The first National RTI Web Accessibility Guidelines launched

By Glenda Willie

The first National Right To Information (RTI) Web Accessibility Guidelines for government web developers and web content officers was officially launched this week by the Government

’ Chief Information Officer, Gerald Metsan.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible. These guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including those with blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and/or a combinations of these.

Government’s CIO said as the Government progresses in rolling out technology services and better internet access across the nation, it is imperative that OGCIO also ensures it does not only provide the infrastructure, the “poles and wires”. “We must also make sure that the services thus provided can be used – and are ‘accessible’ – by everyone”, he told the keen listeners at the launch.

“Vanuatu has signed up to and ratified international and regional agreements and has national policies which speak to our commitment to help those of our people with special needs, or those who have been marginalised. These Accessibility Guidelines are a key step to put into action Vanuatu’s commitments under those international conventions,” Metsan said.

‘We ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. This convention sets out what States Parties should do to address any forms of discrimination or unequal access faced by people with disabilities. Now, the Government is in the ongoing process of ensuring that people living with a disability in Vanuatu are able to access all services and opportunities available,” he continued.

The government’s CIO said today more and more services, information, entertainment and opportunities are being provided online, via computer or mobile phone devices. The Government has been very active in this regard. For example, the work of the NDMO, the Agriculture, Forestries and Lands, and the tele-medicine service just opened on Maewo.

Mr Metsan said his office and the RTI Unit under the portfolio of the Prime Minister, has put a lot of work on the implementation stage of their responsibilities after realising the fact that the policies on access to information as well as the expansion of information technology services under the Universal Access Policy, cannot really be achieved unless both open up to access to information technology services and also that all barriers to access information are removed.

Metsan thanked the Vanuatu Civil Society Disability Network, Oxfam and also the Australian Government for supporting and being part of this important work in developing the RTI Web Accessibility Guidelines.

Metsan also encouraged the local and international NGOs, media organisations and any service providers in Vanuatu to follow the lead of the Government in working towards making their online presence accessible, and providing better access to information for all.

These RTI Web Accessibility Guidelines represent the intersection between several policies, the National ICT, Universal Access and RTI policies, the Disability policy and the Children’s policy.

“These new guidelines will help all those with disabilities to access important government information and policies, said the Australian High Commissioner, Jeremy Bruer.

The manager of the RTI Unit, under OGCIO, Harold Obed, said he was particularly impressed with the positive response from stakeholders during the drafting stage of the guidelines.

He said he is hopeful that under these guidelines government websites will now be correctly designed, developed and edited for all users to have equal access to information and functionality.

The project is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Volunteers for International Development’s Disability Initiative Grant. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the OGCIO, Oxfam and the Vanuatu Civil Society Disability Network (VCSDN). The Media Association blong Vanuatu (MAV) has also provided input.

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