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Qatar: Call for e-Accessibility to Meet Needs of Disabled
Source: http://www.gulf-times.com/qatar/178/details/356855/call-for-e-accessibility-to-meet-needs-of-disabled
Source Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Qatar
Created: Jun 20, 2013

People with disabilities in Qatar have called for major changes to the country’s National e-Accessibility Policy, which they claim should be compatible with their needs, specially when handling  electronic government services.
The call was made yesterday during an interactive session on e-accessibility for people with disabilities organised by the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) in collaboration with Mada (Qatar’s Assistive Technology Centre).
Speaking via a video message, a representative of the visually impaired persons in Qatar said though the blind currently have access to certain electronic devices like mobile phones through the use of audio and braille keyboards and are also able to engage in social media such as Twitter, Skype and Whats App, there is still more vacuum to be filled.
“Blind people in Qatar still have other needs to be met such as installing talking automated teller machines (ATMs), so that we can independently make transactions without the help of a third party and we also hope that all government online services will be made compatible to people with disabilities and this can only be achieved if the National e-Accessibility Policy is changed,” he noted.
Meanwhile, an e-government monitoring website, which will ensure that local content is accessible and compatible to people with disabilities was launched yesterday, Mada Accessibility senior IT specialist Mike Park announced.
“The new website will enlist up to 200 websites, which are fully accessible by people with disabilities and Mada is willing to assist any organisation willing to join the monitoring website to make their website compatible,” he said.
The interactive event held at the Four Seasons Hotel and with the theme, ‘Towards an Accessible Information Society in Qatar,’ featured two panel discussions which focused on building accessible digital platforms and the right to accessible digital content for people with disabilities. In addition to people with disabilities, the event was attended by stakeholders from various industries, sectors and organisations working with people with disabilities.
Speaking about ictQATAR’s e-Accessibility Policy, its Strategic Planning Policy Development specialist Hira Anwar explained that the existing policy ensures that people with disabilities have equal access online; that they are able to independently carry out their day-to-day activities and also have an enhanced social life.
“The main target of this policy is to make the public sector’s websites accessible to people with disabilities and ensure they can easily navigate,” she said.
According to her, the policy will also ensure that ATMs and public banks are equally accessible by people with disabilities aside from ensuring that the height of the machine is not more than 40 inches from the ground and that large ;Access to digital content and services is no longer a luxury, and it’s a necessity that we are inclusive of all members of the society.” 
He mentioned that ictQATAR is focused on equal success for all saying: “The National e-Accessibility Policy is playing a huge role in achieving this and it’s thanks to all the parties involved in implementing the policy that we are seeing results. We are continuing to overcome obstacles faced by people with disabilities in regard to digital access.” Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Building Accessible Platforms’, Qatar National Library (QNL) project director Dr Claudia Lux  maintained that the main objective of  the library is to build an accessible society by developing and enforcing accessibility standards.
“We want access to information for all. We will implement special solutions for library users with different disabilities. Not only will the library be user friendly, but materials such as braille books, larger print books and talking books will be available once the library opens,” she said.
A second discussion on ‘The right to accessible digital content,’ included a visually impaired teacher at an independent school in Doha Fatma Abu Shreida,  a hearing impaired teacher at Audio Learning Complex Hussein Rayyan,  Vodafone Corporate Responsibility Representative Dana Haiden and ictQATAR Digital Inclusion manager, ICT & Society Khawar Iqbal.

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