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UN report highlights need to make television more accessible to persons with disabilities

Article / Review by on December 5, 2011 – 8:26 pmNo Comments

UN report highlights need to make television more accessible to persons with disabilities 

ITU Secretary General Hamadoun TouréITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré

Television should be made more accessible to persons with disabilities, argues a new United Nations report released today, which identifies different accessibility options that would enable users to fully access audiovisual content.

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, more than 1.4 billion households worldwide have a TV, representing 98 per cent of homes in developed countries and almost 73 per cent in the developing world. But people with audiovisual impairments are not able to make use of this channel for information, education and entertainment purposes.

Accessible TV should be a fundamental tool in building inclusive societies.

As a response, ITU, in partnership with the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict), identified various accessibility options and explained how access services are produced and delivered so that regulators and service providers can better understand the issues and costs.

Closed captioning and signing for the deaf, audio description and audio captions for the visually impaired, and accessible remote control devices for the elderly and those with reduced dexterity are some of the accessibility options highlighted in the report.

“Accessible TV should be a fundamental tool in building inclusive societies,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.

“The emphasis of this report is on making digital media accessible. The transition to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting represents an ideal opportunity for ITU members to take the necessary steps to ensure TV is more accessible to everyone, everywhere.”

The report argues the implementing the identified measures would also support social inclusion for immigrants, ageing populations, and non-educated and marginalized groups.

“TV programmes are a principal source of news and information for such segments of the population, and are a key element in reinforcing social participation and community identity. Television also plays an especially crucial role in times of emergency, and can serve important educational purposes by transmitting courses and other instructional material,” the report reads.

New access services will need adequate radio frequency spectrum allocations, and the ITU is actively encouraging its 193 Member States to ensure that sufficient spectrum is given to support services promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities.

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How to bring one of the world’s most ubiquitous technologies to the many millions living with audio-visual impairment?

Geneva, 5 December 2011 – Television might well be the world’s most universal technology. Almost the entire surface of the planet now has TV signal coverage, with television sets in over 1.4 billion households worldwide, representing 98% of dwellings in developed countries and nearly 73% in the developing world.

Recognizing the importance of television as a channel for the dissemination of public information, education and entertainment, ITU, in collaboration with partner G3ict, has released Making TV Accessible, a new digital inclusion report designed to help the millions of persons worldwide living with a disability that prevents them from fully enjoying the audiovisual content coming into their homes.

The report identifies the kinds of access services required by a range of persons with disabilities, along with different accessibility options. These include closed captioning and signing for the deaf, audio description and audio captions for the visually impaired, and accessible remote control devices for the elderly and those with reduced dexterity.

It also explains how access services are produced and delivered so that regulators and service providers can better understand the issues and costs, emphasizes the need to make target users aware of access services, and provides a checklist for accessible TV implementation.

In line with the goals of universal design, accessible TV can support the social inclusion of immigrant populations, address the needs of increasingly aging populations, and improve literacy – not only for persons with disabilities, but for the non-educated and other marginalized groups. TV programmes are a principal source of news and information for such segments of the population, and are a key element in reinforcing social participation and community identity. Television also plays an especially crucial role in times of emergency, and can serve important educational purposes by transmitting courses and other instructional material.

“Accessible TV should be a fundamental tool in building inclusive societies. The emphasis of this report is on making digital media accessible. The transition to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting represents an ideal opportunity for ITU members to take the necessary steps to ensure TV is more accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré.

Many new access services will require adequate radio frequency spectrum allocations. For terrestrial broadcasting services, spectrum availability is sometimes an issue, while for satellite broadcasting, spectrum costs can be a stumbling block. As the global manager of the radio frequency spectrum, ITU is actively encouraging its 193 Member States to ensure that sufficient spectrum is allocated to support services promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities.

As part of its activities in the area of ICT accessibility, ITU earlier partnered with G3ict to create the e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities. The newMaking Television Accessible report will be added to the wealth of resources already available in the toolkit, and shared with ITU membership via the ITU website atwww.itu.int/ITU-D/sis/PwDs/index.phtml.

ITU will also be a key partner, alongside the US Federal Communications Commission, in the M-Enabling Summit taking place in Washington DC from 5-6 December. The event represents the first global programme solely dedicated to participants in the emerging ecosystem for mobile accessible and assistive technologies, applications and services. ITU Secretary-General Dr Touré will give an opening keynote address at the event on Monday 5 December.

Ensuring that all of the world’s population has access to television services is one of the targets set by world leaders in the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003/2005. More than 100 ITU Member States have now ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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