Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG
May 4, 2018

Accessible Americas: A path towards inclusion

To read this article in Spanish click here.

By Miguel Alcaine, Head Area Office, ITU Honduras

In November 2014, a magical moment took place when a need met with a proposed solution. It was the opening day of the event Accessible America in São Paulo.

Since then, every year in November, the Accessible America event takes place. The road started in Brazil, passed through Colombia in November of 2015, by Mexico in November 2016 and by Costa Rica in November of 2017. This year the Accessible America V will take place in Jamaica.

Out of 7 billion people in the world, 1 billion people live with some form of disability. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are tools that can help to improve the quality of life for all.

In this context, accessibility means that the user requires to win functional access to ICTs and ensure that such functionality is provided: If you cannot see a typical screen, you need a way of understanding what is displayed on the screen; If you cannot hear the information, you need a way to obtain that information; If you cannot interact with an appliance, you need a way to do it.

Inclusion, equity and sustainable development are the legs of the table on which any society rests. Once again, the Americas region is a pioneer to advance and concretize the ways to achieve that.

More than 900 participants from Government, Academia, Private Sector, NGOs and other international agencies, have built a community in the Americas who works to raise the accessibility conditions.

This series of events are a product of the staff of the International Union Telecommunication (ITU), particularly I would like to highlight Vera Zanetti of the Regional Office of the Americas and Roxana Widmer Iliescu of the Special Initiatives Division, supported by Bruno Ramos, Regional Director for the Americas and Susan Schorr, Chief of the Division of Special Initiatives, all of them from the Development Bureau (BDT) of the ITU.

The Accessible America series has generated the following products:

·       Guidelines for Promoting ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in the Americas Region [EN][ES] [PO]

·       2015 Regional Event Results [EN] Resultados led Evento Regional de 2015 [ES]

·       2016 Regional Questionnaire for the Consultation and Inputs for Preparatory Work for the Meeting AccessibleAmericas III: Information and Communication for ALL [EN] [ES]

·       2016 – Good practices and achievements in ICT Accessibility in the Americas Region-Guidelines and recommendations [EN] [ES]

·       2017 – Regional Assessment Report on ICT Accessibility [EN] [ES]

·       2017 – Good Practices and achievements in ICT accessibility in the Americas Region [EN] [ES]

Besides the products highlighted in the previous listing, on the web pages of each of the events, listed at the end of this article, you can find many presentations and other resources that may be of your interest.

From 2015, the ITU along with Samsung Brazil have organized contests on applications in the area of accessibility, receiving 95 very competitive entries in 3 editions. In 2015, the award went to Hand Talk. Hand Talk is a machine translation platform, featuring a 3D virtual interpreter, Hugo, translating Portuguese – Libras (Brazilian sign language).

In 2016, the prize was for Caecus (Lucas Manuel Sala, Argentina) and Caecus is a device and associated software that can assist a blind person to avoid obstacles. The designed device is equipped with Ultrasonic sensors, micro-camera, speaker, screen with vibration and a microphone able to grab voice and to pass it for its recognition.

Inclusion, equity and sustainable development are the legs of the table on which any society rests.

In 2016, it was awarded also the “Aplicación de Símbolos de la Comunicación” (Communication Symbols Application) (Alexandre Franco de Magalhães, Brazil). This application facilitates the communication of patients who were affected by a neurological lesion (stroke, head trauma), diseases neurodegenerative and development disorders and it allows and it rehabilitates the ability to understand and formulate messages through images and audio, involving feelings, basic needs, everyday situations and others, improving thus the quality of life of many patients and facilitating their interaction with family members and other people.

In 2017, it was awarded Talk Louder (Mauro Alvarez and Fedérico Rugrancos, Argentina) in the category of ideas. Talk Louder proposes the development of a mobile digital Communicator that enables and optimizes the interaction between a deaf person and one that can hear normally who is not familiar with sign language.

In the category of available products, the prize went to the cloud platform Aboard (Robson Fidalgo and Thiago Lima, Brazil). Aboard is a platform made up of an application of the same name (for people with difficulties to speak), the web editor (for mediators, family, and health or education professionals) and a server (to authenticate users and to store the vocabulary produced).

RELATED: Why ICTs are critical for sustainable development

In addition, within the framework of the event “America accessible IV: ICT for all” held in San José, Costa Rica, “The Trust for the Americas”, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the social franchise Poeta announced the winners of the first, second and third place poet leader of change award.

This award recognized three facilitators, which, by their efforts, vision, creativity and commitment, have made the difference in the work carried out with people in vulnerable situations: people with disabilities, youth at risk, women, among others. The winners were Center Poeta accessible FUNTER of El Salvador, Center Poeta accessible SOS Foundation for Universal Peace Costa Rica and the Center Poeta COPEME accessible of Chiclayo, Peru.

In November 2018, Accessible America V will be held in Jamaica.

We will wait for you.

The original version of this article first appeared in LinkedIn. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ITU.

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Accessible Americas: A path towards inclusion

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