Recap – National Webmasters’ Interface on Accessible ICT for Persons with Disabilities

This is the summary of the National Webmasters’ Interface on Accessible ICT for Persons with Disabilities, a conference I attended last May 15-18 at Mango Park Hotel, Cebu City. The recap is written by Ms. Nelia De Jesus, Chief, Technical Cooperation Center of NCWDP or National Council for the welfare of disabled persons.

National Webmasters’ Interface on Accessible ICT for Persons with Disabilities “Empowering Persons with Disabilities through ICT” Mango Park Hotel, Cebu City May 15-18, 2006

The impact of the three Workshops (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) jointly launched by DSWD, NCWDP and CICT greatly inspired participating agencies to come up with “disabled-friendly” websites as a tool to generate IT-related work opportunities with and for persons with disabilities.

The increasing IT-related jobs brought in by western countries’ outsourcing trends have opened up opportunities for many Filipinos, those with disabilities included. Medical transcriptions, call centers, data conversion and others continue to boom and the disability sector wants a part of the actions.

To adequately equip the sector, the government aims to make all its programs open to them through full web accessibility and usability supported by all members.

The National Webmasters’ Interface Workshop on Accessible ICT for PWDs held on May 16-18, 2006 at Mango Park Hotel, Cebu City was participated in by 60 webmasters and advocates from Government Organizations, Non-governmental organizations, academe and organizations of persons with disabilities from the three cluster groups (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) with the theme “Empowering Persons with Disabilities through ICT”. It aims to facilitate sharing of experiences and contributions of participants in promoting accessible ICT for PWDs and assess the impact of the Luzon Visayas and Mindanao Workshop, formulate national standards, guidelines and policies on website accessibility among others. No less than Mr. Leo N. Valdes has given this project his full technical support as the main person.

Prior to Day 1, Mr. Leo N. Valdes, Managing Director of Vision Office, Canada gave the group a crash course on HTML. He also shared with them some basic skills/techniques on how to develop accessible ICT for the PWD sector. Expectation setting followed the HTML crash course. The participants expectations were summarized as follows: come up with a dynamic network of accessible ICT for all, new techniques on website accessibility and technology transfer to their respective agencies. The workshop objectives and mechanics were presented and were found to be meeting the expectations of the participants. To draw positive working relationship among participants, they went through a familiarization activity using the sign language.

For Day 1, the workshop was officially opened through a prayer VTR in sign language entitled “The Warrior is a Child” led by Mr. Ervin R. Reyes, a hearing impaired person from the Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf (MCCID). Representatives delivered opening messages from the Regional Committee for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (RCWDP), National Computer Center-Communication on Information and Communications Technology (NCC-CICT) and the National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP). Executive Director Catalina L. Fermin shared the message of Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral, which recognized the computer technology as an opportunity for better employment of persons with disabilities. Likewise, Director Fermin challenged all the participants to take effective steps to develop accessible ICT for PWDs. In behalf of Mayor Tommy Osmeña, Mr. Conrado Ordesta III welcomed all the participants in Cebu City and expressed his gratefulness to the organizers in choosing Cebu as the venue of the activity. Further, Ms. Belen Yntig represented Regional Director Ernesto Beltran of Technical, Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Chairperson of the Regional Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (RCWDP). Mr. Beltran sent his message of assurance that TESDA Field Office VII would continuously support all the undertakings towards the attainment of the workshop goals and would remain a strong partner of the RCWDP.

APCD Project Director Ms. Kannita Kamolwat shared with the participants their heartfelt thanks to the organizers for inviting them to the workshop. She assured everybody that their organization will join hands with the organizers in this endeavor by sending expert resource persons in the persons of Mr. Hisao Chiba and Mr. Raksak Chairanjuansakun to future activities of the group.

In the plenary Mr, Chiba and Mr. Raksak of APCD discussed the current web accessibility situation in the Asia and the Pacific. They also answered questions on strategies and support being undertaken in Thailand in the field of education and accessible environment. On the issue of the effectiveness of push (legislation) and pull (incentives) strategies, they both agreed that the approach varies from one country to another considering cultural and economic differences.

In the afternoon, Mr. Rey Mendoza, of the University of Sto. Tomas discussed some tips and techniques using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) followed by presentation of Mr. Chiba and Mr. Raksak about the benefits and advantages of Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) in creating Digital Talking Books. Lastly, Ms. Grace Amberong also shared to the body that her group developed an accessible Content Management System based on the Manila ICT design recommendations which can be used by anyone in developing an accessible website.

Day 02 started with a prayer by Ms. Mila Maquiling and recapitulation by Mr. Ariel Nengasca of Day 1 activities. Formal Working Group Discussion started with the break-up of the participants into two groups to discuss:

  1. Philippine Accessible Design Recommendations and
  2. Promoting Accessibility to GOs, NGOs, Educational Institutions and Business.

In the afternoon, each group selected a leader to present discussion outcomes. For Group 1 (Philippine Accessible Design Recommendations) it made a rough draft of proposed coding standards considering various standards such that of the National Computer Center and the UN-ASPA to be reviewed by a Technical Working Group composed of ICT experts to be identified by the National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons.

On the other hand, Group 2 presented the advantages and benefits of an accessible website such as cleaner codes result to lesser utilization of bandwidth which translates to savings and an accessible website attracts high traffic and wider audience that would eventually results to sales increase. They also made some recommendations on how to promote accessible ICT in the country. They are the following:

  1. The need for legislation (push approach), to ensure compliance to the set guidelines or standards
  2. Provision of incentives (pull approach) to complying agencies
  3. Design a seal of accessibility that could be downloaded and attached to the website
  4. Integrate ICT accessibility in the IT curriculum from primary to tertiary education
  5. Form a network/ association of web developers committed to website accessibility to serve as an advocacy group
  6. Require bidders of government transactions to secure an accessibility certification from the CICT-NCC
  7. Conduct a summit of ICT Champions to look into accessible ICT.
  8. Organize a team of webmasters from the Luzon Visayas and Mindanao Workshops to serve as Resource Persons and trainers of web accessibility.

In the afternoon, Ms. Mercy Nicolas of the National Computer Center presented to the group the APEC Digital Opportunity Center Project and encouraged everyone to join it. After which, participants and organizers went to a field visit to Nova Foundation’s data conversion project in partnership with Ynfinite-Datacon. Participants interviewed 8 deaf encoders regarding their job and corporate experiences in the company, then the group proceeded to MICS department of the Cebu Mayor’s Office where they were oriented on their facilities and on how supportive the Mayor to other disability programs.

After dinner, participants had their socialization and team building activities where everyone participated actively and had fun bonding.

The third and last day was opened by a prayer from the representative of the host team followed by recapitulation of the 2nd day. Then, Mr. Noli Agcaoili, President of the Nova Foundation shared their Foundation’s projects and services in providing employment opportunities for Persons With Disabilities and encouraged everyone to study medical transcription, which is very much in demand nowadays. Right after the open forum, selected participants shared with the group what they have learned about the workshop and how they can help promote accessible ICT for PWDs.

APCD Team composed of Ms. Kamolwat together with Mr. Chiba and Mr. Raksak thanked the organizers of the workshop and expressed their appreciation of the government’s nationwide efforts to push for accessible ICT. They have learned a lot from the resource persons and experiences of the participants and they look forward to the success of its implementation. Participants also thanked everyone for the new techniques and situationers from Mr. Valdes and organizers, respectively.

During the closing ceremony, Mr. Valdez thanked all the stakeholders, participants and partners who attended the workshop and gave two phrases to be remembered by all. First is that “attitude” is the real disability and “Its not what life deals to you but its how you deal with life.” On the other hand, Director Romo of the DSWD – Field Office VII also thanked also all the participants especially the global expertise of the resource person. He also discussed the various projects of the Department supportive of Persons With Disabilities and committed to propose to include ADVOCACY on Accessible ICT in the agenda of the next meeting of the Interregional Committee on Social Development in Region VII. Lastly, Director Alicia S. Bonoan of the Social Technology Bureau expressed her gratitude to all the participants of the workshop. On behalf of DSWD, she was very happy with the outcomes of the activity. She was very pleased to tell the group that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would never stop its commitment to help bolster economic independence of the disadvantaged sector of our society, especially Persons With Disabilities. She committed that the DSWD will always be a partner in promoting accessible ICT for PWDs, which is considered one of their human rights.

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