Sunday, July 3, 2016

The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics

Public Procurement Directive, Web Accessibility Directive, European Accessibility Act… in the context of these regulations coming into force, under revision or being discussed, Microsoft’s event on “The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics” brought together in a timely manner an interesting group of stakeholders.

Keynote speaker Mark Pollock set the stage. He told his personal story from loosing his sight at 22 to loosing the ability to walk years later. Mark found comfort in technology that helped him overcome certain barriers and gave him back a semblance of normalcy - at least in certain situations. Following speakers in the panel agreed with Mark that one of the biggest advantages of accessible or assistive technologies is to “feel slightly normal again” and that technologies such as Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape can help filling gaps “which I did not know I have”. Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape is a technology that helps blind users to more independently, liberating movement, and facilitating “normal” street experience. Kirstie from Guide Dogs UK shared her experience with this technology and how it helped her gain back some independence and freedom. 

While technology can liberate, legal and policy aspects play into ensuring these technologies are available to all users that need them. The European Commission explained their motivation for proposing a European Accessibility Act, underlining that the market development in ICT over the past 20 years has failed to create a truly harmonised and interoperable offer in accessible and assistive devices. And Prof. Anne Lawson from the University of Leeds expanded on the role of legislation and policies moving accessibility forward. Equality laws have been successful in some countries to push the accessibility agenda, but she sees the greatest potential in governments using their research and innovation agendas to push for accessibility. 

Robin Spinks from RNIB put the question out there: why is existing legislation not enforced? If you race down the highway, you get a ticket right away, but if you infringe on accessibility obligations, there are no consequences. One possible answer: the governments do not have their own house in order (meaning they are not very good in applying accessibility rules themselves, starting with making their websites and apps accessible….), so they are reluctant to police accessibility implementation in general. 

Geoff Adams-Spink, former BBC Age & Disability Correspondent, and moderator of the panel discussions, challenged the innovators panel to speculate on what the future will hold for accessibility. The panel members came from a background of touch based and eye controlled computers solutions for special education (Tobii), dyslexia screening (Optolexia), ICT consulting (Softjam) and the Internet of Things (Univera Sade). As varied as their background were their answers: speculations ranged from wearables to cloud computing, passing by sensors and the Internet of Things. 

While the innovators panel was convinced that the time has come for accessibility to go mainstream - with or without regulation - some pointed out that there still is the misconception that accessibility is only to be done for compliance reasons, that there is no room for creativity. But in reality, many of the features initially developed to help persons with disabilities, have become popular features for everyone: voice recognition, image recognition, zoom, predictive text… the list goes on. Also, people with disabilities often have a novel way of working around obstacles and to harvest this intelligence and translate it into new products, people with disabilities must be included in product conception and design from the very beginning. Treating accessibility as on add-on is expensive and counterproductive. 

Before concluding the event, Geoff Adams-Spink challenged his last round of panelists with the question of how to best pitch accessibility to policy makers. Shaheen Parks, analyst at Forrester, answered that beyond the profit and tapping into the market power of the disabled community, accessible solutions are proven to help in productivity and optimisation. Dr. Cara Antoine from Shell would say that accessibility is simply the right thing to do - out of respect for the people. Robin Spinks from RNIB, would take several disabled friends along and invite the policy maker to use Robin’s computer to book him a flight - with screen magnification on and no way to switch it off. Then he would invite him together with his friends to a bar and to ponder about life. Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet would ask the policy maker to use his phone out in the bright sunlight and see how well he’d be able to handle that. 

Some good ideas we can all try out next time we come to explain to policy makers why accessibility counts. 

The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics

Public Procurement Directive, Web Accessibility Directive, European Accessibility Act… in the context of these regulations coming into force, under revision or being discussed, Microsoft’s event on “The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics” brought together in a timely manner an interesting group of stakeholders.

Keynote speaker Mark Pollock set the stage. He told his personal story from loosing his sight at 22 to loosing the ability to walk years later. Mark found comfort in technology that helped him overcome certain barriers and gave him back a semblance of normalcy - at least in certain situations. Following speakers in the panel agreed with Mark that one of the biggest advantages of accessible or assistive technologies is to “feel slightly normal again” and that technologies such as Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape can help filling gaps “which I did not know I have”. Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape is a technology that helps blind users to more independently, liberating movement, and facilitating “normal” street experience. Kirstie from Guide Dogs UK shared her experience with this technology and how it helped her gain back some independence and freedom. 

While technology can liberate, legal and policy aspects play into ensuring these technologies are available to all users that need them. The European Commission explained their motivation for proposing a European Accessibility Act, underlining that the market development in ICT over the past 20 years has failed to create a truly harmonised and interoperable offer in accessible and assistive devices. And Prof. Anne Lawson from the University of Leeds expanded on the role of legislation and policies moving accessibility forward. Equality laws have been successful in some countries to push the accessibility agenda, but she sees the greatest potential in governments using their research and innovation agendas to push for accessibility. 

Robin Spinks from RNIB put the question out there: why is existing legislation not enforced? If you race down the highway, you get a ticket right away, but if you infringe on accessibility obligations, there are no consequences. One possible answer: the governments do not have their own house in order (meaning they are not very good in applying accessibility rules themselves, starting with making their websites and apps accessible….), so they are reluctant to police accessibility implementation in general. 

Geoff Adams-Spink, former BBC Age & Disability Correspondent, and moderator of the panel discussions, challenged the innovators panel to speculate on what the future will hold for accessibility. The panel members came from a background of touch based and eye controlled computers solutions for special education (Tobii), dyslexia screening (Optolexia), ICT consulting (Softjam) and the Internet of Things (Univera Sade). As varied as their background were their answers: speculations ranged from wearables to cloud computing, passing by sensors and the Internet of Things. 

While the innovators panel was convinced that the time has come for accessibility to go mainstream - with or without regulation - some pointed out that there still is the misconception that accessibility is only to be done for compliance reasons, that there is no room for creativity. But in reality, many of the features initially developed to help persons with disabilities, have become popular features for everyone: voice recognition, image recognition, zoom, predictive text… the list goes on. Also, people with disabilities often have a novel way of working around obstacles and to harvest this intelligence and translate it into new products, people with disabilities must be included in product conception and design from the very beginning. Treating accessibility as on add-on is expensive and counterproductive. 

Before concluding the event, Geoff Adams-Spink challenged his last round of panelists with the question of how to best pitch accessibility to policy makers. Shaheen Parks, analyst at Forrester, answered that beyond the profit and tapping into the market power of the disabled community, accessible solutions are proven to help in productivity and optimisation. Dr. Cara Antoine from Shell, would say that accessibility is simply the right thing to do - out of respect for the people. Robin Spinks from RNIB, would take several disabled friends along and invite the policy maker to use Robin’s computer to book him a flight - with screen magnification on and no way to switch it off. Then he would invite him together with his friends to a bar and to ponder about life. Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet would ask the policy maker to use his phone out in the bright sunlight and see how well he’d be able to handle that. 

Some good ideas we can all try out next time we come to explain to policy makers why accessibility counts. 

The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics

Public Procurement Directive, Web Accessibility Directive, European Accessibility Act… in the context of these regulations coming into force, under revision or being discussed, Microsoft’s event on “The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics” brought together in a timely manner an interesting group of stakeholders.

Keynote speaker Mark Pollock set the stage. He told his personal story from loosing his sight at 22 to loosing the ability to walk years later. Mark found comfort in technology that helped him overcome certain barriers and gave him back a semblance of normalcy - at least in certain situations. Following speakers in the panel agreed with Mark that one of the biggest advantages of accessible or assistive technologies is to “feel slightly normal again” and that technologies such as Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape can help filling gaps “which I did not know I have”. Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape is a technology that helps blind users to more independently, liberating movement, and facilitating “normal” street experience. Kirstie from Guide Dogs UK shared her experience with this technology and how it helped her gain back some independence and freedom. 

While technology can liberate, legal and policy aspects play into ensuring these technologies are available to all users that need them. The European Commission explained their motivation for proposing a European Accessibility Act, underlining that the market development in ICT over the past 20 years has failed to create a truly harmonised and interoperable offer in accessible and assistive devices. And Prof. Anne Lawson from the University of Leeds expanded on the role of legislation and policies moving accessibility forward. Equality laws have been successful in some countries to push the accessibility agenda, but she sees the greatest potential in governments using their research and innovation agendas to push for accessibility. 

Robin Spinks from RNIB put the question out there: why is existing legislation not enforced? If you race down the highway, you get a ticket right away, but if you infringe on accessibility obligations, there are no consequences. One possible answer: the governments do not have their own house in order (meaning they are not very good in applying accessibility rules themselves, starting with making their websites and apps accessible….), so they are reluctant to police accessibility implementation in general. 

Geoff Adams-Spink, former BBC Age & Disability Correspondent, and moderator of the panel discussions, challenged the innovators panel to speculate on what the future will hold for accessibility. The panel members came from a background of touch based and eye controlled computers solutions for special education (Tobii), dyslexia screening (Optolexia), ICT consulting (Softjam) and the Internet of Things (Univera Sade). As varied as their background were their answers: speculations ranged from wearables to cloud computing, passing by sensors and the Internet of Things. 

While the innovators panel was convinced that the time has come for accessibility to go mainstream - with or without regulation - some pointed out that there the misconception that accessibility is only to be done for compliance reasons, that there is no room for creativity. But in reality, many of the features initially developed to help persons with disabilities, have become popular features for everyone: voice recognition, image recognition, zoom, predictive text… the list goes on. Also, people with disabilities often have a novel way of working around obstacles and to harvest this intelligence and translate it into new products, people with disabilities must be included in product conception and design from the very beginning. Treating accessibility as on add-on is expensive and counterproductive. 

Before concluding the event, Geoff Adams-Spink challenged his last round of panelists with the question of how to best pitch accessibility to policy makers. Shaheen Parks, analyst at Forrester, answered that beyond the profit and tapping into the market power of the disabled community, accessible solutions are proven to help in productivity and optimisation. Dr. Cara Antoine from Shell, would say that accessibility is simply the right thing to do - out of respect for the people. Robin Spinks from RNIB, would take several disabled friends along and invite the policy maker to use Robin’s computer to book him a flight - with screen magnification on and no way to switch it off. Then he would invite him together with his friends to a bar and to ponder about life. Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet would ask the policy maker to use his phone out in the bright sunlight and see how well he’d be able to handle that. 

Some good ideas we can all try out next time we come to explain to policy makers why accessibility counts. 

The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics

Public Procurement Directive, Web Accessibility Directive, European Accessibility Act… in the context of these regulations coming into force, under revision or being discussed, Microsoft’s event on “The future of accessibility - through the lens of technology, policy and economics” brought together in a timely manner an interesting group of stakeholders.

Keynote speaker Mark Pollock set the stage. He told his personal story from loosing his sight at 22 to loosing the ability to walk years later. Mark found comfort in technology that helped him overcome certain barriers and gave him back a semblance of normalcy - at least in certain situations. Following speakers in the panel agreed with Mark that one of the biggest advantages of accessible or assistive technologies is to “feel slightly normal again” and that technologies such as Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape can help filling gaps “which I did not know I have”. Microsoft’s 3D Soundscape is a technology that helps blind users to more independently, liberating movement, and facilitating “normal” street experience. Kirstie from Guide Dogs UK shared her experience with this technology and how it helped her gain back a some independence and freedom. 

While technology can liberate, legal and policy aspects play into ensuring these technologies are available to all users that need them. The European Commission explained their motivation for proposing a European Accessibility Act, underlining that the market development in ICT over the past 20 years has failed to create a truly harmonised and interoperable offer in accessible and assistive devices. And Prof. Anne Lawson from the University of Leeds expanded on the role of legislation and policies moving accessibility forward. Equality laws have been successful in some countries to push the accessibility agenda, but she sees the greatest potential in governments using their research and innovation agendas to push for accessibility. 

Robin Spinks from RNIB put the question out there: why is existing legislation not enforced? If you race down the highway, you get a ticket right away, but if you infringe on accessibility obligations, there are no consequences. One possible answer: the governments do not have their own house in order (meaning they are not very good in applying accessibility rules themselves, starting with making their websites and apps accessible….), so they are reluctant to police accessibility implementation in general. 

Geoff Adams-Spink, former BBC Age & Disability Correspondent, and moderator of the panel discussions, challenged the innovators panel to speculate on what the future will hold for accessibility. The panel members came from a background of touch based and eye controlled computers solutions for special education (Tobii), dyslexia screening (Optolexia), ICT consulting (Softjam) and the Internet of Things (Univera Sade). As varied as their background were their answers: speculations ranged from wearables to cloud computing, passing by sensors and the Internet of Things. 

While the innovators panel was convinced that the time has come for accessibility to go mainstream - with or without regulation - some pointed out that there the misconception that accessibility is only to be done for compliance reasons, that there is no room for creativity. But in reality, many of the features initially developed to help persons with disabilities, have become popular features for everyone: voice recognition, image recognition, zoom, predictive text… the list goes on. Also, people with disabilities often have a novel way of working around obstacles and to harvest this intelligence and translate it into new products, people with disabilities must be included in product conception and design from the very beginning. Treating accessibility as on add-on is expensive and counterproductive. 

Before concluding the event, Geoff Adams-Spink challenged his last round of panelists with the question of how to best pitch accessibility to policy makers. Shaheen Parks, analyst at Forrester, answered that beyond the profit and tapping into the market power of the disabled community, accessible solutions are proven to help in productivity and optimisation. Dr. Cara Antoine from Shell, would say that accessibility is simply the right thing to do - out of respect for the people. Robin Spinks from RNIB, would take several disabled friends along and invite the policy maker to use Robin’s computer to book him a flight - with screen magnification on and no way to switch it off. Then he would invite him together with his friends to a bar and to ponder about life. Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet would ask the policy maker to use his phone out in the bright sunlight and see how well he’d be able to handle that. 

Some good ideas we can all try out next time we come to explain to policy makers why accessibility counts. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Senior adults aren’t seeking accessibility - they just need a device that helps them see and hear better

Being able to use mobile devices has become as important for senior adults as for everyone else. Ideally, the devices should be accessible and easy to use for seniors, but what does this mean it practice? Amy VanDeVelde, National Connections  Program Manager at OASIS and member of AT&T’s accessibility panel, explains to us how to approach mobile accessibility for seniors and which features senior adults appreciate most.


  • OASIS is promoting healthy ageing. What are your main activities in this respect? 

Amy: 35 years ago our founder was asked to look at the state of services for seniors and senior housing. She discovered that there are three elements for a healthy ageing experience: engagement in life long learning, staying physically active and having a strong sense of social engagement. Out of these findings, she decided to develop interesting content and curricula for older adults. At the time, there was no science to back up her approach but now there is a lot of evidence that healthy aging is a mix of these three key elements. OASIS classes help the whole person. We offer fitness training classes, life-long learning classes, and enriching volunteer opportunities.

  • How do you reach the ageing population? 

Amy: We reach many people through classes and events at nine OASIS centres throughout the US, which are like senior centres. We reach a critical mass of people through community partnerships. For the technology training, I partner, for example with public libraries and other senior centres, in public locations where older adults would go to access technology they may not have at home. Similarly, our health team partners with libraries and local hospitals to offer fitness classes. Overall, we do everything possible to help people age in place. Our community partnership model has allowed us to serve hundreds of thousands of people.

  • How much of a supporting role do you think can mobile accessibility play in healthy ageing? 

Amy: I believe that the role of accessible technology continues to evolve as we use more technology in our daily lives. I have this perspective because my main activity is running OASIS Connections, which is a technology training program. Connections was originally created for older adults, but it can also help any digital newcomer. This is because learning technology is like learning a new language for digital newcomers. The Connections program is OASIS’ national program for intellectual stimulation and keeping your brain engaged. Is there a better way to keep your brain engaged than keeping up with technology? Our student materials are all available in English. We also have two classes translated to  Korean and eleven translated to Spanish. Our Mobile Accessibility Guide is the first Connections book we are publishing free on our website in English and Spanish:

Hopefully this free resource will allow to reach more people.

  • When senior adults come to your technology classes, what is the biggest hurdle that they need to overcome to be able to use mobile technologies? 

Amy: In the past, the key barrier was relevance. When older adults did not perceive the technology as relevant to them, they did not adopt. One factor influencing this change is the trend of ‘hand-me-up devices’. This is when children or grandchildren give a device to an older relative in order to keep in better touch. The idea is a good one but learning how to use the device can be a challenge.  Learning technology from family members can also be challenging at times... Additionally, seniors are not sure that they want to bear the cost of newer technology.

In the past 18 months, we are seeing a change in technology adoption patterns by older adults. The latest numbers (Benton Foundation) show that the need to have internet access is becoming more ubiquitous. Mature adults were early adopters of eReaders likely because they could adjust the size of the text to make it more readable. Caregiving, whether for a spouse or a grandchild, also has become more tied to technology. Diabetics can send their data to their doctors via the internet. Grandparents who want to be informed about things happening at their grandchildren’s schools can do so via the internet. The United States differs from Europe in access to broadband internet services, particularly in inner cities and rural areas. 2015 data by the Pew Research Center showed that people without broadband access are buying smartphones in order to have internet access. Pew has named this group ‘smart phone dependents.’

Many people who have said before that they did not want or need the internet, now understand that they do need access to the internet, and are beginning to do what is necessary to get the access. If that means buying a smartphone and using a data plan they will do so. This is not a very cost effective way of accessing the internet, but if there is no broadband and limited options for public internet access, people are adopting smart phones for this purpose.

These are really interesting shifts happening in the US. There has also been a jump in smartphone adoption in the boomer generation. The number one reason for adopting these technologies is still to stay connected with loved ones. Year after year, over 70% of people taking a Connections class do it to stay in touch with someone in their life. As younger generations adopt new methods of communication, older adults will follow them. We have seen this over the past four years with steadily rising numbers of older Facebook users. Texting is also becoming a more popular way that older adults can stay connected. And since many of us do not live close to family, when internet access is affordable, amazing applications like FaceTime, Skype and Google Hangouts allow people to see the faces of their loved ones. These communication applications are very appealing to older adults.

  • It is an interesting aspect that the lack of broadband access forces people to use mobile as their only access. It also shifts the whole burden of accessibility on the mobile device which needs to be simple enough to use. How do you accommodate this in your classes? 

Amy: Connections classes have always been written with the beginner in mind. That does not mean that all the people coming into these classes start with no experience. We believe that when students leave class with our handbook, it is reassuring and a resource they can use at a later date. Younger generations have become accustomed to finding information online, but that is not the default for mature adults. They are more likely to look for information in a book or call someone to ask for help. If you think about the way boomers learned in a classroom setting, it makes sense that the internet wouldn’t be the first place they would think to look. Once they are comfortable and familiar with the internet, we train them that the internet is an invaluable resource where they can find all kinds of information. Also, people do not know what the term “accessibility” means, so they might not ever look at that menu on a device. In the Mobile Accessibility Guide, they learn about the basics and then they can look for more information online if they want to.

Over the years, OASIS centres have offered classes about accessibility, but they were poorly attended, because senior adults do not identify with having accessibility needs or having a disability. So those classes were more likely to be attended by caretakers, such as the spouse of someone refusing to get a hearing-aid and so on. That is why in our catalogs we did not call our class “Mobile Accessibility” because that term isn’t meaningful. Instead we called it “Better Hearing, Better Seeing with a Smartphone or Tablet”.

We are piloting the class on mobile accessibility throughout the country and we will report on first outcomes at the M-Enabling Summit in June.

  • Are there particular aspects that need to be considered in making mobile telecommunications and devices accessible for senior citizens, aspects that would be different from making mobile telecommunications accessible for specific disability groups? 

Amy: Primarily, older adults do not identify with having a disability.  Unlike people who are hard of hearing, blind or low vision and work with organizations who share special resources designed just for them, it has been hard to reach the senior population... Research shows that hearing loss is a gradual process that affects everyone. Changes in vision also impact most people during the aging process. Still, most seniors will insist that they do not have hearing loss or are not losing some visual acuity. When we show them functionalities that make life easier and are fun to use, we have more success reaching them. That’s why we called our class “better hearing, better seeing” and that approach has worked well.

We have a short video where we have asked attendees of this class about what is important for them in mobile devices. Making text size bigger is certainly one of the first requests. Older adults see the usefulness of speech to text. The thought that they do not have to use their fingers to touch those tiny keys and type all those words is intriguing. When using speech to text, their messages may be longer and in full sentence form differing from messages sent by younger generations.. One of our participants in the video found this very helpful, especially when her thumbs hurt. The third participant in the video found the LED flash alerts super helpful to see when the phone is ringing.

  • What are your experiences with using the GARI database? 

Amy: I was originally introduced to GARI through my work with the Preferences for Global Access project and was involved with reviewing the CTIA’s accesswireless.org website for its usability for seniors which links to GARI. Taking a closer look in the review process, I understood what a great resource GARI is both for people seeking solutions for themselves. Also, caregivers, are an important target group seeking technology solutions to help loved ones. In the last mobile accessibility class for example, two people attended who were looking for how to use mobile devices to communicate with their very hard-of-hearing parents.



If you would like to hear Amy’s talk about the experiences from OASIS' “Better hearing, better seeing with your smartphone” class, you can do so by attending the M-Enabling Summit, 13-14 June 2016 in Washington DC.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Press Release: Mobile accessibility – where are we today?

Vienna, 3 December 2015: The International Day for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a good opportunity to take stock on where we are with the accessibility of mobile phones, tablets and apps.

Statistics released today by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) for the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) show that:

  • Almost half of consumers look for devices with features that will assist with a hearing impairment, closely followed by devices with features designed to assist those with impaired vision.
  • Hearing-aid compatibility, improved call quality, adjustable alerts and maximum volume control are among the most searched for features; and
  • 30 organisations around the world are currently using GARI, helping consumers to search for and find phones best suited to their needs*. 

GARI was created in 2010 by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) to provide information on accessibility features in mobile phones and to help consumers identify devices that support these features.

The GARI website (www.gari.info) features an evolving searchable database that lists information on more than 110 accessibility features and over 1,100 mobile phone models around the world in currently 16 languages. Since 2013, the database also includes information on accessible tablets and accessibility related mobile applications.

"Many of today's mainstream devices have great accessibility features included but most users do not know about them. GARI wants to help people get informed about existing mobile accessibility solutions so that they can fully benefit from them," said Michael Milligan, Secretary General of the Mobile Manufacturers Forum.

“In the past 12 months, we have increased the number of accessibility related apps listed to almost 300. This ensures that people can also check whether their favourite accessibility related app will work with the new device – or what apps are available for their new device,” Mr. Milligan added.

http://www.gari.info/examples-of-gari-in-use.cfm

About the MMF
The Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) is an international association of telecommunications equipment manufacturers with an interest in mobile or wireless communications, including the manufacturers of mobile handsets and devices as well as the manufacturers of the network infrastructure. More information: www.mmfai.info

Press Contact
Sabine Lobnig, sabine.lobnig(@)mmfai.info
Deputy Director Communications & Regulations
Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF)
Tel.: 0043 664 46 23 449
www.gari.info
https://twitter.com/GARIupdates 
www.mmfai.info

Monday, November 2, 2015

LATAM: Promoviendo la accesibilidad móvil, una app por vez

En noviembre, la Unión Internacional de Telecomunicaciones (UIT) celebrará la conferencia regional América Accesible en Colombia y en paralelo organiza un concurso sobre el desarrollo de apps que faciliten la accesibilidad, para Latinoamérica y el Caribe. En una entrevista para el blog GARI, Bruno Ramos, Director Regional de la UIT para Latinoamérica, nos contó más sobre el evento, el concurso de desarrollo de apps y la accesibilidad móvil en la región.

¿Cuál es la motivación para que la UIT realice la Competencia Regional para Latinoamérica y el Caribe “Aplicaciones Móviles para Accesibilidad”? 

Bruno: Permítame comenzar con unas breves palabras sobre el evento. América Accesible es un evento dedicado a explorar cómo podemos hacer las comunicaciones más accesibles para las personas con discapacidad. La idea del evento es reunir a las partes interesadas clave en el área de accesibilidad con las personas clave de la UIT con formación en telecomunicaciones, y crear un entorno en el que puedan debatir abiertamente sobre cómo mejorar la accesibilidad en las telecomunicaciones. Esta fue la motivación para el primer evento América Accesible realizado en 2014. Nuestra idea fue realizar tres eventos, para decidir sobre acciones y actividades concretas que se pueden tomar, y mostrar los resultados en el evento del año siguiente, teniendo en cuenta también que en 2016 se llevarán a cabo los juegos paralímpicos en Brasil. De modo que nuestra idea inicial cuando empezamos a pensar en estos eventos en 2013/2014, también fue proponer algunas acciones concretas al Comité Paralímpico.

Menciono todo esto porque la Competencia Regional para Latinoamérica y el Caribe “Aplicaciones Móviles para la Accesibilidad” es algo concreto y un resultado del evento América Accesible de 2014. Decidimos organizar este concurso y permitir a los desarrolladores presentar aplicaciones concretas que hagan mejor el cotidiano de las personas con discapacidades.

¿Cuáles son sus expectativas en términos de resultados del concurso e impacto de largo plazo en la región? 

Bruno: Nuestro  primer objetivo es promover la idea de accesibilidad en las telecomunicaciones y crear una red. Uno de los retos en nuestra región es la falta de coordinación. Tenemos muchas actividades relacionadas con accesibilidad, tenemos muchas instituciones que se ocupan de este tema, pero a menudo no se conoce qué están haciendo los otros países en el mismo campo. De modo que una de las primeras ideas fue crear una base de datos con los nombres de las partes interesadas clave en accesibilidad en la región. Y la iniciativa fue exitosa: ahora tenemos una base de datos relevante. Uno de los resultados del segundo evento América Accesible sería crear una lista de distribución y compartir noticias e información.

Nuestro segundo objetivo es aumentar la conciencia entre los desarrolladores de apps y alentarlos a crear apps para personas con discapacidades.

¿Quiénes esperan que participen en el concurso y cómo evalúan las apps presentadas? 

Bruno: Al comienzo, no teníamos una lista de los desarrolladores específicamente dedicados al desarrollo de apps relacionadas con accesibilidad. La idea entonces fue usar la cooperación con Samsung, que tiene una gran base de datos de desarrolladores de apps en la región, para distribuir la información sobre nuestro concurso de apps entre los desarrolladores. Finalmente, recibimos casi 50 propuestas de toda la región. Recibimos varias buenas ideas, tanto de desarrolladores experimentados que ya han desarrollado apps, como de personas comunes que todavia no se podría intitularlas como desarrolladores, pero que tuvieran muy buenas ideas, sin tener fondos para crear un app. En el futuro, podríamos dividir la competencia en dos segmentos: uno para apps ya desarrolladas y otro para proyectos/ideas de apps.

¿Cómo están accediendo a estas apps? 

Bruno: Dividimos el proceso de selección entre nuestra gente de la UIT que tiene experiencia en accesibilidad (UIT tiene un departamento que trabaja en telecomunicaciones para personas con discapacidades) y expertos de Samsung. En este comité también estaba una persona con discapacidad. Pero nuestra idea para la próxima edición para la competencia de apps es invitar a algunas organizaciones de personas con discapacidades para participar y ayudarnos en el proceso de evaluación. Ellas pueden mejor evaluar lo que es útil en la vida real para personas con discapacidades.

¿Cuáles son sus planes futuros de accesibilidad en el ecosistema móvil en Latinoamérica y el Caribe?

Bruno: Queremos que el evento América Accesible forme parte de la agenda de la región. Por ejemplo, en la última reunión de la Comisión Interamericana de Telecomunicaciones (CITEL), Perú solicitó organizar una reunión sobre accesibilidad, en conjunto con la siguiente reunión PCC1 (PCC1 es uno de los comités de CITEL que se ocupa de actividades regulatorias en el área).
Nuestra idea sería hacer esto en el marco del evento América Accesible y tal vez organizar una reunión conjunta UIT-CITEL, creando un foro en la región donde se puedan reunir todas partes interesadas de la accesibilidad y de las telecomunicaciones. Es importante reunir a todos y también recordar que las telecomunicaciones hoy no son el objetivo sino la base para crear accesibilidad. Si obtenemos buenas propuestas de estos eventos y feedback positivo de los países, continuaremos a organizar el evento también en los años futuros.

¿Qué tipo de acciones/medidas piensa que podrían permitir a las telecomunicaciones en la región volverse más accesibles para todos? 

Bruno: Las telecomunicaciones lo están cambiando todo y se están cambiando a sí mismas constantemente. Cada 2 o 3 años, enfrentamos nuevos descubrimientos. No creo que haya un elemento principal que permita a la accesibilidad avanzar.

En cambio, debemos asegurarnos de incluir la accesibilidad como un tema importante, motivando y apoyando los países para crear un marco legal nacional y regional. Debemos asegurarnos que las Organizaciones de Personas con Discapacidad sean incluidas, porque ellas saben lo que realmente necesitan, el que ya existe y el que todavia es necesario desarrollar. Debemos también trabajar con los proveedores de infraestructura para aumentar su conciencia que, juntamente con el aumento de banda ancha y la cobertura de redes en las áreas rurales, la accesibilidad también es tema  importante a ser incluido en sus agendas.


De 6 finalistas en el concurso Aplicaciones Móviles para Accesibilidad, una persona/grupo será seleccionado para participar y presentar su app en el evento América Accesible en Colombia, de 4 a 6 de noviembre de 2015.



La Competencia Regional IUT-Samsung para Latinoamérica y el Caribe “Aplicaciones Móviles para Accesibilidad”: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Regional-Presence/Americas/Pages/NEWS/ITU-2015-MobAppforAccesibility.aspx

América Accesible II: Información y Comunicación para TODOS: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Regional-Presence/Americas/Pages/EVENTS/2015/1104-CO-2ndAcce.aspx