The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> Hello, everyone. Thanks for coming to this panel. My name is Clement Le Ludec. I want to say a few words on my organization and about all of our work on digital accessibility.
So the French digital council is an independent advisory commission which aims at proposing new regulations and public policy recommendations to the French government in the field of digital affairs.
It has been created in 2011. It has 34 members representing different areas ‑‑ academics. It is currently working on a variety of topics ranging from platform economy to identity or facial recognition or AI.
As for me, I'm the policy officer in charge of accessibility at the French digital council. We are currently working on a report on the state of digital accessibility in France in order to propose public policy recommendations to the French government.
To start, I just want to say a few words on this report and I think this has been a hot topic because of the digitization of services. Trans posing the services offers a good opportunity to propose solutions.
This directive not only strengthens the obligations of private companies in the European union. Before that, there was also this European directive on accessibility requirements in the public sector.
So from the low perspectives, the subject of digital accessibility is very important. In France it's been 15 years that every public web services should be accessible. But spoiler, it is not. A study shows less than 4% of public services actually are. That's why it is very important to have a reflection beyond the low.
Among other topics, we worked on the lack of initials and lifelong training on digital accessibility. To do so we interviewed the web professionals and the result is that many of them declared that digital accessibility is not commonly taken into account in their process of developing websites.
Many of them expressed difficulties to understand accessibility obligations. By obligations, I mean some of them doesn't even know official technical standards. Some of them also stated that they finally better understood digital accessibility when they started to work closer with people with disabilities during the process of creating web services.
So based on those introductory remarks, I think the big question of the panel is how can we create a world in which every single web service is accessible and useable for everyone?
The first answer is given by the web content accessibility guidelines known as WCAG developed by the web accessibility initiative. Notably in order to evaluate digital accessibility of web services. We'll obviously discuss that point. Other answers include setting up trainings on accessibility for the benefit of web developers, graphic designers, content manager, et cetera.
Another answer is to create more bridges between users and, of course, users with disability and people in charge of developing web services. It will be another point that we will discuss.
To discuss those points, I invited Maria Ines Laitano who completed a Ph.D. and her focus is communications, digital interfaces, digital accessibility and participatory design. She's currently working at the 13 Universite Paris.
I also invited Muhammad Shabbir who a social rights activist and pursuing a Ph.D. in personal relations and from the internet society.
Finally, Shadi Abou‑Zhara who works with accessibility specialists and coordinates accessibility priorities in the W3C strategy team.
So I think we'll start the discussion with initial remarks from the panelists. Let's begin with Shadi, if you want to.
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: Okay. So, yeah. We have heard the web content accessibility guidelines and all the technical stuff. Let me take a step back. There are four guiding principles in this ‑‑ and this applies to when you are making any digital technology accessible. Is it perceivable? Can I perceive it in different senses? If I cannot see the content, can I hear it? Can I touch it through braille or something?
Is it operable? Can I operate it in different mechanisms? If I cannot use the keyboard, can I use voice? Can I use a mouse if I cannot use a mouse and so on.
With touchscreens and many other input devices, brain interaction, these things.
Is the content understandable to the broadest audience? Here understandable is a very important criteria. Many content studies show it's not only about accessibility, people with disabilities that are having challenges, but it actually applies to a much broader audience, particularly in the area of understandability.
Finally, robust. Does the content work well with different devices? For example, somebody who is not using the, quote/unquote, traditional software but specialized assistive technologies.
If you think about these principles when creating content, digital applications, that will get you very far way. Having said that, that's one part of the issue ‑‑ the technical standards, technical applications.
What we also see and I'm going to refer to the statistic just mentioned about 4% only, even though there's been rules and regulations for maybe 15 years now as was told. A big part of it is lack of knowledge. Sometimes it easier than you think. For example, making sure that you have good color combinations so the contrast not only for people with visual disabilities or people with color perception disabilities as it is formerly called in which statistics say one in four adult males have color perception disabilities. So look around the room. That's quite a few of us that would be impacted by that regardless if it's labeled disability or not.
Despite many requirements being actually fairly low hanging fruit and fairly easy to integrate in a design and development process. We still see designers and developers not doing that. Due partially to lack of awareness. Clement just mentioned developers not even knowing these standards exist, the guidelines, how to do that. Not having the necessary expertise and skills. So it's really a combination.
I think many organizations, we were here and some of you may have been here on an earlier panel. Somebody asked a question where I felt as a software developer for a start‑up, they are in need of support. The eco‑system doesn't support them well. Even if they are aware of the guidelines or the requirements applying them is difficult. There is a multitude of issues that need to be broken down, addressed holistically. This is also reflecting back to policies. Policies are really good in a way. Unfortunately, I think policies probably are the single most driver. Even the simplest thing like a curb cut. People assume the economy of scale and lowering the sidewalk so wheelchair users and bicycles and everything, there is so much return on investment. It's fairly simple.
Things like that aren't implemented until laws and regulations come in place. Regulations are important. On the other hand, they kind of drive developers into ‑‑ they give a bit of a negative spin. You have to do that. Otherwise you get fined. Then you get the reaction of, okay, what is the minimum that I have to do to meet the policy, to get by?
It creates a little bit of tension of people having an association of having to do that. We talk about the three carrots and the stick. All the benefits of doing accessibility, but trying to have policies and legal frameworks that are more encouraging rather than ‑‑ I mean, they need to police and enforce. But in a way that also supports the individuals.
An example, one of the things in the European web accessibility directive mentioned also by Clement, there is not only the component of the technical standard and that member states of the European union have to monitor, but there is also component that they have to provide training and education to help the skills of their government bodies in order to be able to meet the standards.
So this is the kind of thing I'm talking about, having broader set policies that not only set a target, but also help individuals and organizations meet that target and practice.
I'll stop there. I think we are going to have more discussion.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Thank you, Shadi. Muhammad, do you want to continue?
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: Thank you, Clement. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us. A big thanks to the digital council who helped with my participation in the panel.
Shadi talked about W3C standards and policies. I would like, for instance, to step back a bit more and if the title of the workshop, if it offends you somewhat, the accessibility for disabled people.
Personally, I do not subscribe and I apologize that by the time I came to know of it that disability for disabled people was used it was too late to change. It was not intentional. Primarily the translation when the proposal was returned in French and then translated into English, so something wrong happened.
According to United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, the convention which most persons with disabilities subscribe to and promote and we intent that it should be implemented in right and spirit in different states, that gives the right that it's the person which is more important and not the disability. Person should come first rather than the disability. So it's people or person with disabilities and disability is not something which can be sympathized. It is a social condition due to the various in society people have impairments like physical impairment, visual impairment, hearing and something like that.
It's the societal barrier that make that person enabled or disabled. Now coming to the topic and I will pick up where Shadi left off about policies.
When we made the policies and when governments make the policies, in their infinite wisdom, sometimes it happens that they think that they are all knowing and they do not include the persons upon whom those policies would be implemented.
Sometimes they are made wrongly or sometimes the language reflects something which becomes difficult to change.
So as a president of accessibility interest group, we strive that the input of persons with disabilities should be taken right from the start. And from the start I mean right from planning, implementation, and execution and also of evaluation.
When you are planning for something, you need to take the input. When you are implementing it, you need to check that how the policies or project is being implemented and then you also need to take care of accessibility issues and you need to think about it when you are evaluating the project. What were the outcomes? What were the indicators? Is the project fit and fulfilling the needs and requirements that were set before the start of the project?
So accessibility needs to be there.
We will also talk about how this favors persons with disabilities and we'll also talk about that there is a difference between access and accessibility. There is also a difference between accessibility and usability.
For now, I will stop here and send back the mic to Clement.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Thank you, Muhammad. Maria Ines, if you want to continue?
>> MARIA INES LAITANO: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm delighted to be here to talk about accessible design. My objective in the panel is to talk about the web content accessibility guidelines. The standard use in most national laws are not enough to design accessibility. And to propose a path for these guidelines.
To answer the question, let me first give you background on the classification of design knowledge.
According to SACLAV, design of an object for example is a two‑dimensional space with first axis what's to be designed and the second the colors. The object form, function, use or experience or the symbolic dimension.
And the commitment mode of the holders can be managed sequentially by design thinking or participatory design.
Let's focus on the axis of the dimension to be designed. The design of the form makes the object concrete, real. It is the design of the object materiality. Design of the function is the design of the object's utility. In other words, what real life problem the object will solve.
The design of the function is also the design of the object's usability which means it will be effective, efficient, and satisfactory.
The design of the user experience is about practices and environment in which the object will be used.
Finally, the design of the symbolic is the design of meaning. The most intangible aspect of the object.
This leads me to my first point which is that we can deal with the content form. If you look at the criteria contained in principle one, perceivable, they deal with the content format ‑‑ textual, nontextual. Style, color, contrast, display orientation, spacing. They deal with the content structure. All these aspects shape the content, create its digital materiality.
The same principle, robust. It deals with compatibility. Content must have a form compatible with user agents that is compatible with web browsers, players, plug‑ins and assistive technologies.
To do this sources must be valid. It must have a correct syntax and symantec form.
Clearly related to the content usability. For example, the content must be keyboard accessible to function effectively.
To work efficiently, it must provide a mechanism to bypass blocks of content. To satisfy user needs, multiple ways must be available to locate a web page within a website.
Criteria contained in principle three, understandable, are also related to the content functions since the user needs to understand how to apply the content. Following that it must be comprehensible, predictable and the errors must be well managed.
In short, we can cover design of the form and design of the function but nothing is said about the design of the user experience or the symbolic.
In literature you can find a path for design and accessible user experience. I prefer to talk about accessible design of the symbolic. How to design accessible content meaning.
We have to start from the postulate that behind web interface or content there is an owner who initiates, promotes and keeps alive the web content of our time.
This communicative purpose of the owner with the content meaning. As an illustration, let's take this article from the United Nations website.
It is a chronicled conversation with a U.N. report regarding accessibility to U.N. meetings. At the beginning of the article we find this picture which has the following textual key. A meeting taking place during the tenth session of the conference of state parties to a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
That's the textual equivalent. Does it reflect the meaning of the picture? For me, probably for you, no. Why? Because the communicative purpose of the owner in this case the United Nations, is to emphasize that people with disabilities can you correctly take part in U.N. meetings and that the reason why two women in wheelchairs appear in the foreground of the picture.
So the meaningful textual equivalent would be for example women in wheelchairs are properly installed at the U.N. meeting about the rights of persons with disabilities.
The symbolic dimension explains why it is difficult to automate accessibility tests. An automatic tool can easily detect that an image has no textual alternative. But it cannot yet, to my knowledge, see whether the text reflects the communicative purpose of the owner.
Yes. So let's now turn to the commitment mode access of the classification. That is, who to engage in the design process.
A design project can be conducted in a traditional way. That is a design team that follows a process. Or we can use a synching mode which seeks to challenge assumptions, refine problems and create solutions.
Or we can do participatory design. That is a design team that codesigns with end users. All stake holders are actively involved in the design process.
So which of these three modes of commitment will be the most suitable for accessible design? Me and others think that participatory design is the most appropriate methodology. Because design is a process of inscribing knowledge in material forms. And users, people with disabilities in this case, know better than anyone the real situations in which the object will be used.
Furthermore, the know‑how of persons with disabilities is the only way to experience the user dimension. But users are not the only experts in accessibility. Relevant stake holders for accessible participatory design are all people with some knowledge in the object that will be designed.
The definition extends the classic triad, developers, users like on this slide. We have ICT professionals, the owner, sponsors, and third‑party contributors. On the use side we have persons with disabilities and their attendants. They are specialists in the experience, in the use of assistive technologies and they have knowledge derived from the condition, for instance, within the collective of people with visual impairments ‑‑ blindness is not the same as low vision. Birth blindness is not the same as acquired blindness.
Some knowledge is intrinsically cultural. For example, sign language is the language of the deaf culture. Attendants of people with disabilities ‑‑ family, colleagues, teachers, caregivers and others ‑‑ are also key informants in the design process. They have knowledge about the disabled experience, the needs and preferences of people with disabilities.
ICT professionals, developers, designers, QA professionals and others, are experts in designing the content form and the content function. To do this, they use and are experts in the use of offering tools such as development environments, content managed systems as well as tools to check the content accessibility.
As I said before, the owner is the one who best knows the communicative purpose and the one who will propose the content meaning.
Bringing the owner together with users is the only way to design this symbolic dimension. In some cases, the owner does not finance the design process, but there are sponsors and sponsors should ideally participate in design because they manage financial resources and they often condition the project agenda.
External users have knowledge about the specific content they provide and are responsible for the accessibility.
To summarize, I recap my main points. Web content accessibility islands aren't enough to create accessibility as they deal with the content form and function. The purpose could be a fifth principle in order to keep symbolic dimension in mind. It is an alternative to design guides simply by standards. It brings together all people with expertise in the object that will be created. I think more research is needed, especially in symbolic and participatory design. These will be useful for training, and for us to develop standards. That's it from me.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: If someone has a comment or question, feel free to intervene. Otherwise I will give the mic to Shadi. Maybe you have some remarks on the topic.
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: I always have remarks. So I fully agree with the conclusion. I really have a lot of trouble with the argue mentation getting there.
Absolutely. WCAG describes the properties of content, what does it mean for content to be accessible? It doesn't talk about the process, the policies, the environment. All these things around that you need in order to do so. We fully subscribe to participatory design. We have resources called involving users throughout the design and development process in evaluation and throughout.
So we try to communicate that very often that standards are a tool to help you meet a purpose, but they are not the end goal in itself, right? Accessibility is a journey, not an end point, roughly said.
Where I do want to contradict a little bit is actually the requirement for text alternatives says a text alternative has to serve the purpose ‑‑ no. Has to provide the purpose. Also for the labels and so I think the onset ‑‑ we can dig it up. The idea is that ‑‑ no, I mean, you know, if you talk about, say ‑‑ let's take a different example. The instructions or providing labels. Labels provide the purpose, explain the purpose. There are many aspects that do relate to the user experience. I would really contradict the aspect of absolutism that it doesn't address user experience at all.
I think that's a very long stretch. And it doesn't do any good, I think, to be taking this fairly controversial approach to prove a point which I think we can all agree with that a participatory design and inclusive design purpose makes it easier to achieve the purpose to provide the content that serves not only the end user, but the broader ‑‑ not only people with disabilities who it serves for but also the broader audience.
Yeah. Let's leave it there.
>> MARIA INES LAITANO: The problem is not in the standard, but in laws that say for being accessible, you must conform with this standard and that's all. There is nothing said about how to do that in the standard.
When the standards say the textual equivalent must have the same function as the picture, they don't say the function of what. Or they don't mention the owner, the person who communicates.
I think that will be important, because when you read the standard, you don't understand automatically that the function is in relation with the owner. Or the person who communicates through the interface.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: I think we have a question here.
>> Yes. My name is Alex. I'm working for the German development corporation. I would be interested in getting your advice, because we are in the process of designing a project that will include expanding the local services to online services. There is a special focus on including people with disability.
So do you have any advice on ‑‑ I mean, there are various ‑‑ I mean, even ‑‑ I think everybody who is a user of online services is currently not properly included. The uptake shows it's very low. But there are various different groups that probably have to be included in different ways. I don't know if you have any ideas on that. I would be thankful.
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: Okay. Thank you very much for the question. That's an appreciated approach that the French government has taken. They want to include the person with disabilities in online services as well. What my recommendation would be to engage actual persons with disabilities, of course you should go about in a structured way and talk about some organizations who are operating in the German territories and are working for persons with disabilities.
But ensure that actual persons with disabilities, those who are actually impacted are there to give the user feedback on whatever services you are having or you are applying.
For instance, in Pakistan last year we formulated our government, formulated the IT policy. The purpose was ‑‑ it took like one and a half or more years to formulate that policy. One of the good things in that policy was actual input from persons with disabilities were taken. It was incorporated in the policy final document. It addresses issues of persons with disabilities.
Now the government is in the process of formulating an operational document on the policy. The government is trying to include persons with disabilities. In this case here I would like also to invite persons with disabilities who are in the German territories. They should also come forward and provide their input. It's them after the services are completed who will be impacted.
For instance, let me just give you an example that a website may be accessible but not useable. As a citizen of Pakistan I have to obtain a visa to enter into territories. I went to apply for a visa in the German embassy. I was asked to apply for the online appointment. So I filled the complete form. It was two, three‑page form. At the end of the form there was this image capture image which did not have an alternate option for me to fill in. It was an image which I had to read myself and then fill in in the relevant column.
I think you are aware of that function which verifies it is a human accessing the website. It would have been more prudent if there was an alternate. So I had to get sighted help to just pass through that single step. Otherwise I had completed all the form. It was accessible, but just because of a single step, I was unable to submit that form.
So this would be one of the reasons and the small things. Yes, we all want to talk about the big things, but there are small things which may really impact your accessibility and usability processes. So I hope this answers your question.
>> JAMSHID KOHANDEL: Absolutely including people with disabilities. The participatory approach taken is really important. One of the things that I think is really helpful is getting developers and designers to actually watch a usability test or watch people with disabilities actually use. This is so impactful.
When we talk about accessibility very often it's so abstract. It is a term most people haven't actually seen somebody using a mouse stick or a head stick or somebody who has, say, dyslexia and really tasks the developers.
You know, this is an IT problem since long ago. It's not a new thing that developers develop for themselves. It's easy. Control ALT F‑4. It's easy, right? They think. I'm an IT nerd as well, so I can make fun of them.
When you see how your users are actually not completing tasks that seem fairly simple like find the phone number of the office or the opening hours or something. They actually see the issues.
I have seen developers behind the glass in the usability lab wanting to knock on the glass and say, press the button there, you know?
And then the lightbulb goes off and they understand. I don't like using the word empathy. That's not what it's about, but really understanding that we are all ‑‑ we all have different approaches, different experiences of using the content, using the web.
When that comes through actually you get developers very motivated. Developers love to solve problems. Then they're engaged and they don't feel it is an obligation, that they have to meet something abstract. They're being challenged. Hey, can you make your product better?
So I think that's another part of involvement in I think really goes very long. The other thing is also even though, again, I'm all for standards and everything and I know in Europe a lot of member states have this pressure because of the directive and they have to meet it. You still have to be practical. Some organizations unfortunately have not done anything for years and years though it's been a requirement. To now expect that they'll in one shot become accessible, again, I repeat accessible, accessibility is a journey. It's a mindset. It's integrating into the process. And that won't happen overnight. You need to prioritize in certain situations and, yeah. Try to really ‑‑
One thing, for example, in the Netherlands, if you don't meet the requirement you have to explain why you don't and provide a plan for how you plan to. I think that's sensible. There are situations where, for whatever reasons, but if you can explain that, justify it and provide the plan for how you want to improve that, I think that's a more sensible kind of policy that is building in a little bit of encouragement, rather than being a very rigid on or off kind of approach.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: If I may add something on this topic and on participatory design. The committee composed of users with disabilities, researchers, web developer, graphic designers. In other words to identify practical difficulties of the digitization of public services.
Maybe a good way to improve web accessibility is through public policy, some committee like that or spaces in which people will exchange on this topic. When we interviewed web developers, some of them said that it would be very important for them to have better knowledge of how people with disabilities are using the internet.
So it could be very useful for everyone. Speaking about our web developers or the IT sector, another point I raised in my introduction is the lack of training among the IT sector.
So, Muhammad, if you want, can you talk about the experiment you participated in in Pakistan, please?
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: Thank you, Clement. Thank you very much. That was really an interesting experiment that we did. In December last year we had the idea that we should get together regional countries and their representatives and have a regional forum on accessibility. The chapter of the internet society of which I am a member of the board as well, we hold a one‑day conference in which we invited the chapters representative of theirs to come to that forum and hear their experience on accessibility.
One of the outcomes of the forum was that we should have ‑‑ so lack of training was the factor. A lot of the websites in our part of the world, our region of the world is lacking. So what could be done about that? One of the ideas that came up was that the government people are not mostly aware of the accessibility and the accessibility requirements.
So they need to perhaps be trained.
What we did and again with the local participation of the Islamabad chapter, the society took a step to bring in external help and accessibility trainer in Pakistan and put the government officials ‑‑ not the officials who are at the policy level, but the developers ‑‑ actual developers who develop the government websites. And the developers from the civil society as well as some people with disabilities. They are under one roof for three days.
We tried to make them sensitized about what is the need and how to make those websites accessible. We followed the participatory method. It was essentially the WCAG2.1 guidelines how to make websites accessible, how to code, what is the process, what are the indicators and all that stuff.
The purpose was twofold. One was to raise the awareness about general community, about the government and civil society and also in the persons with disabilities that this is a thing that we now need to act upon. If it is delayed ‑‑ so we know there are disparities and there are divides in the haves and have nots of the world.
So if we do not act now, the divide ‑‑ and let me tell you it is a great equalizer. When I connected to the internet, I am not a person with a disability. I'm a person who is connecting through the machine. So practically, a developer has to make the machine able to read what is coming from front of the machine for me.
So it is a great equalizer unless we developers and the technical community and the policy guide do something about that.
So this was the purpose. The next step, we are hoping that at least the government developers, they would do something to make the official websites of government of Pakistan accessible.
So we have recognized a number of websites, at least five, in the first stage that we would support if they go through that step. And we are persuading the policy guys to go to that step because you know there are a number of processes when you want to change something at the government level.
So we are trying to persuade that at least five of the websites should be made as model website and should be made accessible. Those websites could be some of the job portal, some education websites, or of the information technology or the telecom regulator which are actually being used by the persons and not just by the people with disabilities but by the general public as well.
There are a number of services that are day by day going online. If we see the government of Pakistan would implement on that, of course we will try our best to persuade them. We hope for the best.
>> Thank you. This project has been and will be useful because governments being accessible will lead the way in attracting users to online. I want to know the thoughts of the panel on another thing.
When you talk to the private sector they probably don't see much of a business case. There is basically cost‑benefit companies which work for profit. Is there a lack of research that once you make a website accessible what kind of economic impact it has on the person's ability to earn or is there a lack of it that exists and how to address it? Thank you.
>> JAMSHID KOHANDEL: Thank you. Very good question. Governments have to do impact analysis. There is some data available on return, but it is very patchy and lacking. I think this is really an area for more research to demonstrate that there are many cases, many examples that show we have anecdotal cases.
For example, an online store in the UK. I won't disclose names. It was forced to make their website accessible with a court threat or a lawsuit threat. I think the number was something like 35,000 pounds to make the repairs necessary. At the time it was a lot of money.
They were thinking they would get it back in four years. They saw that the revenue increased by, I think it was like 2.1 million or something. It was exorbitant. This particular example was an online store. So it was really ‑‑ I'm on mic now ‑‑ stupid to be an online store and not consider making something not only accessible but useable. It's not a wonder that when they made it better, people wanted to use that service, but it was too difficult and we see this lack of uptake of digital technology not because, you know, per se people don't like it, but because technology very often is difficult. Try to explain to somebody, you know, how to go online and, you know, get your passport or your visa or something. You find yourself often wanting to go there and speak to the person because it's so difficult.
Anyway, more research in the area would be helpful, would be really good. If that's something you're thinking about, I would encourage you to.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Muhammad, do you want to react on that question?
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: I just want to substitute what Shadi said about the research and data. Yes, I have tried to look for such cases and data. Again, these are conjectures we cannot be sure about how it is.
But I would like to draw the audience attention to another point. One day you may be good or you may be all right with one page which has no big fonts, which has no ‑‑ which has colors which are flashy or something like that. But there may come a day because humans do not remain the same every day. It is an evolution.
In the earlier session it was highlighted that aging and all that stuff. So it's not just persons with disabilities who just benefit from the accessible design or universal design. It's the whole community as we have been saying it again and again. That's probably one of the reasons that it would be difficult to have a really quantitative data and of course I would be interested in having that data. It would be really supporting the point or would be encouraging us ‑‑ for instance, there are certain assumptions, let me tell you, which sometimes we need to disrupt.
For instance, before 2014 in Pakistan, banks would not allow persons with visual impairment to access the internet services, to carry credit cards, debit card or so use banking facilities, et cetera.
One of their, quote, arguments, you know what it was? The argument was if we allow persons with disabilities to carry credit cards and all that stuff, debit cards, it is easier to cheat them.
Now as a technology guy, you may think it's a very silly idea, but it was so ingrained in the banking sector's mind that it took us, like, seven years ‑‑ 2008, late 2008 until 2014. We had a number of meetings with the central bank, state bank of Pakistan to just convince them that carrying or opting for these facilities doesn't make them insecure. It makes them secure.
Ultimately if a person wants to deposit cash in the bank, they can go alone and deposit some money. But if they want to withdraw money from the bank which was their own earned money, they would have to take a person with them who will witness sign on behalf of the persons with disabilities as to what the XYZ amount was drawn from the bank. Practically it was not for the benefit of persons with visual impairment. It was for the benefit or rather cautionary measures on behalf of bankers so they do not get into trouble.
This was one we had to really by using our connections to get those ATMs and credit cards by ourselves and then we were only able to convince them that, you see, we have been using the services for such and such a time and we did not have any bad incident. So this is not about the insecurity. It's also about the privacy. If I am taking Shadi with me to withdraw some cash and he's signing on behalf of me as a witness, at least he knows how much cash I have withdrawn.
This is not just about the services. It's about the process. Very early it was highlighted that you need to hit that where is the thinking process coming from?
That's why I asked that it's the policy, planning and implementation. I don't want to put a burden on new starters to have their website accessible from the beginning and AAA accessible right from the beginning. But if they do, they will be benefitted.
If they don't, well, if we can say a business has ten million of revenue or value, so those businesses' websites or products would have to be made accessible. So there can be a bar and policy can guide us.
If not, there is no end to it. Without regulation, without laws, our people don't want to ‑‑ it's very difficult. It seems very beautiful and very ‑‑ it seems like very generous to talk about morality and accessibility and we want to do all that stuff. Sometimes it is the whip that you need to have the businesses motivated.
This was one of the cases. If you allow me, I would name a company, Domino's. They have 17 or 16 kind of methods with which you can order pizzas. But one of them, their website was not accessible and in America they were sued. The lower court decided in the favor of persons with visual impairment. Domino's took the case to the higher court. This was one case decided back in July 2019 in favor of persons with visual impairment.
The point is it was just one option which was not accessible. There were 16 other accessible options, but when it comes down to accessible it also comes down to the choice of the people that what choice out of those 16, 17, 15 or whatever, XYZ methods he or she wants to take.
So Domino's is not a small company. It can make that kind of decision and it is now forced to make all the delivery and ordering methods accessible.
So we'll have to do something about these kinds of policies and plannings and implementations and of course I come down again back to the evaluation processes that we do. Thank you.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Any other questions or comments from the audience? Yes?
>> Just a small one. I'm autistic. Just in regards to the question of standards and the necessity or the role of participation is that the standards ‑‑ I have forgotten your name. Is it Maria? Pointed out point three about understandable. There is a word there ‑‑ predictable. My version of predictable as an autistic person and your version of predictable have nothing to do with each other.
The only way testing if a website is predictable is to get someone like me to look at it. So in terms of cognitive disabilities you have to have those people and I see site after site those supposedly accessible and you can see straight away that it will present barriers to a lot of people, simply because they haven't been asked.
A great comment was made about the path forward application getting to the end. So much of this stuff is small things. It's just small changes. By the time you get to the third one, you have had enough. Accessibility doesn't have to be complicated. It just has to be understood and you have to speak to the people who are using these sites.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Some of you want to react on that?
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: Feeling very controversial today. I have already been told I'm not diplomatic. The guidelines are in no way perfect. There is need for improvement. We are working on them. There is a version 2.2 in parallel also, third generation in which we want to change the conformance model. One of the issues is because accessibility requirements have to be testable then you have to say when you have met it and when you have not met it. This is a technical specification has to be unambiguous. It gets very difficult to have certain types of requirements that are needed and ongoing to better understand the needs. Cognitive learning disability is a big group that I think maybe it's too much of a term. There are certain types of disabilities there that are better understood than others. They are certainly different if we go into it. It becomes really, really difficult to specify specific requirements and say met and not met. It is an ongoing process. You have an open process where we love participation from all sectors. We use a multi stake holder approach to involve different people with disabilities in the process, industry research, government. We need to have all these experts in the discussion to try to define requirements. Now regarding involving users, absolutely. It's essential, important. I think there is no way past it. If you want to make a good user experience there is no way past.
I don't think it's one or the other. I don't think it is either involving users or using standards. I think the two need to complement each other. I think this is the more optimal way forward. There are also challenges and difficulties with involving users. I have heard this so often, when you come and say, you know, this is not accessible and I'm sure Shadi has heard it before. My neighbor's uncle's whatever, you know, said it's fine.
So they asked a user and the user said it's fine. So you need to define very strong process. Who do you ask and how do you ask. This is not something trivial. You need trained people who carry such knowledge. At the end I would argue if you only follow one approach, you will likely equally end up with big gaps. The same if you only follow the standards without involving the people. So you really need to combine the two.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: Any other questions? Yeah?
>> I have a question I can read to you from the participants online if you like.
So the question is how do you make an organization aware to make opportunities for advocates as accessibility champions in an organization?
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: Could you repeat the question?
>> I'm sorry. How do you make an organization aware to make opportunities for advocates as accessibility champions in an organization?
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: In my opinion, I think it has to be the organizational approach, one. Second, it has to be some participatory method that we thought about in the beginning.
So accessibility champion, having an accessibility champion is a good thing. But I would say accessibility advocate ‑‑ having an accessibility advocate at the organization would be more prudent. Why? An accessibility advocate would be the one who knows what accessibility is, what are the requirements, and what ought to be or what should be done ‑‑ dos and don'ts.
So having a champion whereas it's a good‑sounding word, but I would definitely not support that kind of approach. Advocate and advocacy is, for me, would be much more important.
Perhaps someone else on the panel has different views.
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: No different view. I'm not sure how to understand it. I guess there are two sides. One like externally prompting organizations and there are many different examples of ‑‑ I think in the Netherlands, for example. I don't know why. Just again picking the Netherlands.
I think some years ago they had ambassadors where they really went from organization to organization, really door to door, knocked on their CEO's door and went in and showed them the difficulty they're having using the website. They really targeted certain types of organizations and they just did a lot of the advocacy work.
So that's maybe one side. Then there is the reaction to it. So the organization internal. Unfortunately accessibility very often is dependent upon champions who kind of lead that internally within organizations who move it along. Sometimes there is a culture where such ‑‑ so there is discussion particularly in tech organizations. How many hackers you should have on your team. People who are disruptive. People who don't follow the policies and conform because they bring innovation and interesting aspects very often. So sometimes there is a balance when you specifically want to have people who swim against the stream, so to say.
If there is an organization with such a culture that's more accepting, someone come with a new idea and says, hey, this accessibility thing we should do more rather than the approach with, no, shut up and do your work. Or they are approached with, hmm, tell us more. Why don't you research that a little bit more?
Organizational cultures are important in how they react. So I guess there is an internal and external kind of interplay here between the impetus that comes to generate accessibility awareness and interest in this.
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: As Shadi said it comes down to the approach. Some disability rights organization, those who are working for the rights for the persons with disabilities can adopt an approach, I'm sure there would be in Europe something they would be adopting.
What I saw in Moscow in January of this year they have a different sort of concerts, lunches and dinner in the dark. People would be taken into the room with total darkness. You would be guided to the seat by a visually impaired person themselves with a white cane. It was a similar kind of example with the meals.
So the people who would serve ‑‑ there would be no light in the room. It would be total blank‑out. You would be served a meal and you would have to eat it like that. It's to feel how it is that persons with disabilities live and go about their lives.
So there would be different approaches. There may be multiple reasons if someone does more research, probably our knowledge on this may be a little bit low. But there could be different approaches one can follow to make the society and different organizations realize there is accessibility and a need of it.
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: Respectfully to the question that's been asked and what I have heard so far, I don't think that the companies or this idea of accessibility should be approached with a mindset that the company should become champions of disability for something they would put across as something they are doing for society as a charity thing.
I still firmly believe if there is a credible needs assessment and a research done on the demand side of these services, like the example that Shadi shared a few minutes ago. That's the only way that the companies will start taking this initiative and this ‑‑ not just initiative. This is a right. This right seriously for persons with disabilities. There are enough champions out there in the world. If you see, there are so many organizations which are working for persons with disabilities.
>> Maybe I wasn't clear. I meant different stages of adoption of accessibility. You start often with complete unawareness. Huh? People with disabilities use computers?
We still get that even in countries with accessibility regulations or integrated classrooms or whatever. You still get the question very often. They embrace accessibility in the DNA. Really throughout the policies, throughout their processes, how they hire, work. I mean, workplace encouragement and things like this. How they create the website, procure, so there are steps to get under way. Some need convincing and hard data. Some still think there is no global warming, right?
So you'll never convince them. So there are different cultures and different reactions to that. But very often, accessibility starts with an internal champion that kind of spear heads the way ‑‑ unfortunately it should be systematic, complete agreement that the organization says, wait a sec, we're in 2019, nearly 2020. This is a U.N. convention, a human right established by over 180 countries around the world. There should be no discussion. We shouldn't even be here talking about it. But that's not reality unfortunately.
>> MUHAMMAD SHABBIR: Just one comment. Since we are talking about the new approaches to accessibility, I think what is more needed in our part of the world ‑‑ I'm talking about Asia and Africa ‑‑ we need to make persons with disabilities also realize that they also ought to opt for these kind of subjects. They ought to go for the degrees in science.
Yes, it is difficult. But it is not impossible. As it was considered some years back when we were at the defining stage of our career.
Today, I have seen approaches in U.S. that there are certain scholarships, incentives and encouragements for students with disabilities who opt for these disciplines.
Perhaps our governments can think about those approaches and incentives for people with disabilities who want ‑‑ and facilitating them also who want to opt for this kind of discipline.
While we are on the topic, perhaps while the developed countries offer certain scholarships to different Asian and African countries, perhaps there could be more incentives for people with disabilities themselves and particularly for those students who want to opt for these technical disciplines. Because this would really encourage people to study and this would provide them the environment where they can get the education, get the training, and after that they can serve the community.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: I think we have another question.
>> Yeah. I have a question. My name the Iman. I'm from Pakistan telecom authority.
Training the web developers is one part. That's very essential. Why you are not thinking on developing a tool that can check your website is accessible and highlight the areas which need to be addressed? Like we check the vulnerability of the website in penetration testing there could be a tool to address these areas.
Have you thought on that or what?
>> SHADI ABOU‑ZAHRA: Absolutely. This is my favorite area of work. We have a list online with over 130 tools. There are many more not on the list. So there are many tools here from high end, open source enterprise tools, all sorts of things.
But ‑‑ and this is really important. The example that Maria Ines brought up is very telling. There are many things you can check automatically like the image doesn't have a text description. But to actually assess how well the text description matches the equivalent purpose of the image is something that needs, for the time being, human evaluation. We are experimenting with AI. There are things that can give you ‑‑ for example, there is automatic captioning ‑‑ image captioning in Facebook already. Not captioning, I'm sorry. Image descriptions. Captioning is on YouTube ‑‑ automatic captioning of YouTube. But you'll see the rate of quality, how much there is a need for still human intervention.
It's not a fully automated process. There is still a lot of need. Actually even in security it's not. Yes, you run penetration tests but you need to do manual checks as well. That's the same in accessibility. You can run tools, automate the checks, but you need to do manual stuff as well.
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: I think we have an online question. That's the first time we're doing this. We'll give it a try.
[ Distorted audio ]
>> CLEMENT LE LUDEC: I'm sorry. There seems to be audio issues. I would just continue. Is it possible for you to read the question directly instead of hearing the person?
So since it doesn't work, I think we should end this session. Thanks to all of you for your remarks and questions. And thanks to our experts. I hope we'll continue the discussion and online of course. Bye‑bye.
[ Applause ]