Author: Tim Unwin

IGF 2019 WS #64 Internet Accessibility Empowering Persons with Disabilities

WorkshopI’m so glad to have been invited to contibute to the session on Internet Accessibility Empowering Persons With Disabilities at this year’s Internet Governance Forum Meeting in Berlin (Wednesday 27th November, 1500-1650 CET in Room IV of the Estrel Congress Center, Sonnenallee 225, 12057 Berlin).

Hopefully, the introductory pieces by all of the speakers will be short, so that we can have a lively discussion.  I am speaking last, so previous speakers will probably have made all of the important points! However, for those unable to attend, this is what I am hoping to say:

I would like to use this opportunity to make four brief points:

First, unless universal inclusion and accessibility are built into all new digital technologies from the original design stage to end user, they will further increase inequality.  The more and more advanced technologies become, the further they benefit those who can afford and are able to use them, rather than the most marginalised and poorest, especially those with disabilities

Second, it is crucial that we change the design approach mindset so that inclusion becomes of paramount importance for the internet and the use of digital technologies.  This can be done in many ways, but I have always been impressed by the power of the market, and the role that procurement can play, especially by governments and large corporations.

Third, we can all get better at what we do!  I continually get cross with myself that I do not always insert alternative text for all of the images I post on my digital platforms, and in the slide decks that I share of my talks.  It is not good enough, but it takes longer to do, and with a tight schedule I usually forget. I need to do better; we all do.

Finally, and to end on a more optimistic note, of course the design of new digital technologies can indeed be used by people with disabilities to transform their lives.  There are always new things being developed – my latest exciting discovery is OptiKey .  However, we need to do much more to help change developers’ attitudes – and indeed those of the wider tech community.  Smart city technology for example should be being used much more to help the blind and visually impaired.  We must all do more – together with those with disabilities, and not just “for them”.

WSIS 2019 podcast on assistive technologies

I was delighted to have been asked to do one of the podcasts at WSIS2019 earlier this month with Taaha Bin Khalid, Founder & CEO at VUME on Assistive Technologies.  This is now available through WSIS TalkX on Soundcloud.  Sadly I spoke for far too long, but it was a fun conversation – as the picture afterwards below indicates! Thanks to the ITU for the opportunity, and to Rhiannon who did the interview.


WSIS 2019 – Monday 8th April designated as “WSIS Accessibility Day”

It is great news that the World Summit on the Information Society Annual Forum this year has designated Monday 8th April as Accessibility Day, and will be running a series of workshops and exhibitions to profile this important occasion.  Please mark the day in your diary, share the news, and if possible attend yourself.  There will be opportunities for online participation, but we are hopeful that as many people as possible will be able to be there in person.

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and the Inter-Islamic Network on IT will jointly be convening another of their series of workshops on turning rhetoric into reality, policies into practice, and welcome involvement from as many people as possible to maek this hands-on, practical workshop a success.

Global Disability Summit, London, 23-24 July 2018

It is great to be part of the Global Disability Summit being convened by DFID, The International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya at Here East in London, with the Civil Society Forum being held on the 23rd July and the Summit itself on 24th September.   The Summit is intended to “raise global attention on a long-neglected area, mobilise new global and national commitments on disability inclusion and showcase good practice, innovation and evidence from across the world”.  For those unable to participate in person, there is Livestreaming of the event.

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As the Summit programme notes, “The Summit is built around four themes (dignity and respect for all, inclusive education, economic empowerment and technology and innovation) and includes additional crosscutting and strategic spotlight sessions. We are building a movement of change, and we invite you all to be part of the legacy of the Summit and sign the GDS18 Charter for Change: an expression of our collective ambition commitment that unites us all”.

It is excellent to see the UK government highlighting the importance of empowering people with disabilities through this summit, and I hope that global media will give it the prominence that it deserves.  However, its impact will depend very largely on what we all do afterwards.  I very much hope that the rhetoric is indeed turned into reality.

Update: UNESCO/Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

Just to note that there is a new deadline of 14/10/16 for nominations for the 2016 UNESCO/ Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities – do please consider applying or suggest nominations.  It is a great opportunity to raise the profile of institutional and individual successes in using ICTs to empower people with disabilities.

UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

UNESCO has just announced the launch of the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, the closing date for which is 9th September 2016.  Key points about the Prize are as follows:

  • The UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (hereafter the Prize) is to:

    • recognize the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations in promoting the inclusion;
    • and enhancing the lives of persons with disabilities through the application of digital solutions, resources and technologies.

    In line with UNESCO’s strategic objectives and especially the Major Programme Communication and Information, this includes translating human rights and fundamental freedoms into action, with a particular emphasis on removing barriers to enable greater access to information and knowledge, as well as learning and participation in society through the effective application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

    The Prize has also direct thematic linkages to other UNESCO’s Major Programmes.

  • UNESCO awards the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities every two years. All individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations active in the field of inclusion of persons with disabilities in society can present themselves as eligible candidates.  UNESCO’s Member States, UNESCO’s National Commissions and Non-Governmental Organizations in official partnership with UNESCO are invited to solicit, nominate and submit candidates for the Prize.
  • In order to participate, all applications must be endorsed by the Government of a Member State in consultation with its National Commission for UNESCO. The relevant non-governmental organizations maintaining official partnerships with UNESCO could also endorse applications. Therefore, Member States need to submit a written recommendation in support of the candidate’s project. Self-endorsements cannot be considered.

Please share this information and UNESCO’s link to the Prize as widely as possible.

Tawasol – Arabic/English bilingual symbol dictionary

Tawasol: A really useful resource for those with communication and literacy challenges at the interface between the Arabic and English worlds.  It is a bilingual Arabic / English symbol dictionary of the most frequently used words in spoken and written communication (Tawasol in Arabic) represented by images and pictograms. It is hoped the freely available symbols designed in Doha with the support of a Qatar National Research Fund project can become part of a toolkit of strategies to benefit those with communication and literacy difficulties.

Key-readings on ICT use by people with disabilities

I’ve just updated the page of key readings on ICT use by people with disabilities –  These are publications that I have found to be useful, but I know that there is much more good literature out there.  Please do add suggestions in the comments section  beneath, and I will add the best of these to the list!  Thanks in anticipation!

AGFUND award for Empowerment and Social Integration of Refugees and Internally Displaced people

The Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND) is pleased to invite the UN, international and regional organizations, ministries and public institutions, national NGOs and qualified experts worldwide to submit nominations as deemed eligible for the 2016 AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Human Development in the field of “Empowerment and Social Integration of Refugees and Internally Displaced people”.
As this invitation is open to all regions of the world, I would appreciate very much your cooperation in circulating the Press Release copied below (Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese) through your network and mailing list.

For more information, please visit AGFUND website