April 10, 2014

Advancing ICT Accessibility with ITU

By Axel Leblois

In February 2007 Craig Barrett, then Chairman of Intel, invited ITU, several other international organizations and a small group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – including our nascent organization, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) – to present their plans to promote the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) among disenfranchised populations.  Our mission to promote the ICT accessibility dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD) seemed far-fetched at the time, in that the CRPD had not yet been signed by any state and nobody anticipated the formidable momentum that the CRPD has today come to enjoy.

One of the participating United Nations (UN) leaders was Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU.  After we presented our plans for G3ict, Dr. Touré said:  “This is an important development and you should talk to our colleagues in Geneva involved in accessibility: those issues are central to ITU’s mission and we could work together”.  Little did I know that this encouragement would put us on the trajectory of developing a long-lasting, productive and effective cooperation with ITU.

Following this meeting ITU and G3ict entered into a cooperation that has since flourished beyond expectation and delivered essential tools in support of policy makers and advocacy organizations around the world, including:

  • The production of a global benchmarking on the implementation of the CRPD, 

available at the periodic“CRPD ICT Accessibility Progress Report,now in its third edition;

  • Mapping the work of standards-developing organizations (SDOs) on ICT accessibility

within the framework of the dispositions of theCRPD;

  • The development of an 

e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities” in 2009, which mobilized more than 62 expert editors from around the world. Since inception, more than 70,000 unique visitors have used the Toolkit which is widely referenced around the world by regulators and policy makers.

  • The publication of Joint reports,

such as “Making Television Accessible” (2011) and “Making Mobile Phones and Services Accessible for Persons with Disabilities” (2012) published jointly by ITU’s Development Sector (ITU-D) and G3ict;

held every year in Washington, DC. The M-Enabling Summit has established itself as the leading global forum for innovation in mobile accessibility and mobile assistive solutions for seniors and persons with disabilities.

  • The advocacy work at the UN level,

such as the work conducted last year for the 2014 High Level Meeting on Disability and Development which led to the publication of a report titled “The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework”, a joint initiative of ITU,UNESCO, G3ict, Microsoft, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the Telecentre.org Foundationwhich advocated for the incorporation of ICT accessibility into the UN post-2015 Development Agenda.

a new initiative being developed with ITU-D.  These model policies, being written by consultants under the joint supervision of ITU-D and G3ict, will provide a much-needed set of practical guidelines for the implementation of the dispositions of the CRPD, based on success factors and good practices observed around the world.

The accomplishments of this ITU-G3ict cooperation and the impact of its output have far exceeded expectations, bringing tremendous benefits to the advancement of ICT accessibility worldwide.

Working with ITU has also been a very rewarding experience on a personal level, involving incredibly committed professionals in Asenath Mpatwa, Alexandra Gaspari, Susan Schorr and Mario Maniewicz of the ITU secretariat and ITU members like Andrea Saks, who hasnever faltered in her passionate commitment to accessibility and the CRPD, helping keep us on track with the broader ITU agenda as G3ict’s Permanent Representative to ITU.

G3ict brought new expertise to the work of ITU, and ITU’s openness to collaboration and global outreach has leveraged G3ict’s expertise to great effect in advancing the cause of ICT accessibility.  Our partnership with ITU is a true success story of collaboration between a UN agency and civil society, and, on behalf of G3ict, I applaud ITU’s thought leadership in a pioneering area.

G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs is based in Atlanta, GA, United States, and is a member of ITU’s Standardization and Development Sectors (ITU-T and ITU-D).  Andrea Saks is G3ict’s Permanent Representative to the ITU.  Axel Leblois is a founding trustee and thecurrent President and Executive Director of G3ict. 

Further information about ITU´s activities in the area of accessibility can be found at www.itu.int/accessibility

Axel Leblois spent over 20 years at the helm of information technology companies in the United States including as CEO of Computerworld Communications, CEO of IDC – International Data Corporation, Vice-Chairman of IDG – International Data Group, President of Bull HN Worldwide Information Systems – formerly Honeywell Information Systems, CEO of ExecuTrain and President of W2i, the Wireless Internet Institute. Axel Leblois served as a Senior Special Fellow of UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and is a founding trustee of its North American affiliate CIFAL Atlanta.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of USICD, U.S. International Council on Disabilities, and GAATES, Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments.  In addition, he serves on the Advisory Board of Mada, Qatar Assistive Technology Center, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of Cloud4all. He is an adjunct professor at OCAD University/Inclusive Design Institute.

– See more at: http://g3ict.org/about/management#sthash.qlLfISha.dpuf

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Advancing ICT Accessibility with ITU

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