Web accessibility – make the Internet available for all!

The internet is an essential way to access and provide information and services. Web accessibility allows everyone, including people with disabilities, to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the internet. The lack or absence of accessibility contributes to the exclusion or partial exclusion of many people from society.

The purpose of Association for Integration of Persons with Disabilities (AIPD), within the All ALL DIGITAL Week 2018, was to raise awareness among public sector bodies about the need to implement the web accessibility concept in their websites. On the other hand, AIPD trained and encouraged persons with disabilities to use computer devices and to access the internet. Thus, the activities undertaken by AIPD targeted two groups – public authorities and people with visual disabilities.

With regards to the first target group, AIPD selected 11 websites owned by public sector bodies, also national and local, generated and sent 11 accessibility reports according to the WCAG 2.0.

For this purpose, AIPD, used the online tool offered on www.achecker.ca. These reports were sent together with official letters, in which AIPD called the authorities to take the appropriate measures to make their web sites accessible for all, including people with disabilities. According to the Romanian administrative law, public authorities have the obligation to answer the petitions within 30 days, so the AIPD’s requests are still pending.

We will monitor the impact of the report, whether the recommendations were implemented. These actions were based on the provisions of the Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as on the national provisions of the Law No. 448/2006 (republished in 2014) on the rights of persons with disabilities.

For the other target group, the AIPD conducted training sessions on how blind or partially sighted persons can use screen readers to work on a computer or to navigate the Internet. Six persons were the beneficiaries of these activities.

Taking into account the learning specifics of our target group, the training sessions were held individually with three of the students, either face to face, or on the phone or using one of the communication applications, such as Viber or Messenger. Depending on each student's level of digital skills, the training covered such learning objectives as sharing basic knowledge about computer, hardware, software, basic functions of the Microsoft Office applications, about the Internet, social media, and, perhaps most important, about how screen readers can help us and how we can adjust their settings according to our needs.

Other students were two wonderful twins from Bocsa city, Caras county and their teacher (We have already written about them in this blog). Although the twins are blind, they are in the 5th grade of their local regular school. Starting with this academic year, computer science has became a mandatory subject for all the middle school students. So, the kids had to begin studying the computer. It is an educational challenge for them, but more for their teacher. She realised that these children need adapted conditions to be able to perform at school. The AIPD team offered support for the teacher to identify and find the appropriate screen reader that could be used by her blind students during the lessons, as well as while doing homework. Moreover, we helped her to adjust the screen reader settings. From then, Alexia and Alexix began to discover the world of technology being helped by the synthetic voice of the screen reader. This software is also very useful in studying other school subjects.

This case is a nice example of the implementation of the legal provisions regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. For teacher Daiana Ilie, these provisions are not simple letters of law, but are normal, natural and healthy attitudes. „Dear Mrs Ilie, thank you for your openness, courage, and initiative, and we hope that your example will inspire other IT teachers, who have or probably will have blind or partially sighted students in their classes.”

by Irina Stratila, AIPD

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