IGF 2019 WS #114 Political & technical challenges to web accessibility

Organizer 1: Reinaldo Ferraz, NIC.br
Organizer 2: Bruna Salton, Vinícola Salton
Organizer 3: Léonie Watson, TetraLogical
Organizer 4: Cleto Nivaldo, CGI.br Brazilian Internet Steering Committee
Organizer 5: Luiza Mesquita, Network Inormation center
Organizer 6: ,

Speaker 1: Bruna Salton, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Reinaldo Ferraz, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Léonie Watson, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

What are the main political and technical challenges to enhance the adoption of accessibility standards in Websites?

Relevance to Theme: Currently, the Web reaches a broad field of social activities including ​​education, work, commerce, public services, among others. As the Web assumes a role of increasing relevance to social life, accessibility becomes a pillar to support the autonomy of people with disabilities. E-commerce systems are good examples of how the Internet may support autonomy to people with disabilities. An accessible supermarket Website allow wheelchair users staying home to do the shopping permitting them to choose whether they go or not to physical stores.

More than one billion people around the world have some kind of disability, being that 8% of them live in developing countries according to the World Health Organization. These people cannot be prevented from having full access to applications and services available in the Web.

In Brazil a study conducted by the Center for Studies on Web Technologies (CEWEB.br) shows that 95% of the government sites on the ".gov.br" second level domain are not adherent to accessibility standards. What does this people do when services of public interest are no longer physically available because they are offered exclusively through the Internet? In other sectors the problem also persists. Another survey conducted by the CEWEB.br investigated the situation of e-commerce sites in Brazil. The results verified a wide lack of adherence to W3C accessibility standards in these sites. For example, users of screen readers have identified that in only 25% of the cases tested it was possible to identify and understand the image using a screen reader without the visual reference. This represent a great barrier of access for people with visual disability. Other example, in only 7% of the sites was found a way to consume content in LIBRAS, that is the Brazilian language of Signals, for deaf people.

Applications with access barriers may prevent citizens from exercising their rights online, participating in the digital public sphere, complying with their obligations to the State and society and be autonomous to carry out simple daily tasks. The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. A Website accessible allows user with any king of limitation, be it motor, visual or auditory, to fully use it. Despite all the discussion and efforts made to disseminate accessibility standards, the adherence of Websites in different sectors and countries is still a persistent problem. The Workshop aims to debating the political and technical challenges for the effective adoption of Accessibility Standards in Websites.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Digital inclusion has been one of the central Internet Governance issues. After the World Summit on Information Society (2003 and 2005), Internet Access has been globally associated to the human development in areas such as freedom of expression, access to knowledge and information, education, political engagement and so on. In 2011 the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression affirmed that disconnecting people from the Internet is a human rights violation and against international law.

People with disabilities is an specific social group that have been systematically prevented benefiting from the Internet development potential. The inclusion of people with disabilities in the web is fundamental not only to overcome the digital divide allowing them to accomplish their social duties but also to give them opportunities and voice contributing to build an open and democratic public sphere. In addition, access barriers in web applications can reinforce social inequalities.

This topic is also important to ensure all kind of people, including those with disabilities, to be heard in Internet governance forum where diversity is so much encouraged. In this sense, it is of great importance that the Internet Governance Community debate urgently the challenges of accessibility and take position to avoid that any web application keep their access barriers this social group and others.


Break-out Group Discussions - Flexible Seating - 90 Min

Description: The session is structured around three 30-minute segments. The first will start with a general introduction about the topic and the dynamic which will last 10 minutes. After that, participants will be invited to present their thoughts on the challenges to the global adoption of accessibility standards. The invitees will be divided into three groups. The technical group, the government group and the civil society group. Each group will present the main technical and political challenge from its own perspective. The invitees will be required to prepare a list of at least three political/technical challenges beforehand, to be presented in this first segment of the workshop. Each group will then have around 5 minutes to present their challenges. People from the audience and remote participants will also be invited to present their challenges. The moderator will take note of every one of them and a 30-minute dynamic round will follow this segment in which participant will have to rank the presented political and technical challenges to the adoption of accessibility standards in Websites considering their context (region, sector, etc). The moderator will ask participants to chose 3 challenges and take note of the choices. People from the audience and remote participants will be invited to make their choice. Moderator will rank the choices. After raising the main political and technical challenges, the last 25-minute will be focused on defining and validating the 10 key challenges over the list. The moderators will provoke all participants (including remote participants) seeking to build a roll of internationally agreed core challenges which may contribute with a diagnosis for future solutions related to how the problem of low adoption of accessibility standards could be overcome. The five last minutes will be used to summarize the list of challenges and defining the next step of creating solutions.

Expected Outcomes: The workshop may provide a list of challenges internationally agreed among workshop participants to open a global debate on the core challenges to enhance the adoption of accessibility in websites. The purpose of the workshop is to reach out to different stakeholders in order to disseminate this list of challenges. It is aimed to continue with the discussion started at this workshop, seeking to approach other spaces and global actions in which the theme of inclusion of people with disabilities in a digital context has been taking place (e.g. the IGF Dynamic Coalition on "Accessibility and Disability", in which a major discussion on accessibility for Internet governance is being debated).

Onsite Moderator: 

Cleto Nivaldo, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator: 

Luiza Mesquita, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Reinaldo Ferraz, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Discussion Facilitation: 

The discussion will be facilitated by the onsite moderator who will organize the groups and guide the debate in each of the three 30-minute segments. While the onsite moderator will be in charge of encourage the participation of the general public, the online moderator will make sure the remote participants are represented in the debate. Those joining the session through online platform will be granted the floor in the segments of the workshop. The person in charge of the moderation will strive to entertain onsite and remote participation indiscriminately. Social media (twitter and facebook, mainly but not only) will also be employed by the online moderator who will be in charge of browsing social media using some hashtags.

Online Participation: 

Online participation and interaction will rely on the WebEx platform. The online moderator will encourage remote participation during the session, and will be in charge of connecting the contributions with the onsite moderator.

Proposed Additional Tools: Social media (twitter, facebook and instagram) will also be employed by the online moderator who will be in charge of browsing social media using hashtags that promote inclusion, such as #pracegover (for blind people in Brazil) and others


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities