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About Internet Society 10 May 2019

Introducing The Internet Society Accessibility Special Interest Group

Dr. Muhammad Shabbir Awan
By Dr. Muhammad Shabbir AwanMember, Internet Society Board of Trustees

An ordinary day on 9th April 2019 was turned in to an extraordinary one, as our efforts bore fruit and we finally succeeded in chartering the Internet Society Special Interest Group on Accessibility. The Internet Society Accessibility Special Interest Group or ISOC Accessibility SIG/ISOC A11y SIG is intended to serve persons with disabilities to ensure the Internet and digital domain is for everyone.

Over 1.3 billion people worldwide – about 15% of the world’s population – experience some form of disability. The Accessibility SIG, with a people-centric approach, is aimed at providing interested participants a platform to discuss the Internet-related accessibility issues faced by the people with disabilities and to try to find the solutions to those issues. It also aims to provide a collective voice to a community that the UN calls the world’s largest minority.

The SIG also represents a journey for all of us who are members and who are dedicated to creating equal access to the Internet for everyone regardless of disability. The journey at the Internet Society started with the establishment of the ISOC Disability and Special Needs Chapter in 2002. Along the way, many dedicated and tireless workers, like the late Cynthia Waddell, kept the movement alive. The transition from the Disability and Special Needs Chapter to Accessibility SIG was as historic as the formation of the Chapter itself in 2002.

In 2018, when we decided to transform the Chapter to a SIG, there was no precedent of such a transformation at the Internet Society, similar to in 2002 when there was no example of a non-geographic Chapter. But, thanks to tireless support and lots of efforts and dedication by many people, particularly, my fellow SIG leaders (Gunela Astbrink, Vice President; Greg Shatan, Treasurer; Judith Hellerstein, Secretary; Joly MacFie, AMS Admin; and all the founding members of the Accessibility SIG) as well as Internet Society staff (including Kyle Shulman and his colleagues), we were able to finally overcome the challenges of chartering the SIG.

We at the Accessibility SIG believe that accessibility should sit at the heart of policy, planning, and design. For persons with disabilities, this is only possible if the principle of “nothing about us without us” is applied. In the context of Internet and digital devices, the implementation of internationally-recognized accessibility guidelines developed by W3C, also known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), with a little more effort can make a website, application, or device accessible and usable for everyone. It just requires awareness, will, and determination.

Moving forward in this significant journey, we also need your support. If you:

  • have worked on digital accessibility
  • are interested in working on accessibility for people with disabilities
  • are just interested in knowing about accessibility-related issues

Please join the Accessibility SIG!

To join, simply fill out this form or login to the Internet Society membership portal, select “Join a Chapter or SIG,” and select “Accessibility SIG.” Moreover, if your chapter has done work on digital accessibility for people with disabilities, please share the links with us. You can contact us via email, website, or follow us on Twitter.

At different forums, a lot of work on accessibility is being done. The Accessibility SIG hopes to contribute its part to making the Internet accessible, open, safe, and secure for everyone – be they a person with or without disability.

On Thursday, 16 May 2019 at 12:00 UTC, A11ySIG will mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019 (GAAD) with the public webinar “Digital Accessibility for Persons With Disabilities.” Watch the recorded Livestream!

The Internet is for everyone! Visit the Accessibility Toolkit page to learn how you can contribute to a more accessible Internet.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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