Building plans; Conversing with ASL; Woman using wheelchair nears moving sidewalk; Children using computer at Community Centre; Person reading Braille

Accessible ICTs – The On Ramp to the Information Superhighway

Accessibility is too often thought of as the ramp that emerged as an afterthought to an otherwise inaccessible entrance. However, accessibility equally applies to the information we provide and the communication we deliver. As virtual worlds continue to grow, the importance of accessible information and communication also grow. Having equal opportunities to the full scope of our society will require equal opportunity to access the information and communication that drives it.

Image of a computer keyboard, and the enter key has been replaced by a red button with the International Symbol of Access (wheelchair logo) and the word Accessibility

Information and communication technologies (ICT) include a very broad range of items. They can range from web sites to software to media such as radio and television. It can however be difficult to separate them from the electronic devices and services that deliver them. An accessible elevator will use ICTs such as both audible and visual indications of the floor you’ve reached. An accessible ATM will use ICT’s by providing verbal feedback through a headset or tactile feedback through raised buttons and Braille. Related concepts include e-Accessibility and e-Inclusion.

Much like existing barriers in physical environments were addressed with things like ramps the same was done with information and communications with things like magnifiers and screen readers.

Design philosophies such as Universal Design and Inclusive Design are most recognized with regard to the built environment. However, they equally apply to the design of information and communication. An inclusive approach to delivering information and communication means providing information in formats and means without the need for additional adaptive equipment. Documents produced with large text may negate the need for magnifiers. Information written in plain language may alleviate the need for translation. Audiobooks allow the option to be enjoyed without the visual acuity to read or the physical ability to turn pages.

image of words providing reasons there is a digital divide: Accessibility, resources, literacy and knowledge among many

Individuals in developing countries already face a digital divide and those with disabilities are further displaced by limitations in accessibility. Efforts to close this gap must also consider the subsequent accessibility. Solutions that consider accessibility from the beginning will alleviate the need for adaptation later.

With a vision to promote equal opportunity in the field of information and communication technology, GAATES has created a specialized committee. The GAATES Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Committee has developed a list of ICT related projects and services that can be undertaken by GAATES for private organization, Governments, International and National Agencies and Corporate organizations. For more information on the ICT services that GAATES can provide, please see our Services page, and download the GAATES ICT Project Ideas and Priorities.

By Matthew Fleet

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In order to make an inclusive society a reality, it is necessary to identify and remove barriers to access.

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