Electronic accessibility, or E-Accessibility, is the ease of use by people with disabilities of information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the Internet. Web sites need to be presented so that disabled users can access the information. For example:
for people who are blind, web sites need to be interpreted by software programmes which read text aloud;
for people who have low vision, web pages need adjustable sized fonts and sharply contrasting colours; and
for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, audio content should be accompanied by text versions of the dialogue.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, prepared by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provide some standards for web accessibility. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force on May 3, 2008 draws attention to the need to ensure access to ICTs for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others and will help to eliminate barriers to information, including through the Internet.
The use of ICTs, such as the Internet, is rapidly becoming an essential part of the economic, educational and social life of many people today. To ensure persons with disabilities have the same access to information, making sure that web sites can be used by all is essential.
Disabled people are insufficiently represented in media output and the number of disabled people employed in the sector is generally very low. Without doubt the mass media has a significant impact on society and a major role to play in promoting a shift in attitudes and the way society looks at disability. Disabled people represent a vast audience that is currently inadequately catered for, and the media industry will therefore gain from addressing this issue more effectively.
This declaration has been prepared and adopted at the European Congress on “Media and Disability” held in Athens on 13-14 June, 2003 by over 300 participants from different parts of the media, media networks, advertising and communication companies, organizations of disabled people and representatives of EU Member States. It is adopted within the framework of the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003, and follows the common vision established in the Madrid Declaration.
The representatives at the European Congress on Media and Disability declare that they will:
promote change in the mainstream media sector to improve its portrayal and inclusion of disabled people
increase the visibility of disabled people in all genres;
increase coverage of issues which specifically concern disabled people and their families;
promote positive images of disabled people that are not based on charity or the medical approach and avoid negative stereotypes;
encourage close cooperation between disabled people and their representative organisations, the disability specific media and the mainstream media industry;
increase the number of disabled people employed throughout the media industry, particularly at professional levels;
ensure the accessibility for disabled people of media services;
ensure the physical accessibility of the working environment in the media industry;
and they will take this back to their individual organisations for discussion and endorsement.
Suggested ways in which the above aims can be achieved:
Production of actions plans and development of strategies to promote inclusion of disabled people within media organisations;
Development of diversity units within media organisations and the inclusion of disability issues within their practices;
Delivery of disability equality training for employees within the organizations;
Encouragement of Further Education establishments to include disability as a topic within media and communication studies courses;
Exchange of best practice within the sector and encouragement of monitoring of progress;
Where appropriate, development of training and employment programmes to increase the participation of disabled people with the sector;
Access audits of workplaces in the media industry;
Development and use of appropriate technologies to promote access for and inclusion of disabled people to media services;
Joining the new EDF media and disability network that will be established as a result of this declaration.
As a result of this congress and to take forward the declaration, a committee will be set up by the European Disability Forum, in cooperation with European and national media and advertising organisations. The membership of the committee will be established by October 2003.
About The European Congress on Media and Disability
On 13-14 June 2003, within the framework of the European Year of People with Disabilities, the European Commission and the Greek presidency of the European :::union:::, in close co-operation with the Greek National Confederation of Disabled People and the European Disability Forum, held the European Congress on Media and Disability, bringing together the major European media, advertisers and other stakeholders working in the field.
The aim of the Congress was to pave the way for a wide reflection on the visibility of disabled people in European media and their adequate portrayal, as a reflection of the social diversity across Europe, and a model of society based on the principle of non-discrimination.
Through the exchange of best practices and experiences, the Congress explored new strategies and provided the necessary tools to promote positive images of disability. The audience was composed of representatives from EU-national and European media networks and editorial groups (representing all different sectors in media); policy-makers; disability organisations; journalists; academics and communication experts, all of them issued from either national or European levels.
The European Congress on Media and Disability, a 2-day event, was structured in plenary sessions on different issues, which facilitated the debate and the exchange of views between all participants. During the whole congress different examples of good and bad examples were shown (TV and radio spots, disability portrayal in news and fiction).
The main outcome of the Congress was the adoption of the European Declaration on Media and Disability (see Media Declaration), a document providing general guidelines for further action and reflection on how to improve the image of disability in media and advertising, as well as an active participation of disabled professionals in this sector.
A final report of the Congress is due to be published on the current website in October 2003, in order to ensure a proper follow up of this event.