Round table: Digital accessibility for persons with disabilities and special needs

In the context of preparation of the session "Digital accessibility for people with disabilities and special needs" within the Moldova Internet Governance Forum (MIGF) Comunitatea Internet Association jointly with the Association „Alliance of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities from the Republic of Moldova” (AOPD) organized a round table on September 23, 2021.

This event was attended by the Comunitatea Internet, AOPD, the Directorate for coordination in the field of human rights and social dialogue within the State Chancellery, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the representatives of IT companies with experience and tangency in solutions development to ensure the fair use of digital products and services.

At the roundtable, representatives of civil society, the community of persons with disabilities, the technical community and the state discussed issues related to the digital divide associated with access to technology and the inability to use electronic services by persons with disabilities.

Alexei Marciuc, Chairman of the Comunitatea Internet, gave an introductory speech on the Internet Governance Forum initiatives, IGF principles, the national IGF agenda in 2021 and the importance of joining forces to eliminate the digital division and ensure access for persons with disabilities to digital services. He mentioned that everyone should have equal opportunities in developing their potential through ICT. This would mean accessibility not only in terms of physical access or skills development, but also in terms of design that should meet the needs of all people, including those with disabilities.

Galina Climov, Executive Director of the Alliance of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities from the Republic of Moldova, supported the importance of organizing Moldova IGF 2021, in the context in which the recommendations of the event participants will be an important basis for adjusting the regulatory framework for the accessibility of digital spaces where information of public interest is placed. It was proposed, the participation of the Alliance through their evaluation and testing of persons with different types of disabilities in all phases of development and implementation of information systems.

The Republic of Moldova ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010 and assumed access and adaptation of physical and information spaces. Having experience in monitoring the implementation of the Convention, the AOPD comes with the vision to designate an institution / authority that will be responsible for digital accessibility, and to follow an Action Plan with concrete objectives and indicators, based on which to perceive the obvious results in this field.

As Galina Climov noted, the need for these interventions becomes indispensable during the pandemic crisis, when people can only access digital spaces to find the necessary information.

Vitalie Celonenco, director of RTS, came up with a technical vision for implementing solutions that could ensure access for persons with disabilities to web services, and said what he was ready to provide technical support for expertise in terms of development and implement requirements for those solutions.

Mariana Tocan, the representative of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection mentioned that the rights of people with disabilities are regulated at the national level. At the same time she related to regulations in the digital environment and the necessity of the support of other authorities responsible for ICT policy and digitalization.

Andrei Rusnac, co-founder of the Comunitatea Internet, stated that the MIGF team's initiative is aimed at identifying gaps, examining them procedurally and technically to develop proposals and outlining the needs of people with disabilities in accessing digital services along with other part of the population.

During the discussion, Cristina Băieșu, the representative of the profile department within the State Chancellery, noted that the National Council for Human Rights was recently established in Moldova. Its task is to monitor the implementation of conventions and treaties of which Moldova makes part in, including the digital accessibility for people with disabilities and special needs.

Summing up, Alexei Marciuc stressed the importance of a multilateral dialogue involving the state, organizations for people with disabilities from the Republic of Moldova, civil society, the technical community and experts to ensure the successive implementation of provisions for access of digital services for persons with disabilities at national level.

The ideas and proposals expressed during the meeting will be used to form a dedicated session on the MIGF 2021 agenda. Subsequently, the conclusions and recommendations of the national forum will be presented at the Global Internet Governance Forum, which is organized annually by the UN.