Posted on May 16, 2013

Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) has joined millions around the world to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Every year, on May 9, content developers and web designers organize events in different countries to raise awareness and share resources about building digital platforms that are accessible to all, primarily persons with disabilities.

Ensuring that websites, apps, ATMs and all other digital platforms are built in a way that is usable by people with different abilities ensures that a greater number of people can benefit from a wide range of content and opportunities. This could mean designing a website in a way that allows the users to change font size and color contrast, or it could refer to designing content in a way that can be understood by a screen reader or Braille device.

In Qatar, Mada organized an e-Accessibility Majlis, the first of a series of events that it plans to organize throughout the year which will bring different members of the community, including designers as well as end users to share experiences, tips and resources on e-Accessibility, thereby creating a network of support within the country.

More than twenty people attended the first Majlis, with representation from different sectors in Qatar. Most notably, people with disabilities discussed their own personal experiences. Blind users spoke firsthand about the Assistive Technology they use to navigate the World Wide Web, while wheelchair users discussed the challenges of using ATMs and public digital kiosks.

The event also featured the sharing of experiences by the web development team working on the web portal for the Supreme Council of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar). Developers spoke about their journey in building a website that meets international standards for e-accessibility as set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Over the past year, ictQatar, the country’s regulatory authority and ICT master plan owner, issued a National e-Accessibility Policy which dictates the minimum level of accessibility for web portals operated by the public sectors, as well as addressing other areas including public telephones and ATMs. An important component of the policy is the delivery of a comprehensive Assistive Technology service through Mada, which offers assessment, provision and training to people with disabilities who are digitally excluded.

Furthermore, Mada offers a wide range of e-Accessibility services that are available for free to the development community in Qatar. These include audits, training and different forms of support to developers and content managers who are committed to creating accessible digital spaces. The Mada e-Accessibility spoke at the Majlis about the nature of their work and shared ten tips for building accessible websites with the attendees.

Currently, Mada is engaged in a month long bilingual campaign on Twitter to raise awareness about e-accessibility. To find out more, follow Mada on @madaqatc.