Building awareness and developing standards to protect the rights of all sectors of the community to access online resources will be the focus of the APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group (APEC TEL) "Web Site Accessibility Seminar" in Chinese Taipei on October 4.
The dramatic growth of government services provided online has made life easier for millions of people around the APEC Region but at the same time there is concern that e-government expansion could reduce access to government services for some members of the community.
Director of the Asia Oceania Electronic Marketplace Association, Michael Baker, said the "APEC Web Accessibility Seminar" will bring together experts from the private sector and government to identify minimum recommended standards for ensuring universal access to online resources.
"In the physical world we assist handicapped citizens by providing ramps, elevators and Braille signs in public facilities," Baker said.
"In the online world we must strive to provide universal access, regardless of age, disability, culture, language, literacy, and computer skills.
"Putting up a website is only a first step in building an online presence. Making it usable and accessible to everyone is the critical next step, and in many APEC economies, it is now the law."
Mr. Baker said that as the Internet has penetrated all facets of life, "website accessibility is increasingly considered a civil right and laws are being passed in many economies to ensure compliance."
In Australia, a person won a complaint of web inaccessibility against the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
In the United States the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to web sites has been addressed in documents and case law.
America Online (AOL) has settled a lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Major US banks have signed agreements to provide accessible online banking.
This APEC TEL seminar will feature speakers who have experience in dealing with website access issues in the APEC Region including senior personnel from private sector firms including IBM and Microsoft, and from the Chinese Taipei, Australian and Mexican Governments.
The "Website Accessibility Seminar" will take place as part of the 28th APEC TEL Meeting on October 4 - 10 in Taipei, Chinese Taipei.