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Ethiopian Information and Communication
Technology Development Agency


(EICTDA)












ICT Accessibility Requirements Study for
Persons with Disabilities in Ethiopia

Final Report









ABCON Plc

IT/IS and Management Consultants

P.O.Box 1386 Code 11
10

Tel. 0115 53 14 70/52 16 96

Fax

: 0115 53 70 61

E
-
mail: abconltd@ethionet.et

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia



October 2007



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Table of Contents


ACRONYM
S

................................
................................
................................
................................
..

I

1. INTRODUCTION

................................
................................
................................
.....................

1

2. RATIONALE, OBJECT
IVES AND SCOPE OF TH
E STUDY

................................
...........

3

2.1.

B
ACKGROUND AND
R
ATIONALE

................................
................................
.............................

3

2.2.

O
BJECTIVES AND
S
COPE OF THE
S
TUDY

................................
................................
................

5

3. CONCEPTS & COUNTR
Y EXPERIENCES: A LIT
ERATURE

REVIEW

......................

7

3.1.

B
ASIC
C
ONCEPTS
:

D
ISABILITY
,

ICT,

A
CCESSIBILITY

................................
..........................

7

3.1.1.

D
ISABILITY

................................
................................
................................
............................

7

3.1.2.

I
NFORMATION AND
C
OMMUNICATIONS
T
ECHNOLOGY
(ICT)

................................
.............

15

3.1.3.

A
CCESSIBILITY
................................
................................
................................
.....................

16

3.2.

ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY AND

D
ISABILITY

................................
................................
..................

17

3.3.

ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY
R
EQUIREMENTS OF
PWD
S

................................
................................
.

19

3.3.1.

A
CCESSIBLE
D
ESIGN


T
HE
T
ECHNOLOGICAL
D
IMENSION

................................
....................

19

3.3.2.

B
EYOND
T
ECHNOLOGICAL
B
ARRIERS
:

C
HALLENGES TO
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
PWD
S

..........

24

3.4

C
RITICAL
S
UMMARY

................................
................................
................................
..............

33

4. STUDY APPROACH AN
D METHODOLOGY

................................
................................
..

36

4.1.

R
ESEARCH
A
PPROACH AND
S
TRATEGY

................................
................................
...............

36

4.2.

M
ETHODOLOGY

................................
................................
................................
....................

37

4.2.1.

D
ATA
C
OLLECTION
M
ETHODS

................................
................................
.............................

37

4.2.2.

S
AMPLING
M
ETHOD

................................
................................
................................
.............

38

4.2.3

D
ATA
C
OLLECTION
P
ROCESS

................................
................................
...............................

40

4.2.4.

V
ALIDITY AND
R
ELIABILITY

................................
................................
................................

43

4.2.5.

D
ATA
A
NALYSIS AND
I
NTERPRETATION

................................
................................
.............

44

4.2.6.

S
UMMARY

................................
................................
................................
............................

45

5. FINDINGS AND DISC
USSION

................................
................................
............................

47

5.1.

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS FOR
P
ERSONS WITH
V
IS
UAL
I
MPAIRMENTS
(PVI)

...............................

48

5.1.1.

G
ENERAL

................................
................................
................................
.............................

48

5.1.2.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

E
QUIPMENT AND
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
ICT

E
QUIPMENT

..............................

49

5.1.3.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

T
RAINING

................................
................................
................................
...

54

5.1.4.

I
NFORMATION
D
ISSEMINATION

................................
................................
...........................

56

5.1.5.

B
ARR
IERS TO
A
CCESS TO
I
NFORMATION

................................
................................
.............

59

5.1.6.

P
ROMOTING
ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY

................................
................................
.........................

63

5.2.

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS FOR
H
EARING
I
MPAIRED
P
ERSONS
(HIP)

................................
.............

69

5.2.1.

G
ENERAL

................................
................................
................................
.............................

69

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5.2.2.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

E
QUIPMENT AND
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
ICT

E
QUIPMENT

..............................

70

5.2.3.

A
CCESS TO
T
RAINING

................................
................................
................................
..........

74

5.2.5.

B
ARRIERS TO
A
CCESS TO
I
NFORMATION

................................
................................
.............

79

5.2.6

P
ROMOTING
ICT

ACCESSIBILI
TY

................................
................................
..........................

83

5.3.

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS OF THE
P
HYSICALLY
H
ANDICAPPED
P
ERSONS
(PHP)

.........................

89

5.3.1.

G
ENERAL

................................
................................
................................
.............................

89

5.3.2.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

E
QUIPMENT AND
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
ICT

E
QUIPMENT

..............................

90

5.3.3.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

T
RAINING

................................
................................
................................
...

94

5.3.4.

I
NFORMATION
D
ISSEMINATION

................................
................................
...........................

97

5.3.5.

B
ARRIERS TO
A
CCESS TO
I
NFORMATION

................................
................................
...........

101

5.3.6.

P
ROMOTING
ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY

................................
................................
.......................

105

5.4

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS FOR
P
ERSONS
A
FFECTED BY
L
EPROSY
(PAL)

................................
.

111

5.4.1

G
ENERAL

................................
................................
................................
..........................

111

5.4.2

A
CCESS TO
ICT

E
QUIPMENT AND
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
ICT

E
QUIPMENT

..............................

112

5.4.3

A
CCESS TO
ICT

T
RAINING

................................
................................
................................
.

115

5.4.4

I
NFORMATION
D
ISSEMINATION

................................
................................
.........................

116

5.4.5

B
ARRIERS TO
A
CCESS TO
I
NFORMATION

................................
................................
............

118

5.4.6

P
ROMOTING
ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY

................................
................................
.......................

123

5.5.

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS OF
M
ENTALLY
R
ETARDED
C
HILDREN AND
Y
OUTH

...........................

128

5.5.1.

G
ENERAL

................................
................................
................................
...........................

128

5.5.2.

A
C
CESS TO
ICT

E
QUIPMENT AND
A
CCESSIBILITY OF
ICT

E
QUIPMENT

............................

128

5.5.3.

A
CCESS TO
ICT

T
RAINING

................................
................................
................................
.

130

5.5.4.

I
NFORMATION
D
ISSEMINATION

................................
................................
.........................

131

5.5.5.

B
ARRIERS TO
A
CCESS TO
I
NFORMATION

................................
................................
...........

133

5.5.6.

P
ROMOTING
ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY

................................
................................
.......................

135

5.6.

S
URVEY
R
ESULTS OF
O
RGANIZATIONS

................................
................................
.............

138

5.6.1.

A
SSOCIATIONS OF
PWD
S

................................
................................
................................
...

138

5.6.2.

GO
S AND
NGO
S

................................
................................
................................
................

148

6. ANALYSIS AND DISC
USSION: REFLECTING
ON THE RESULTS
.........................

153

6.1.

T
HE
L
EGAL AND
P
OLICY
E
NVIRONMENT

................................
................................
..........

153

6.2.

ICT

A
CCESSIBILITY
:

P
RACTICES AND
E
XPERIENCES OF
PWD
S

................................
.....

162

7. CONCLUSIONS AND R
ECOMMENDATIONS

................................
..............................

172

7.1.

C
ONCLUSIONS

................................
................................
................................
......................

172

7.2.

R
ECOMMENDATIONS

................................
................................
................................
...........

177

LIST OF REFERENCES
................................
................................
................................
..........

182

ANNEXES

................................
................................
................................
................................
..

187

A
NNEX
I



S
TRUCTURED
Q
UESTIONNAIRE

................................
................................
...............

188

A
NNEX
II
-

S
EMI
-
STRUCTURED
I
NTERVIEW
G
UIDE

................................
................................
..

213

A
NNEX
III

-

L
IST OF
P
ERSONS AND
O
RGANIZATIONS
C
ONTACTED

................................
.......

243

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ICT Accessibility Requirement Study fo
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Acronyms


ATCB

Adaptive Technology Center for the Blind

ATM

Automatic Teller Machines

AU

African Union

CARDOS

Center f
or Applied Research and Development Oriented Services

CBM

Christian Blind Mission

CSA

Central Statistics Agency

DAISY(C)

Digital Accessible Information System (Consortium)

DRC

Disability Rights Commission of UK

DTB

Digital Talking Book

ECDD

Ethiopian

Center for Disability and Development

EFPD

Ethiopian Federation of Persons With Disabilities

EICTDA

Ethiopian Information and Communication Development Agency

ENAB

Ethiopian National Association for the Blind

ENAD

Ethiopian National Association for th
e Deaf

ENAPAL

Ethiopian National Association of Persons Affected by Leprosy

ENAMERCY

Ethiopian National Association for MEntally Retarded Children and Youth

ENAPH

Ethiopian National Association for the Physically Handicapped

ETA

Ethiopian Telecommunica
tions Agency

GO

Government Organizations

HIP

Hearing Impaired Persons

ICT

Information and Communication Technology

ICTAD

Information and Communication Technology Assisted Development

IDPDA

Information and Development for Persons with Disabilities Asso
ciation

ILO

International Labour Organization

ISO

International Standards Organization

IT

Information Technology

ITU

International Telecommunications Union

LCD

Least Developed Countries

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MoE

Ministry of Education

MoLSA

Ministry of Labour and Social A
ffairs

NCD

Nordic Cooperation on Disability

NGO

Non
-
Governmental Organizations

NZ

New Zealand

ODI

Office for Disability Issues

PAL

Persons Affected by Leprosy

PDA

Personal Digital Assistants

PHP

Physically Handicapped Persons

PMU

Project Management

Unit

PVI

Persons with Visual Impairment

PWD

Persons With Disabilities

RFP

Request for Proposal

SPSS

Statistical Package for Social Sciences

TDD

Telephone Device for the Deaf

TOR

Terms Of Reference

TTY

Text to Telephone Relay

TV

Television

UK

Unit
ed Kingdom

UN

United Nations

UNESCAP

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

UNESCO

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNICEF

United Nations Children’s Fund

US

United States

W3C

World Wide

Web Consortium

WAI

Web Accessibility Initiative

WAP

World Programme of Action

WCAG

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

WHO

World Health Organization

WSIS

World Summit on Information Society

WWW or W3

World Wide Web

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ICT Accessibility Requirement Study fo
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1. Introduction

Accessibility

of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to persons with
disabilities (PWDs) has nowadays become a major concern in Ethiopia. As expressly put
in the Terms of Reference (TOR) set for the study, “the rising prevalence of disabilities in
the worl
d in general and Ethiopia in particular, combined with the ever faster developing
Information Society creates an environment in which disabled people face growing (and
emerging) barriers to opportunity and fulfillment”. Undoubtedly, the challenges posed
ev
eryday by technological breakthroughs themselves require raising awareness about the
realities and needs of the PWDs, which could be easily excluded from these
breakthroughs.

Although the level of accessibility of the general public to modern information
and
communications services is low in Ethiopia, PWDs segment of the society is particularly
disadvantaged largely due to the unsuitability of the technology to the state of their
sensory, physical and mental or cognitive abilities. Indeed, as indicated in
the TOR, “the
products and service offering of ICTs are not fully used by disabled people in Ethiopia.”
Nevertheless, even if their outreach is still confined, there have been some attempts at
local level to provide accessible information and communication

services to PWDs. In
this regard, the TOR reads, “understanding the potential benefit of ICT for disabled
people, a limited number of people acted towards facilitating its implementation for
actual use”. The TOR hasn’t specifically described the nature an
d scope of the “limited”
endeavors. Yet, based on anecdotal evidences and an overall analysis of the socio
-
economic situation of Ethiopian PWDs, such initiatives represent the tip of the iceberg
only, and do not, in their own right, provide a complete pict
ure of the barriers to ICT
accessibility.

In order to understand the magnitude of the problem, a nation
-
wide assessment of the
barriers to and opportunities for accessibility of ICT to PWDs is required to inform policy
makers so as to take appropriate mea
sures to ensure accessibility of ICTs to PWDs. The
present study addresses the ICT accessibility requirements of PWDs in Ethiopia by
drawing empirical data from a nation
-
wide survey of PWDs as well as organizations
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working with PWDs and government agencies
. The results of the study are presented in
subsequent sections of the report.

Subsequent parts of report are organized into five sections. Section 2 provides the
background, rationale and objectives, and defines the scope of the study. As research
underta
kings have to be informed with existing body of knowledge and practices, a
review of literature on concepts and countries’ experiences are discussed in depth and at
length in Section 3, with a critical summary of the important themes emerging from the
revi
ew. Section 4 presents approaches and methodologies adopted in the course of the
research, describe and justify the research approach and strategy, sampling technique,
methods of data collection and analysis, and their validity and reliability. This is fol
lowed
by findings and discussion in Section 5, where survey results on individual type of
disability and organizations are presented along with analysis and discussion. Finally, the
report winds up with presentation of the conclusions and recommendations i
n Section 6.


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2. Rationale, Objectives and Scope of the Study

2.1. Background and Rationale

The rapid and continuing growth and development of ICT is indeed transforming the
ways in which we live and work. Advances in ICT have continued to change the
way the
world interacts that some have termed the trend “the second industrial revolution”
(Feather, 2002). According to Primo Braga
et al

(2005), while it took 75 years for
telephone to reach 50 million users when it was invented, it has taken the World W
ide
Web (WWW) only 4 years to reach the same number of users. Similarly, interactions,
such as through the email, have jumped 32 times from 20 million electronic mail users
worldwide in 1994 to 651 million in 2005 (Redmonmag, 2005). According to UN Global

E
-
Readiness Report (2005), new technologies are likely to continue to have a profound
impact on the political, economic, social and cultural values of the world in the coming
decade. As a result, Governments of the world are seeking to harness this potent
ial of the
‘Information Society’ for development, economic and social transformation.


In order to harness the full potential of the benefits of the global information society, it is
imperative that all nations and the people of the world share this opport
unity equally, i.e.,
ICT must be as accessible as possible. However, the reality unfolding in the world is
marked by considerable “digital divide” between the reach and poor countries and a
widening gap between the e
-
haves and e
-
have nots (UN Economic and
Social Council,
2000; and Rodriguez and Wilson, 2000). In this regard, m
any poor developing countries
face serious obstacles in providing equal access to ICT. In this regard, lack of
telecommunication infrastructure, scarcity of human and financial resour
ces, weak
regulatory institutions, and the lack of market mechanisms impede faster and wider
diffusion of modern information technologies

(UN Enable, 2004).


Ethiopia is one of these countries where
ICT still remains the least developed as
compared to coun
tries in sub
-
Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the world. According to
International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU, 2002) survey report, sectoral absorption,
geographic dispersion and the sophistication of use of ICT in Ethiopia are the lowest.
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Equally, the

number of computer hardware and software products remains negligible
while traditional information delivery system largely based on radio or newspaper
continues to dominate.


Cognizant of its role as enabler of socio
-
economic development, and in a bid t
o address
these challenges, the Ethiopian government through its ICT Policy Document has
recognized the development of ICT as one of its strategic priorities. The Document
broadly
articulates
policy guidelines and identifies thirteen critical areas for dev
elopment
of ICT in Ethiopia ranging from development of physical ICT infrastructure to supporting
the universal access and expansion of information communication services to all parts of
the country.


One of the strategic thrust of the Policy Document rel
ates to “Community Access to ICT
and Service Delivery”. It emphasizes the significance of access of the country’s rural
population to ICT as instrumental in transforming the country into a knowledge and
information
-

based economy and society. Sets of stra
tegic means and ends are identified
in this section to address the challenges of ensuring access of ICT to vast majority of
people living in rural areas and whose literacy levels are quite low.


Although some of the challenges identified in the ICT Poli
cy Document such as lower
levels of education, lower digital skills and lower income are common to majority of the
country’s citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs) are particularly
at risk of exclusion
due to technical barriers for accessing ICT produc
ts and services. The underlying theme
of the accessibility issue is that for PWDs to achieve their full productive potential, they
require access to all the information and communication systems and services.


Yet, while access to ICT is generally low in

the country; the products and services that
deliver information and communication are not, however, fully used by disabled people
in Ethiopia, even though potential user groups want to. Besides, even if there may be
some attempts of accessibility, they ha
ve been either limited to one type of disability or
were confined to a handful of geographic areas or they are considerably limited in scope.
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In general, as with other services, participation of PWDs in the use of ICT services is
restricted because of the

fact that information delivery system in existing public as well
as private sector organizations are organized in ways that are unfit for PWDs along with
lack of special supportive services to enhance their daily life. This suggests that like
many devel
oping countries, a large group of PWDs in Ethiopia remain outside the
information society with an increasing risk of being marginalized.

Unless the government
aims at consciously removing disparities, the marginalized and the disadvantaged PWDs
are likely
to be left out, exacerbating existing inequalities of access.


It is, therefore, essential to undertake a nation
-
wide survey in order to understand the
magnitude of the problem faced by PWD in Ethiopia; identify their requirements for ICT
accessibility t
hat can be implemented in our country’s context; and assess policy
frameworks underpinning ICT accessibility to PWDs.

2.2. Objectives and Scope of the Study


With the rapid technological development of ICT, it is vital that measures are taken to
ensure th
at society reflects this development to the benefit of disabled people in Ethiopia.
As expressly put in the TOR, the broad purposes of the study are to conduct a nation wide
assessment of the problems of disabled people, and identify the feasible projects
and
potentials of ICT to address the issues in the context of Ethiopia. In specific terms, the
purposes of the study are:




To identify the problems of PWDs in ICT accessibility given their physical, sensory
or mental limitations to access.



To set out the
opportunities ICT provides in enhancing access to information and
communication systems and achieving productive potential of PWDs,



To develop feasible project proposals for ICT accessibility to PWDs


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In order to achieve the objective, the study seeks to a
nswer two questions. First, what
barriers are Ethiopian PWDs facing in accessing ICT products and services. Second, what
can be done to promote accessibility of ICT to PWDs with in the context of the country?



In terms of scope, the study shall cover the
following issues:



Identify obstacles and hindrances faced by disabled people concerning access to
information.



Identify the needs and requirements of disabled people for ICT accessibility.



Assess the existing ICT and methods that are used elsewhere in ad
dressing the issues
of PWDs with particular emphasis on their relevance and transferability to the context
of our country (cultural and linguistics imperatives underscored)



Identify the problems of PWDs in using ICT , the impact of having no/less access to

ICT on PWDs; and propose projects and options that will solve such problems



Identify strengths and drawbacks of the existing systems by reviewing the systems
and gathering data.



Identify the macro
-
economic environment in the context of the PWDs, and exami
ne
the demographic, political, and organization situation of the country.



Assess best practices in other cultural contexts and attempt to draw up on lessons that
are relevant to the country.



Assess policy issues on disability in general and provisions for
ICT accessibility for
PWDs in particular.



Examine policy framework for disabilities on ICT, and contact all stakeholder
organizations working with PWDs including the Federation of PWDs , five other
member Associations, and other organizations.



Propose a me
ans to reach villages, and methods to create favorable conditions for
transfer of global ICT to Ethiopia for domestic use by PWDs

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3. Concepts & Country Experiences: A Literature Review

This section provides a critical review of concepts and countries expe
riences in order to
inform the study with literature on disability, ICT, and accessibility.

3.1. Basic Concepts: Disability, ICT, Accessibility

3.1.1. Disability

3.1.1.1. Conceptual Models of Disability

Disability is a complex term to define because “i
t is a multi
-
dimensional concept with
both objective and subjective characteristics” (Office for Disability Issues (ODI) 2002,
p.5). In examining the availability or lack of internationally comparable data on
disability, Mont (2007) found it difficult to p
recisely define disability. He opines that
there is no single correct definition of disability, because the nature and severity of
disability vary greatly. Mohit (2006) even describes disability as culture bound since
various cultures define their norms of

disability differently. This coupled with “all forms
of misconceptions and negative attitudes” (Tirussew, 2005) held in some cultures might
have continued to impede a facile understanding of the term.



However, since the academic interest in disability

has mirrored the development of actual
practice involving the disability movement, organizations of PWDs, advocacy groups,
UN organs, and other stakeholders, it is possible to broadly conceptualize the term. In so
doing, the present study seeks to review
how the concept of disability has evolved over
time at global as well as country level. In this regard, the literature abounds with
perspectives ranging from traditional and individually focused views to much wider and
comprehensive view of disability, as
the summary below shows.


Medical Model of Disability

Drawing on WHO’s International Classifications, two perspectives may be generally
identified within the traditional medical model of disability. These are “impairment” and
“functional limitations”
perspectives. The WHO (1976) defines “disability as any
restriction or lack (resulting from impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the
manner or within the range considered normal for human beings”. The “impairment”
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perspective considers disabil
ity a health problem or an abnormality that is situated in an
individual’s body or mind. It assumes that disability is an intrinsic individual
characteristic, i.e., a problem residing solely in the affected individual. Yet, the
impairment perspective has b
een subject to sever critics on at least two counts. Firstly,
rather than explaining it in much wider context, “it locates disability within the particular
individual” (Lawson, 2005). Secondly, it ignores the role of the social and physical
environment in
the disabling process (ODI, 2002).


Consequently, this has later given rise to the emergence of the “functional limitations”
perspective, which attempts to include non
-
medical criteria of disability, especially in
relation to the social and physical envi
ronment. In that way, (ILO) defines disability “as
a state in which functional limitations and/or impairments are causative factors of the
existing difficulties in performing one or more activities such as self
-
care, social relations
and economic activiti
es” Nonetheless, the notion that impairment is the direct cause of
disability remains central to this perspective. Furthermore, the functional limitations
perspective considers disability in quantitative terms, measuring functional restrictions
against a s
tandard or sets of standards (see, for example, the WHO’s ICF template at
www3.who.int/icf).


By and large, the medical model seeks to merely “fix” individuals’ physical, sensory or
mental disabilities, and tends to favor medical rehabilitation, and welfa
re benefits or
charity as viable interventions (ODI, 2002; Mohit, 2006; and Mont, 2007). This model of
charity and care has also been criticized as “locking PWDs into cycles of dependency and
despondency” (Quinn and Degener, 2002), and as unable to ensure

their access to
mainstream education or employment (Lawson, 2005).


The model had indeed served as the solo driver of policy and strategy formulation for a
good number of governments and organizations of the world. Like wise, the medical
view of disabili
ty has been at the heart of most of policy and programme interventions in
Ethiopia for a long time. According to MOLSA (1999, p.5), a great deal of the
interventions particularly “the services focused on provision of humanitarian assistance
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or support for
PWDs”, and were practically short of mechanisms for “ pulling out the
PWDs from dependency” on handouts.


Social Model of Disability

The social model has emerged presumably to address the down sides of the medical
perspectives of disability. The
social
model

portrays disability as a social construct
created by ability
-
oriented and ability
-
dominated environments (ODI, 2002). According
to the social model, even though impairment has an objective reality that is attached to
the body or mind, disability has
more to do with society’s failure to account for the needs
of PWDs. Shakespeare and Watson (1997) concur with observation, and view disability
as arising from the interaction of an individual with the physical, cultural and policy
environment. Interventio
ns are thus not only at the individual level (i.e. medical
rehabilitation) but also at societal level, for example the introduction of universal design,
inclusiveness, and community awareness (Mont, 2007). Adherents of the social model
call on policy
-
maker
s to remove environmental barriers, to facilitate inclusion and
participation of PWDs, and to adapt the society rather than PWDs individual (Lawson,
2005).


According to the UN Enable website, a number of countries in the West, notably in
Europe and USA,
have adopted this view of disabilities and re
-
orientated their social,
economic and political process around it. In contrast, the process has been late in most
developing countries including Ethiopia, which has made reference to the social
dimension of dis
ability after mid 90’s. For example, it is only in 1996 that Ethiopia’s
Developmental Social Welfare Policy emphasized the social perspective of disability
(MOLSA, 1996, pp.73
-
74). This was also reflected in National Programme of Actions,
too (MOLSA, 1999)
. In most recent move, particularly at the 4
th

session of the Ad hoc
committee meeting of the UN, Ethiopia favored a definition of disability “in relation to
the social model and on very broad terms” (UN, 2005).




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The Human Rights Model of Disability

I
t is, however, during the past two decades that a dramatic shift towards the human rights
perspective (some call it a paradigm shift) has been taking place, advancing PWDs as
holders of rights. The
human rights model
is a distinct subgroup, one that is ine
xtricably
linked with the social model, and views that PWDs should be valued as equals (ODI,
2002; and Lawson, 2005). According to Quinn and Degener (2002), “the human rights
perspective on disability means viewing people as subjects and not as objects; an
d
locating the problems outside the individual and addressing them in the manner in which
various economic, social, cultural and political processes accommodate the difference of
ability”.


Although the Standard Rules on the Equalization (UN, 1993) embrac
ed equal rights of
PWDs as one of its principles, the process has been slow and uneven among Nations of
the World(Quinn and Degener, 2002). For instance, Ethiopia made official reference to
the Standard Rule six year later (MoLSA, 1999). However, the UN h
as recently taken
further step by adopting the UN Convention on Rights of PWDs in December 2006,
thereby elevating the conceptualization of disability into much more wider level. Ethiopia
signed the conventions in March 2007. This means “disability is no l
onger to be
considered solely as medical issue or social welfare issue; disability is now considered as
a human rights issue; and the government has declared its intent to proceed with formal
legislative ratification of the Convention and its full implemen
tation” (ECDD, 2007).


In broader terms, the adoption of the Convention bears far reaching ramifications in terms
of mainstreaming disability issue in the social, economic, cultural and political processes
unfolding in the country. In the context of the t
heme of the present study, it also means
that Federal as well as Regional Governments will “be required to identify and eliminate
barriers, ensure access of Ethiopian PWDs to information, communication, and
technologies, and to receive their education in m
ost appropriate modes of communication
including sign language and Braille”( UN, 2006).


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Drawing up on the foregoing discussion, at large, and the signing of the Convention by
the Federal Government of Ethiopia, in particular, the present study adopts th
e rights
-
based view in understanding disability in Ethiopian context. Consequently, the findings
discussions, conclusions, and recommendations of the present study will be orientated
around this view of disability.


3.1.1.2. Defining Disability in the Ethi
opian Context

Reflecting upon the conceptual underpinnings of the various disability models,
contextualizing disability in Ethiopia may be a difficult enterprise. This can be partly
attributed to paucity of research on disability in local context. On the

other hand,
traditionally held views are complicating the proper understanding of disability because
disability is traditionally considered as “punishment of God on PWDs and his family, or a
curse from elders or forefathers or an attack of evil spirit” (U
N, 2001). Tirusew (2005)
concurs with the impact of “backward traditional Ethiopian attitude” towards disability.
But, he also points out that “an uncritical absorption of the new, ‘correct’ beliefs
propagated by the all knowing foreigners” is hindering th
e contextualization of disability
in Ethiopia.


Nevertheless, there have been some attempts locally to define disability in Ethiopian
context as the handful of working guides and legal instruments suggest. For instance in
his previous work, (Tirussew, 199
1) defines “ a disabled person as any person unable to
ensure by himself or herself a normal life, as result of deficiency in his or her physical or
mental capabilities”. Similarly, another legal instrument issued by the Imperial
Government defined “PWDs a
s people who, because of limitations of normal physical or
mental health, are unable to earn their livelihood and do not have anyone to support
them” (Negarit Gazeta, Imperial Government of Ethiopia, 70/1970).


In light of the conceptual models indicated
above, Tirussew (1991) made no explicit or
implicit analysis of the perspectives underpinning his definition of disability. However,
considering the fact that ‘handicap’ is part of the medical definition given by the WHO,
Tirusew’s “Guide for Service of th
e Handicapped” seems to imply the medical concept of
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disability. Furthermore, since the Imperial Government’s definition refers to “disable
people as having no one to support them” , it seems to have been conceptually leaned
towards the medical model of di
sability, because the idea of support rather than
empowerment clearly refers to welfare and care as possible intervention.


Furthermore, in terms of the use of such words as “limitations of physical or mental
health”, Tirusew’s (1991) definition of a disa
bled person very much conforms to the
Imperial Government’s proclamation. While cognitive and learning disabilities may be
inferred from both definitions, the term “physical” is too generic to be a valid reference to
all other forms of disabilities. As the

literature abounds with several disability types, of
which “physical disability” is only one, the definition may not be sufficiently
representative and inclusive. Apparently, since the Imperial Government’s definition of
disability emphasizes the medical
notion, and both definitions ignore sensory disabilities,
effectively excluding considerable number of people with hearing and visual impairment,
they cannot be considered as definition of disability reflecting the context of the present
day Ethiopia.


Co
nversely, a promulgation of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia offers a much
wider and all inclusive definition of disability. Accordingly, a “disabled person is a
person who is unable to see, hear, or speak or is suffering from mental retardation or
from
injuries that limit him or her due to natural or man made causes; provided, however, the
term doesn’t include persons who are alcoholic, drug addicts and those with
psychological problems due to socially deviant behavior.” (Negarit Gazeta, Proclamati
on
no. 101, 1994). This can, evidently, be taken as working definition, because apart from
making an explicit reference to distinct disabilities, it best explains the kinds of
disabilities that Ethiopian national movements are advocating for in present day

Ethiopia.


3.1.1.3. Classification and Prevalence of Disability

Disability is as diverse in classification as it is complex to define. The same holds true in
identifying a group of disabilities particularly in light of their requirements for accessible
I
CT. For example, according to
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C),
PWDs can be
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divided into the following main groups which it has identified as users who

could benefit
from accessible content:



Blindness.



Low vision.



Colour deficit or distortions.



Deafness
.



Hearing loss.



Impairment of intelligence, memory or thinking.



Inability to interpret and/or formulate language symbols.



Learning disabilities.



Speech impairments.



Paralysis, weakness and other physical disabilities with movement and co
-
ordination o
f limbs.



Photo sensitive epilepsy.



Combinations of the above.


Similarly, the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) (2004) of the UK identified
comparable group of people who may be affected by accessibility of ICT. These include:



Blind people using screen

readers, synthetic speech or Braille output



Partially sighted people using magnification



People who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing



Specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia



Physically impaired people who have lack of control of arms, hands,
or who have
tremor or lack of dexterity.

According to the 1994 national census a total of 23 types of disabilities have been
identified in Ethiopia, which include blindness, deafness and muteness, lameness,
leprosy, amputation of limbs and mental illness.

However, the Ethiopian government
(CSA, 1995; and MoLSA, 1999)
classify them into the following major categories of
disabilities.



Visually Impaired Persons (the Blind)



Physically Handicap



Persons with Hearing Impairment ( the Deaf and hard of hearing)



Me
ntally Retarded



Persons Affected by Leprosy



Multiple disabilities, which include two or more of these (, for example deaf and
blind, and deaf
-
blind).

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Furthermore, most of Ethiopia’s disability movements, particularly, Associations of
PWDs, are more or les
s organized along lines of these categorizations. The present study
makes use of these categories as a general frame of reference to types of disabilities
identified in Ethiopia. However, since the theme of the study is accessibility requirements
of PWDs i
n relation to ICT, it also recognizes the significance of the details identified by
W3C and DRC (see above). In this regard, using such generic conceptualization as the
Blind or Vision impairment, the study seeks to identify specific requirements for the
t
otally blind, limited vision, and color blindness. And so is the case for other disabilities.


With respect to prevalence, it is difficult to learn about the exact number of PWDs in the
country as Ethiopia doesn’t have national survey on disability
1
. How
ever, prior to this
survey, a national population and housing census was conducted in 1994. According to
the census, a total of 991, 916, which is 1.85% of the then 53 million people were PWDs.


There is, however, a widespread consensus among non
-
governme
nt organizations
including Associations of PWDs that the census has underestimated the number of
PWDs, and they tend to refer to estimates published by the UN. For instance, the
UNICEF refers to International Rehabilitation Report (1998), which estimates 1
0% of the
world’s population as having disabilities. Similarly, the WHO estimates that PWDs
account for 10% of any given National age cohort.


Although this is the case, international publications,
per se,

don’t seem to have consistent
reporting, as they g
ive different and often contradictory estimates of disability in
Ethiopia. For instance, a UN expert group (UN ENABLE, 2001) gave a prevalence rate
of 5% of the world population as PWDs. On the other hand, a most recent publication of
the ILO (2004) comes
up with yet different estimate for 2003, showing a prevalence rate
of 7.6%, or estimating the number of Ethiopian PWDs at 5 million of PWDs in the same
year.





1

One exception relates to the Baseline Survey on Disabilities in Ethiopia conducted in 1995 by Institute of
Educational Research, Addis Ababa University.

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It is difficult to buy these rates at face value. As is evident from the variation in the
repor
ted prevalence rates, most of the publications lack scientific rigor underpinning the
estimates. While the difference in itself has to be justified, it is not generally clear how
these figures are arrived at. Consequently, policy makers need to be wary of
the varying
and often conflicting prevalence rates in addressing ICT Accessibility Requirements of
PWDs in Ethiopia, particularly in making use of the findings, conclusions, and
recommendations and project proposals set out in this report.


Despite the wi
de variation in the estimated number of PWDs in Ethiopia, the present
study has used the figures reported in the 1994 Census as its basis; because, amidst these
different estimates, it is better to err on the side of caution.



3.1.2. Information and Comm
unications Technology (ICT)

The term IT broadly refers to all types and forms of technology that facilitates the
creation, storage, retrieval, transmission and use of information (American Association
Information Technology). Since recent times, the term I
T has been stretched out in scope,
and is now referred to as ICT presumably in recognition of the growing significance of
communications and broadcasting technologies.


According to Mohit (2006, p.172), “ICT is generally regarded as the overlap of compute
r
information, and telecommunications technologies, and their applications”. Jabar (2003)
opines that ICT encompasses the broad fields of data/information processing,
disseminating and communicating by means of computer and telecommunication
techniques. Si
milarly, ICTDA’s project launch workshop in Ethiopia conceptualizes ICT
as the convergence of information technology with communication and broadcasting
technologies and their applications (EICTDA, 2005).


In this sense, ICT, therefore, combines telecommu
nications, computing and broadcasting,
and covers any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit or receive
information electronically. The literature documents an omnibus list of built
-
in or
connected assistive technologies that facilitate in
formation communication. For example,
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some of the major ones identified by UN Enable (2003) include computers, personal
digital assistants (PDAs), information transaction machines or kiosks, automatic
transaction machines (ATMs), voting machines, operating

systems, software (including
application generators and development tools), Internet (e
-
mails, Web sites), public mass
media (radio, television, cinema), and telecommunication systems and devices (fixed and
mobile telephones, facsimiles). The present stud
y uses the term ICT to refer to the entire
range of technologies involved in information processing and communication.


3.1.3. Accessibility

Accessibility has been the overriding concern in the disability rights debate through out
the world (Mohit, 2005)
. According to UNESCAP, the term accessibility is defined as
“the measure or condition of things and services that can readily be reached or used (at
physical, visual, auditory and or cognitive level) by people including those with
disabilities. This defin
ition is, however, as broad and pervasive as it can possibly connote
different meanings when applied in diverse circumstances.


Yet, the concept of accessibility as specifically related to disability is set out more
conspicuously in the World Programme of

Action (WAP) Concerning Disabled Persons
(UN, 1982). In particular, WAP’s 3
rd
goal of ‘’ equalization of opportunities” for PWDs,
which later became Standard Rules (UN, 1993), sets accessibility in the context of
disability. The Standard Rule clearly link
s accessibility to human rights perspective of
disability outlined above. In particular, Rule 5 recognizes accessibility as important for
equalization of opportunities for PWDs in the full exercise of their civil and political,
social, economic and cultura
l rights, at large, and their access to the physical environment
as well as information and communication, in particular.


African Union (AU’s) Continental Plan of Action for the African Decade of PWDs (1999


2009) also draws on the Standard Rule to call

up on African Governments to “to
develop and implement regulations to promote universal design and physical
accessibility, to promote accessible information in alternate format including large prints,
Braille, electronic and audio formats, sign language”.

In much same vein, Ethiopia refers
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to accessibility as “the provision of barrier free facilities to PWDs in accessing
information and communication services and their mobility from place to place so that
they can successfully run their daily life and pra
ctice equal participation in all sectors”
(MoLSA, 1999).


However, due to absence of legislative enforcements, practical efforts have been either
limited or non
-
existent in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia. As Waddell
(2003) observes the Standa
rd Rule have mainly “served as an instrument for policy
making as well as a basis for technical and economic cooperation” among most nations.
Cognizant of this, members of the global disability movement have continued to criticize
the Standard Rule as “leg
ally not binding”, and have instead called for international
convention which not only recognizes “accessibility as an essential component of a broad
right
-
based approach to development “(World Enable, 2003) but also provides legal
protection.


Recently,
the UN (2006) has made the concept of accessibility in the context of the
PWDs as an explicit human rights issue as it is legally binding. Article 9 of the
Convention elaborates accessibility as the right of entry of “ PWDs, on an equal basis
with others
, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and
communications, including ICTs and systems, to other facilities and services open or
provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas” (UN, 2006). In its “African
Decade and Conti
nental Plan of Action, the African Union (AU) emphasizes the rights
based approach to accessibility of PWDs to the physical environment and information
and communication (see, for example, Objective 6 of the Continental Plan of Action,
1999
-
2009, African U
nion). The present study draws up on this concept of accessibility
to inform the research on ICT accessibility requirements of Ethiopian PWDs.


3.2. ICT Accessibility and Disability

Drawing on the foregoing discussion, WHAT does accessibility of ICT mean

in the
context of disability? According to Abrehams (2006, p.3), “accessibility can be defined
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more precisely as that all the content and function of an ICT system should be accessible
to people with disability”. Similarly, in relation to ICT, Waddell (20
03) defines
accessibility as “the accessible design of products, services or systems where the user
interface is flexible enough to accommodate the widest range of user needs and abilities”.
Bush (2006) emphasizes the context of PWDs in defining accessibil
ity as “the ability of
PWDs to make use of information and communication technology using adapted
hardware and software”.


Evidently, these perspectives emphasize the significance of flexible design solutions to
enhance the functionality and content of IC
T products or services and to make them more
relevant to PWDs. This is indeed an essential aspect of accessibility, because “barriers
occur when the design of the technology fails to allow all the variations in user’s
abilities” (Irish National Disability
Authority, 2002). The significance of relevant
functionality and content for PWDs is much more accentuated by the dominance, for a
long time, of ‘ability
-
oriented’ ICT products and services. As Mohit (2005”, p.61) notes,
most ICT product or services “presu
ppose the user’s ability to see, hear, and use hands, as
a result of which persons with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments could not
access due to inflexible design”.


While this is undoubtedly a key issue, the “HOW” is another critical aspect of

ICT
accessibility. The question then goes: how is accessible ICT for PWDs made possible?
The literature identifies two approaches to accessibility of ICT for PWDs. The first is the
Design for all or Universal Design Approach
, which is defined as a set of

properties
that must be build into ICT products, services, or systems from the outset, enabling
people within the widest range of abilities and circumstances as is commercially
practical to access and use (Nordic Cooperation on Disability, 1998).
Shneide
rman
(2000) refers to this approach as universal usability, which is the design of information
and communication products and services that are usable by every one regardless of their
circumstances.


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However, it is also argued that “design
-
for
-
all” can ne
ver satisfy the needs of all peoples,
as there will always be some people who need some kind of assistive devices, which are
specifically design add
-
on devices that compensate for different kinds of disabilities
(Nordic Cooperation on Disability, 1998). Th
is is the
Reasonable Accommodation

approach to accessibility, and is broadly defined as the making of necessary and
appropriate modification and adjustments to ensure PWDs the enjoyment or exercise on
an equal basis with others of all human rights and fund
amental freedoms (UN, 2006). In
the context of ICT,
accessible ICT with reasonable accommodation

recognizes the
flexibility of technologies to provide appropriate functionality necessary for meeting user
need and preferences (World Enable, 2003).

3.3. ICT

Accessibility Requirements of PWDs

In order to understand accessibility requirements of PWDs, it is essential to primarily
examine how the absence or presence of accessible technological design of ICT products
and services impacts the different types of d
isabilities outlined above. This is indeed the
first important consideration in addressing the barriers posed by inflexible technological
design. However, ICT accessibility requirements for PWDs must be addressed broadly
and beyond technological design con
siderations. Because, as previously elaborated the
social and human rights model locates disability in the disabling aspects of the social
order which causes PWDs to become unnecessarily excluded. In other words, ICT
accessibility is not only a function o
f flexible technological design but also of other
factors such social and economic, content, and functional literacy affecting the access of
the PWDs to technology (Waddell, 2003; Abrehams, 2006). This section provides
summary of the key issues underpinnin
g ICT accessibility requirements of PWDs.


3.3.1. Accessible Design


The Technological Dimension

Regardless of whether the approach to accessible design is based on “reasonable
accommodation” or “universal design”, the first point to note is that PWDs a
re not a
homogeneous group. In other words, the ability of the individual with disability and his
or her preference should be taken into account in designing ICT products and services. In
this respect, ICT can assist different groups access to information

and communication in
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alternate formats, for example, TTY (text to telephone relay) for the deaf, Braille print
outs for the blind, interactive voice responses for people with mobility or visual
disabilities (Waddell, 2004; Mohit, 2005; Tamiru, 2006 , and
Abrehams, 2006).


The foregoing observations generally point out how the question of accessible design
raised for the blind is different from the deaf or the physically handicap. However, even
for a given category of disability, say visual or hearing impa
irment, accessibility issues
are not as identical as the classification may suggest. The authors identify a number of
cases in point that bear out these assertions, and are recapped as follows.


3.3.1.1. Visual Impairment

Technological design solutions f
or accessibility of persons with visual impairment cannot
be identical due to variation in the severity of the impairment. For instance, for totally
blind people text
-
to
-
speech synthesizers (or screen readers) that turns text into speech, or
retractable or

refreshable Braille display to read the text on the site may be ideal design
solutions. On the other hand, people with limited vision such as tunnel vision or cloud
vision, a set of other ICT solutions such as screen magnifiers and extra large screen can
enhance accessibility.


Alternatively, audiotapes or Braille printouts may be used for access to information in the
public domain. Undoubtedly, audiotapes and Braille printouts ensure access of the blind
to print information in alternate forms. Furthermor
e, talking books can be used to access
information available in mainstream publishers, governments, and libraries. Today, the
traditional talking books, which is an analogue representation of a print publication is
converted into a digital talking book (DT
B) which makes multi
-
media presentation of a
print publication (DIASY Consortium, 2005).


3.3.1.2

Hearing Impairment

Since the primary means of communication for the deaf is sign language, interpretation
services using sign languages is crucial in ensuring acce
ss of the deaf to information. In
this regard, innovative technologies can significantly enhance the role of the sign
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language in access of information and communication services to persons with hearing
impairment. For instance, real time captioning for ac
cess to aural content at conference
and meetings for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; captioning for television,
videos, and DVD for people with hearing loss; relay services, assistive listening systems,
text and video messaging for people with hear
ing loss or speech loss are some of the
design solutions that provide access to specific type of hearing impairment. In order to
ensure access of the deaf to the web, sign language can be made part of the Web by
embedding innovative technologies.


3.3.1.3.
Physica
lly Handicap

ICT has been instrumental in providing innovative solutions to address access
requirements of the different disabilities falling in this category. People with motor
disabilities (i.e. who have limited or no muscle control or movement) can acce
ss
computers and the web using assistive devices such as Sticky Key (i.e. having a stick in
the mouth and using it to type keyboard command). Similarly, speech recognition
software allows users to speak commands to their computers. Eye tracking software ca
n
also be of help to use the computer with eye movement. In other cases, special input
devices, like a head tracking mouse may be used to overcome this barrier.


3.3.1.4.
Other Disabilities

Assistive technologies have also been on the make for use by people with o
ther forms of
disabilities such as speech impairment, cognitive and learning disabilities. Speech
synthesizer technology can help people who are unable to speak clearly, or not at all, to
communicate. Screen reader technology can be supported by speech for

people having
cognitive disability, for example having reading difficulties. Similarly, Sticky Key can
also be of help to persons affected by leprosy access the computer and the net.
Interactive
-
voice supported letters can be fitted to computers to help m
entally retarded
children and youth learn.


3.3.1.5.

Web Accessibility for PWDs

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Waddell (2000) opines that the transformation of the internet from a text
-
based medium
to a robust multi
-
media environment has created a growing digital divide in access for
PWDs. Rec
ently, Craven’s (2006) review of research and initiatives on web accessibility
shows that PWDs in particular the blind or the visually impaired people who uses
assistive technologies such as screen readers are at risk of being excluded from access to
the W
eb. She specifically notes that although assistive technologies can enable PWDs to
‘read’ online materials, unless these materials are designed in a way that can be
interpreted by the assistive technologies, barriers to access will still exist. Similarly,
Mohit (2005, p.64) notes that web pages divided into segments or frames can confuse
software programs that translate text to voice. This means graphics with text will be read
only as “image’’ by the software reading the text screen, thereby depriving blind

students
of valuable content.


Although people with visual impairments were able to access the Internet with their
screen reader, graphical web pages have and will continued to cause a barrier unless they
do incorporate accessible web design(Coyne and Ni
lson, 2005). For instance,
inaccessible web page design either hides the text within images, frames, applets or
animations or renders the text unintelligently in a table and columnar forms or portable
document format (Waddell, 2004).


Furthermore, Waddel
(2000) observes that on
-
line forms can be inaccessible especially
when designed to prevent keyboard navigation and inputs. Even if designed to allow
both, lack of navigation paths are still posing problems to visually impaired people.
Similarly, in their c
omparative research, Craven and Brophy (2003) found out that
visually impaired used 16 different keystrokes, while the sighted used only a combination
of 6 keystrokes and mouse, suggesting that navigation paths are still difficult for the
visually impaired
, often requiring them to go through several steps.


The impacts of absence or inadequacy of the manner in which navigation elements are
designed are not confined to visually impaired people, as such. There have been
difficulties of accessing the web by p
eople with hearing impairment to access “audio
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streaming and video clips posted on the Internet due to absence of captioning (Waddell,
2000). Cook and Gladhart (2001) noted that web pages with a long list of hyperlinks
crowded together can confuse persons
with visual, cognitive or motor disabilities.


Likewise, a Global E
-
Government
2

Survey conducted by World Markets Research Center
(2001) found out that only 2% of government websites had some form of disability
access. The survey pointed out that in order

to be recorded as accessible to PWDs, the
website had to display features that would be helpful to the hearing or visually impaired,
for example, TTY (text telephone) or TDD (Telephonic Device for the Deaf), phone
numbers allowing hearing
-
impaired indivi
duals to contact the organization by phone.
Interestingly, the survey noted that even if a site was still equipped to provide access to
PWDs, it often failed to reach out as many of them as possible largely due to design
issues. This was the case even with

the leading nations for disability access. For instance
in the US only 37% of their web site are accessible, followed by Ireland, 24%, and
Australia, 23%.


Several developed countries have taken initiatives to comply with (W3)’s Web Content
Accessibility

Guidelines (WCAG). However, in a recent survey of the blind and visually
impaired people using electronic information services in public libraries (Lewis, 2004)
found that adherence to accessibility will not necessarily ensure services are usable. The
WCA
G mandates the use of an ‘ALT ‘(alternative) text for all images and other non
-
textual elements. But, while the presence or absence of text can be checked
automatically, what cannot be checked in this way is the meaning of the text supplied. As
Kelly
et al

(2005) note, “technical accessibility does not equate to intellectual
accessibility
-

an ALT tag merely names, not explains an image. In another action
research, disabled users identified, among others, “links to be clearer and fewer, print size
and colors

to be easily changeable, and better accessibility for voice recognition system
users”. The outcomes of these studies suggest the persistence of accessibility barriers for
PWDs, even if attempts to comply with the WCAG requirements are on the move.





2

E
-
government refers to the delivery of information and service online via the internet.

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Final
ly, although the literature documents a plethora of materials on accessible design for
PWDs, the contexts were very much skewed in favor of the affluent countries, where a
great deal of the research is focused in North America and Europe. On the other hand
,
with the exception of elite minority, the overall improvement on accessibility of ICT to
PWDs in the least developed countries (LDCs) has been dismal due to the “digital
divide” between the technology and connectivity “haves” and “have
-
nots” (Mohit, 2005
).


3.3.2. Beyond Technological Barriers: Challenges to Accessibility of
PWDs

While the digital divide certainly poses barriers to accessibility of ICT to the population
of poor countries at large and the PWDs in particular, the difference is, however, m
ore
than the gap in technology and connectivity. According to Reddy et al (2004), the digital
divide is actually a manifestation of other underlying divides, spanning economic, social,
geographic, gender and other divides. Tongia
et al (
2005) posit that IC
T accessibility
does not exist in a vacuum, rather within the social and cultural norms that also shapes
the digital divide. A study conducted by Markle Foundation (2003) reported that “digital
divides are results of economic difference in access to techn
ologies (
have’s vs.Have
-
Not’s
), and the cultural capacity and political will to apply these technologies for
development impact (
Do’s vs. Do
-
not’s
). Mohit (2003) extends this concept to the
context of PWDs by asserting that the extent to which PWDs can hav
e access to ICT
depends on the overall political and economic environment of the country in which they
live.


These perspectives broaden the debate on accessibility of ICT for PWDs, and seek to
critically view the issue beyond specific technological barri
ers i.e. the ICT itself and
accessibility of its features to PWDs. In other words, they transform the scope of the
context from a focus on only accessible design and adaptation of ICT products and
services towards much wider macro environmental considerati
ons underpinning
accessibility of ICT to PWDs. For purposes of the present study, the most important
issues of the debate are thematically sum up below.


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3.3.2.1.
Legal, Regulatory and Policy Environment

Legal and policy environment plays a crucial role in esta
blishing a framework of rights
for PWDs, as it can either underpin or undermine their access to physical environment
and information and communication services (Bush, 2006). Unless legal and policy
instruments are there to put force, ensuring equality and
full participation of PWDs in all
walks of life could be difficult. The literature points out that the first important step at
macro level is, thus, to enact non
-
discrimination legislation on the basis of adoption of
international instruments, such as the

UN Standard Rule on Equalization of Opportunities
for PWDs, which recognizes the rights of PWDs to accessible information and
communication services. Research on ICTs and disability confirm how the enactment of
anti
-
discrimination legislation has been vit
al in ensuring accessible information
environment in many countries (see for example Quinn and Degener, 2002).


A number of countries in the West including the United States and Europe as well as
Asian
-

Pacific countries have “enacted and amended their la
ws in light of the parameters
set out in Rule 5 of the Standard” (Mohit, 2005, p. 62). For example, American Disability
Act, UK and Australian Disability Discrimination Acts, Ontarians with Disability Act of
Canada, Ireland’s Equality Legislation and Disab
ility Bill, and Nordic countries’ anti
-
disability discrimination acts have legally enforced accessibility of PWDs to information
and communication services. In Asia, India’s Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights
and Full Participation of the PWDs Act
of 1995 has made explicit reference to
accessibility of information and communication in alternate formats for PWDs. Similarly,
the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (2000) of South
Africa emphasizes accessible information a
nd communication services to PWDs and
clearly recognizes
South African Sign Language (SASL) as a language of learning.


In all those countries, failure to comply with the provisions of accessible information and
communication on the part of the public and

private sector are legally punishable acts.
Particularly in the West, Disability Acts have been effective in ensuring access of PWDs
to ICT. In this regard, Mohit (2003) mentions two cases in point. Text telephones and
relay phones got installed in all pu
blic places in the US over a period of 1998 to 2001.
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Similarly, in Sweden and Finland some local governments have included videophones in
the list of assistive devices for PWDs to enable hearing impaired and deaf persons to
access information in public dom
ain.


While having legislative acts is a necessary condition, it is, not, however, sufficient in its
own right. There has to be a clear line of sight between legal provisions and the
development of ICT policies, strategies, standards and guidelines so tha
t rights of PWDs
enshrined in legal instruments are realized. The latter must address accessibility
requirements for PWDs in great details and depth. After all, policies and standards for
ICT accessibilities are second order instruments in enhancing the fu
ll participation of
PWDs in the Information Society (WSIS, 2002). In light of this, a number of countries in
the West have developed robust ICT policy and strategy documents with the full
participation of their disabled citizens; see for example the preamb
les as well as contents
of Swedish IT for Disabled and the Elderly and the National Information Infrastructure
Policy of the USA. In Asia, Pakistan’s National Policy for PWDs draws upon legal
provisions on non
-
discrimination, and makes explicit reference t
o the accessibility of
PWDs to ICT products and services at all levels.


Notwithstanding these initiatives, PWDs in the least developed countries, however, “face
the second digital divide on account of laws, policies, and infrastructure which are not
sens
itive to their needs” (Mohit, 2006). In its recent release, the World Economic Forum
(2007) has used “conduciveness of ICT regulatory and policy environment” as one of the
yardsticks for assessing the accessibility and usage of ICT products and services am
ong
countries of the world. The Forum reported the continuity of the digital divide by
asserting that Africa still disproportionately benefits from global advances in ICT due to
not only less favorable ICT regulatory and policy environment but also the low

level of
readiness of citizens and government, and their actual use.


Policies and strategies set out should be also underpinned by directives, standards and
guidelines in a number of key implementation areas. One such area where accessibility
requiremen
ts for PWDs can be addressed is public procurement. According to European
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Ministerial Conference on Knowledge and Information Society (2000), public
procurement directives should explicitly identify ICT Accessibility for PWDs as an
appropriate goal of publ
ic procurement practice, and define accessibility as a primarily
technical issue to be addressed in such procurements. EU’s Procurement Directives
(2004/17/EC) states, “ contracting authorities should lay down and define technical
specification so as to

take into account accessibility criteria for PWDs or design for all
users”. In the USA, section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires
government agencies to purchase accessible Electronic and Information Technology
whenever it is not an “und
ue burden” to do so. Nordic countries have accessibility
requirements for public requirements in ICT domains for PWDs (NCD, 2000). For
instance, Denmark’s National IT and Telecom Agency has developed toolkit to help
public procurers address accessibility r
equirements when purchasing ICT. Canada has an
online toolkit to support the inclusion of accessibility criteria in public procurement of
ICT.


Furthermore, standardization is another important aspect of ICT accessibility.
Standardization is necessary in

order to define the basis for including requirements of
PWDs in ICT. In this regard, the international standard identified by International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) as the, “Total Conversation”, is often used as
framework for standardization of ICT
products at national or local levels. Total
Conversation is about using voice, text, speech, and video for telecommunication in
standardized way for people who can not speak or are hearing impaired or deaf. The
Total Conversation concept allowing simultane
ous video, text and voice conversation is
standardized for all kinds of fixed and mobile networks.


Other references of international standards include Web Content Accessibility Guide
(WCAG 1.0) issued by W3 in 1999 to address accessibility barriers to th
e Web. The
guideline covers a number of standards on accessible design including the “provision of a
text equivalent for every non
-
text element; ensuring sufficient color contrast for
foreground and background; ensuring usability of pages when scripts are

turned off
through alternatives; identification of clear links, and use of the clearest and simple
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language” (W3, 1999). In April 2006, WAI has released 2
nd

version of WCGA to
enhance accessibility of the web in a bid to address practical problems identif
ied above
(see Web Accessibility). However, it is criticized as “nearly difficult for a working
standard
-
compliant web developer to understand” (Clark, 2006).



Another more international standard relates to guidelines issued by Digital Accessibility
Infor
mation System Consortium (DAISYC) to enable global access by people with print
disabilities or the blind to information provided by mainstream publishers, government,
and libraries. The consortium has standards specification for digital talking book (DTB)
(see for example, http://www.daisy.org). In another recent development, Hodgkinson
(2007) reported a bundle of international ICT Accessibility standards that address
accessibility issues for ICT products. Some of these include ISO 9241
-
20


Accessibility
for ICT equipment and services standard, which provides guidelines for planning,
designing and developing ICT products and services to ensure their accessibility for
people with the widest possible range of abilities including older persons and persons
wit
h permanent or temporary impairment. ISO 9241
-
171 Guidance on Software
Accessibility


covers the designing of accessible software for people with widest range
of physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities.


In practice, standardization of accessible ICT
has been tailored to specific needs of
countries. Besides, standards have been developed for individual technical domains
underlying ICT products and services. The proceedings of the International Workshop on
Accessibility held in Brussels in 2005 addresse