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Internet Governance

Can mobile ‘Apps’ create a new golden age of Accessibility?

Summary and Discussion of workshop 182, Room 5, 11.30 – 13.30: Tuesday. http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=WSProposals2010View&wspid=182

This workshop was titled “Can mobile ‘Apps’ create a new golden age of Accessibility?” which was held to discuss the nature of provisions being made to aid access for the disabled to coincide with the development of today’s modern media, with special regard to mobile Apps.

While several workshops dealt with the issue of providing access to the disabled, I felt this particular workshop was one-of-a-kind as it actually discussed the aid’s in existence right now and attempted to seek to explore how these modifications had been made to every day web pages or mobile phone apps that provided tremendous help. I also felt this workshop did aim to truly call the internet to recognize that as the internet’s capabilities and achievement’s of development improve, we need to recognise that the aid’s to enable access to these capabilities and also to utilize the abilities of the web are required to improve to maintain harmonization.

The Workshop was panelled by Charles Jonathan (Mr.)Mehta Arun (Mr.)

Mister Patrick Foster from CISCO, Arun Mehta, Shadi Abou-Zahra from the W3C and Garrett Ford Williams from the BBC.

Each panellist gave a very informative speech focusing on each aspect of aid’s to access for the disabled that could and are available. Mister Williams from the BBC explained the BBC’s point on how they strive to achieve the most suitable provisions while Mister Abou-Zahra also called on a development of standardization of library’s to provide a uniform interface for all, be it even competitors, of development of interfaces for disabled. Mister Arnoud Aart Theodurus provided a live demonstration and explanation of the possibilities and helpfulness of Real Time Text (www.realtimetext.org) where text is immediately send and displayed to the fellow member of the conversation. The foundation Read-Time Text Taskforce mission was to ensure we have a source of harmonized text communication solutions, just as available as voice, especially to those who need it most.  Arnoud Aart Theodurus also called for all mobile apps to be tested personally by those people who use it, not just those who understand it, as clearly they will have a much better judgment of its good and bad points.  This was later also reinforced by Arun Mehta from India who works with a focus on helping Disabled Children. Arun also pushed for the people with the particular disability that the App/aid is being developed for to actually work on the team developing it, clearly much more beneficial. Arun also brought the case of  a woman in India (where Autism isn’t deemed a s a disability) wrote to the government as her daughter was so very effected by the Autism Condition pleading for it to be recognized. Arun then informed us that this woman was denied help/funds with the reason being “it would take away funds and services for disabilities that required it”.

Andrea (the chair) also followed up on Arnoud to justify and explain the absolute necessity of interoperability between real time text to efficiency allow real time conversations with immediately delivered messages Andrea similarly called for the desperate need for proprietary standards for real time text to be introduced to the Internet and VOIP, etc. Andrea also made a plug for the great advantages and suitability of Gunners outreach 112 which allows conversations in 20 separate countries.

A question I posed to the panel, specifically the employee of the BBC Mister Williams who’s pain responsibility is to ensure and help provide access for those in need of aid to view or access the BBC’s product (TV shows, internet pages, etc) caused a slight commotion; “When developing aid’s for the disables, which disability do you prioritize?” Though I appreciate the complexity of the issue, especially regarding the panel’s reaction to what I had just asked, my aim of the question was to draw attention to the issue of certain disabilities routinely being prioritized over others, especially regarding learning from Arnoud that people with hearing impairments were routinely ignored when seeking aid. In spite of the difficulty of the issue I had mentioned, I must commend Mister Williams who genuinely attempted to explain that though they attempt to provide access to all, there must be several considerations made. I expected these considerations to be explained as a “the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few” comparison however I was happily surprised to be wrong. Mister Williams explained the rationale that we will always be limited by technical restrictions regarding the creation of “Aid apps” or providing ease of access. If providing subtitles is easier, faster and will be successfully accomplished faster than for example providing access for a child with severe learning disabilities, then these technical aspects must be considered. Mister Williams did however reassure myself and the rest of the work shop that there are always seeking to provide 100% access, including the hypothetical child with learning disabilities. I’m glad to mention that the Mister Williams also mentioned that the BBC reached 100% subtitle coverage of all their programs recently, so I hope to see many more wonderful achievements to come.

During the workshop, it was quite unfortunate while simultaneously quite an irony that the captioning of the speakers was interrupted several times with the malfunctioning of the captioning being provided, once for several minutes, forcing the Workshop to be halted until captioning could be continued. This was especially necessary as one of the Panellist’s is deaf, (Arnaud Aart Theodurus). In reflection of last year where no workshops had captioning available,  I understand and appreciate the monumental achievement of inclusion that the IGF has taken with ensuring the provision of Captioning this year. I myself used captioning several times during this workshop and the IGF conference overall in spite of no disability however especially during this workshop, my own wireless connection was also repeatedly disrupted and I was not able to utilize the benefit of being of able to review what had been previously said by the panel which I found especially helpful when I had trouble understanding accents. Luckily, being able to access captioning wasn’t an absolute necessity for me, but for others, especially Arnaud Aart Theodurus,  this could potentially have been a huge problem.

I felt this workshop was an excellent success and it was wonderful that it took place at the 5th IGF meeting and hopefully will return in the IGF meetings to come in the future. A point made which I believe is very suitable to conclude with is that quality rather than box ticking, main stream application and can enhance the web for everybody.