All this cognitive and learning disabilities is at the heart of that. It's something with very low investment as you said correctly, and very high returns very often.

I did actually mean that. Maybe I didn't make it explicit that this is part of it and needs to be equally considered. The web content accessibility guidelines follows a universal design principle. We try to address different types of disabilities including cognitive and learning disabilities. We are trying to improve on that. We have done improvements in version 2.1 which was released last year. We are working on 2.2 where we are trying to do work here with cognitive and learning disabilities task force. It is a subject that's quite difficult to understand. Quite difficult to deal with. But it is something that's very important and on the table.

>>  Great. Thank you. One more comment. Please go ahead. More questions.

>>  Thank you very much for the very good presentations here. For the case of history that we are still in, it means on a daily basis we are getting new members into this community unfortunately.

The WHO statistics reveal that almost half a million Africans are blind and 1.5 million have visual impairment of one type or the other type. Every year we are getting probably another 20 to 25,000 people getting eyesight problems. This all means that blindness is a huge problem in Afghanistan. I have been working for 13 years with a school where I have established a computer lab and also I'm working from time to time with the different age groups on the use of smartphones and when I want to get inspiration, I do visit the school. It's the case where they tell me their stories of how much technology is improving their living conditions. Be it their studies or overall general information or even accessing the maps or other things.

One thing which is of interest to me is the assistive technologies. What sort are available and how affordable they are. When you are thinking about sensory based walkers and sticks, it's not really affordable.

Last year I wanted ‑‑ for the kids associated with me personally, I could not afford it. Each stick cost $1800 to $3500. It's something I want to know more. What's going on for the assistive technologies in order to provide them with a stick or a laptop which is more responsive to their needs.

Since I'm working with blind kids, braille literacy is another thing I would like to see if technology has contributed anything new which you will bring more ease to the lives of the kids. Thank you very much.

>>  Could I just make ‑‑ there are so many things I could say partly in answer to your question. Some of the bilateral donors are now waking up to this.

Just as a matter of interest is anyone here aware of the big funded open IDO call last year or the year before? Specifically around designing disability innovation and technology? DIFD put quite a lot of money into that to support. That's part of the answer.

Another part of the answer is building the open source community. And then being a little bit naughty.

Think how much money we invest in smart cars. You know, that applies to smart humans as well. People with difficulty moving around, we could invest some of the money, shitloads of it is made to enable people with a range of disabilities to access, move around cities.

But they're not doing it. Fundamentally, it comes back. Scientists, R & D people are responsible both for what they do do and for what they don't do, and for what they do by accident.

Tech designers coming out of our schools. People have a choice. They can go make huge amounts of money working for Tesla or they can work in this. It's a moral question about what kind of life, what kind of agenda they want.

If we persuade, going back to what somebody said earlier about training kids. If we get them this enthusiasm when they are young, a few more will go into that. More will do it.

This is of such paramount importance. If we get governments ‑‑ I mean, we were lucky to have a minister in DIFD who championed disability and had a big conference. Sadly, she supports brexit as well. We won't go there. I had to get in there. I'm a true European here in Germany. We haven't left yet. We are fighting to remain.

Anyway, those of us around to champion disabilities, that moral argument, we have to get it through as well as the economic. There are good economic grounds. I'm sorry, I was a bit long.

>>  I have a question for you, Brian.

>>  Ooh!

>>  I think it's great that the association is organizing this workshop. Obviously, as you said from the start, it's committed to accessibility.

I'm wondering how your association is working with app developers. We had a fantastic discussion that was provoked by you. That was really wonderful. So how is your association educating and helping app developers and is there some way us as a community can help you more?

>>  Oh, yes. I really appreciate that question. That's a great question.

>>  You haven't set her up for it?

>>  Right. As a baseline, an association like ours does seek ‑‑ we seek to educate our members about ‑‑ one, about what they need to do. They all ask the question. You know, what do they need to do in order to comply with law or regulation X?

So capturing that data which can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is important. But just meeting the minimum, the floor as far as legal compliance is, I think, we've got definitely unanimous agreement amongst our membership that that's not sufficient. It's part of why we are doing our ‑‑ you know, engaging in fora like these and others.

What we are looking to develop right now is a set of best practices for accessibility by design. Not to recreate the wheel either. We need to build on standardization efforts or the guidelines would be useless actually.

So that's kind of the main deliverable we have under way now. That's not completed. I don't want to say ‑‑ we're late to the party. We're late to the party. We need to acknowledge it. My segment of the industry needs to acknowledge that.

So I would think any way that we can learn more perspectives like what was shared from a developer perspective and from others here, you know, I and associations like ours benefit more than I can really say from that. It influences ‑‑ I think it should and will influence the development of deliverables like that best practices guidelines.

But, you know, our goal when we release them is so socialize them with the entire community. I can't think of a better forum than IGF and ISOC, et cetera, that we can bounce the proposed ideas off of and work from that and improve them.

>>  Thank you. Obviously as we have discussed, for persons with disabilities to be involved in working with you at the early stage.

>>  Yes.

>>  With the best practices guidelines so we ensure that we all are work together.

>>  Right. That can't be understated. You know, it would make our guidelines useless to not build off of existing good work including standardization efforts. But also with the ground up input from the communities that we are looking to assist and help. That would be extremely tone deaf if we did that, to put it bluntly.

I violently agree with you.

>>  Thank you.

>>  Great. I'm glad I got to get a question here. Thanks. You know, I had a bunch of questions that I had come up with just in the event that we had no engagement at all. I'm glad I didn't have to use many of them. We started a little late, so we got a couple more minutes. I was thinking this is partly a little bit of a recap, too. Maybe a question to any of you all here really. It's a great ‑‑ from my perspective, a great discussion. We have talked about a wide range of challenges and where efforts are falling short and incentives and successes. Angles that I didn't think about before. I appreciate them being workforce development, for example.

I should have thought of that. That's just one example. So, you know, just thinking, hey, we're at IGF right now. From an internet governance perspective, how can we best realize the universal design, ease of access principles, whatever we want to call them. It's probably a combination. So there is that.

But there are other vehicles and venues maybe that we haven't maybe had a chance to touch on. For example, the United Nations convention ‑‑ I'm sorry. I blanked on the C. On the rights of persons with disabilities. There's a great work that the relevant SIG and ISOC is doing.

There are also national laws and regulations. An interesting approach like universal service that you were talking about. So I was curious if ‑‑ I don't know. You don't have to pick one.

But if there were a way to make the most meaningful step forward, if you wanted to suggest one, that's me taking four questions and putting them into one. Hopefully that kind of puts an exclamation mark on our conversation here and gives us something to think about action‑wise moving forward. My rambling question.

A meaningful venue be it a national law, a treaty, standardization effort that's not housed by a government entity? What do you all think?

>>  So from the government guy, Tim banged it on the head. Government needs to be able to use its procurement power to create those spaces for these opportunities for the Microsofts of the world, for the advocates of the world to really create inclusive ICT to have access to internet.

In Canada, just this past July, the accessible Canada act came into force. That's meant to create a culture change within government. By extension, the rest of Canadian society, it will impact government departments as well as federally regulated entities. It speaks towards the things that Tim raised about procurement, about hiring practices, about creating safe spaces. Ensuring that the barriers that are currently existing within federal government, within how we do our business are eliminated and that we use our procurement power and just pure size to be able to influence society as a whole.

So just from a Canadian government perspective, hopefully in the next ten years, we'll be able to come back to this table and say that we have moved the bar that much further, that the presentations we make are that much more accessible.

 

>>  Oh, look. She's got something to say. It might be a little bit ‑‑ so acceleration. I worry when you have all of that sort of list of the great and the good that things will take long to move on. I don't know whether we have lots of time. I don't think we've got ten years.

>>  Well, I would argue the issue has been longstanding.

>>  Yes.

>>  I think to have meaningful change you need to have a culture change and that culture change doesn't occur, like, within a day.

>>  Correct.

>>  Doesn't come within a year. It really is reinforcing the positive ideas of inclusion, of having a blended workforce, of keeping accessibility top of mind. It's something I don't think we'll be able to change in a year from now.

>>  Sure.

>>  Not in a meaningful way. On the surface obviously we can do many things, but to have the meaningful change where after we have retired and passed on the good works will continue.

>>  Yeah, I hear that. Obviously I'm not saying that and I'm aware of the culture change. I began this conversation saying I'm part of a company that if you haven't noticed already has gone through massive culture change. In terms of the way that we have been sort of laser focused on doing stuff that's smart, quick, impactful.

I feel that if you and I could meet in the middle and just say in some respects don't reinvent the wheel. Come speak to us. How can you cut and paste what I have said and I have only touched on a minor bit of what we can do. Cut and paste it into one government organization. We could probably have the organization, have that in 12, 18 months. I suppose I have been a little bit ‑‑ I'm pushing. I feel we need to push. Especially if we want to start, Brian, to your point, start talking about the organizations and treaties and what have you.

We all know how long a treaty takes. I work in the regulatory space as well. We all know how long that can take.

I feel there are cost effective, quick, already done solutions, low hanging fruit that we can do. Maybe if it is a fora to identify low hanging, quick stuff that we can do this and get going.

>>  That's provoked me to be naughty again. You are never going to reduce inequality if you only pick the low hanging fruit. You have to start with the most difficult, the most marginalized. Women in patriarchal societies with disabilities, start there. It's easy if we have the will to do it. 

[ Inaudible ]

 

>>  No, no. Everyone has to show success. You pick the low hanging fruit, show it works. That leads to greater inequality. Unless you work with the first billion, not the next billion, not the bottom billion, the first billion because they are the most important. We don't work there. We are not going to ‑‑ apologies. They were telling me to shut up.

>>  Yeah. So I think first and again from the global perspective is, again, research. Still to understand the social factors that may impact accessibility.

The second thing is data. So persons with disabilities ‑‑ and again we spoke about this earlier. It's really important when we think about consultation, participation on different types of disabilities.

We don't really have this because we don't have the significant data.

The third thing would be also ‑‑ I mean, in the context where we have limited resources it is really important for us to think how best do we use those limited resources.

So things around coordination of the sectors involved. It's very important. Some of our countries aren't as efficient. We are not able to finance our own budget 100%. It's very important to think about how we use the few resources we have and also ‑‑ I mean, Tim spoke about the great work DFID is doing. So what's the role of the big international agencies in the global area and how can we work to implement the policies.

>>  Absolutely. All right. Great. Thank you. They have waved at us back there. We have run a little bit over. We appreciate the engagement here. Great engagement in the session. Lots to think about. Please be on the lookout for the follow up ‑‑ oh, I apologize.

>>  I'm sorry. Are you closing now?

>>  I think, yeah.

>>  You're wrapping up?

>>  Please, speak. I'm sorry.

>>  Thank you. My name is Judy. I come from Kenya. Thank you for the discussions. When it comes to the global south then it turns around. One of the things I was discussing with Gwenella is the use of the time of accessibility. When you come to Kenya to talk about accessibility they'll tell you, oh, we are going to set up infrastructure there and they are going to have internet, all right? So you need to be particular when you say accessibility for persons with disabilities.

It's interesting to hear from the government guy ‑‑ hi. Yes, it is interesting to hear that the government in Canada is actually listening to the people and what is it that the persons with disabilities need and require?

An example like right now in Kenya, the government services are going online, which is totally great. So we have this platform we call the.

[ Inaudible ]

Platform. Unfortunately that platform, there is no screen reader that can read it. You find if you need to renew your license you have to go online. But if you have a visual ‑‑ I'm supposed to finish? All right. That if somebody has a visual disability then you still need to get somebody else to help you do that. If you need to get a passport, then the same.

So when you talk about the power of procurement, what happens in an instance whereby the government itself is not following on the rules that it has set up.

>>  That's a great question. Government Canada has been listening to its citizens, but this is the first year that the act came into effect. In the past, we have had similar issues where we have created online portals and it really is using the voice of this forum and grassroots organizations to sort of help shift that change.

That's how the accessible Canada act came about. There was a groundswell from the disability community from all corners demanding that the government do better, that it support all of its citizens. So that's the result of the accessible Canada act.

So I would say take heart. It's a process.  I know it can be tiring. But the outcome will be amazing.

>>  Wish we had more time, folks. I know we have run over. Apologies to IGF staff. Thank you all so much.  Please join me in thanking the panelists and everything. Thanks a lot. Look for the follow up report. Thanks, all.

[ Applause ]

 

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