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Travel Information Access Improvements for Disabled

  • Published: 2009-09-01 (Revised/Updated 2010-07-09) : Disabled World.
  • Synopsis: Travel on the parts of persons with disabilities is expected to become one of the fastest-growing industry segments in the coming years.

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Information technology has improved the travel and tourism industry, making it more user-friendly for the estimated six-hundred and fifty million persons with disabilities around the world.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has released a toolkit designed to assist with the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) developers in the travel and tourism industry in a global effort. Along with opening a new travel customer base it will also enable the travel industry to increase the number of people with disabilities it employs.

The toolkit itself was released at the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Mainstreaming ICT Accessibility for People with Disabilities. The forum was organized by the ITU along with local, global, and private sector partners. The forum found one-hundred and forty participants, to include people with various disabilities from twenty nations, participating. The travel kit is still new and many of the key elements are still under development. The best starting point is the case study link; it contains a number of examples of people and companies that have done a great deal of work and who share both their experiences and technologies.

Travel on the parts of persons with disabilities is expected to become one of the fastest-growing industry segments in the coming years. For individuals desiring to get a head start the forum provided an immense amount of related information. The presentations have been posted, along with the toolkit, at E-AccessibilityTookit.org

Dr. Eun-Ju Kim, head of the ITU Regional Office in Bankok, stated, "In the knowledge-driven information age and society, it is a high time to design and implement ICT inclusive policy to provide digital opportunities to people with disabilities." The World Health Organization has estimated that ten-percent of the world's population experiences some form of disability. Many of these people have encountered barriers where using ICT products and services have been concerned. Dr. Kim also said, "The number is increasing every year due to various factors such as war, destruction, unhealthy living conditions, or the absence of knowledge about disability, its causes, prevention and treatment, in addition to the aging societies especially in the developed economies like Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea and so on."

A number of existing websites and mobile phones have not been designed with accessibility in mind, according to Dr. Kim. He stated, "The most obvious example is web accessibility. It ... costs dramatically less to implement web accessibility at the design stage than to retrofit it later." Dr. Kim stressed that ICT affordability and accessibility for persons with disabilities may produce major socio-economic benefits. ICT allows persons with disabilities to become employed, thus returning offers of empowerment to the information society. The process also assists persons who become disabled during life to continue working and contributing to society.

ICT is useful for Seniors as well, who often lose dexterity or use of senses. Dr. Kim added, "Thus, ICT will continue to support the socio-economic needs of a growing number of persons [with] different forms of disabilities in the years to come, which can be a potential future market for the industry to prepare."

Professor Prasit Prapinmongkolkarn, a Commissioner for the National Telecommunications Commission, told the meeting that the NTC, in collaboration with the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, had finished a study on means for providing telecommunications services for persons with disabilities and seniors in Thailand. The study demonstrates that while persons with various disabilities all have differing needs, there are common elements to be found among those needs. These include areas such as:

Quality
Messaging
Availability
Accessibility
Affordability
Relay Services
Close Captioning
Emergency Services
Design and Standards

The NTC and National Electronic and Computer Technology Center are developing a plan for telecom relay services which will benefit two-hundred thousand persons with hearing and speech impairments. Their plan is expected to reach completion prior to the end of this year.

The NTC and Nectec are now developing a plan for telecom relay services that will benefit 200,000 people with hearing and speech impairments. The plan is expected to be completed before the end of this year - e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities (www.e-accessibilitytoolkit.org) - Information and Communication Technology (ICT) (www.ictliteracy.info)

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