Kenya to set first ICT accessibility standard in Africa to promote digital inclusion of people with disabilities
A national standard for ICT accessibility is to be developed in Kenya. This is thanks to inABLE, a non-profit organization that empowers the blind and visually impaired with assistive technology, in partnership with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
A first in Africa, the development and eventual promulgation of a national ICT accessibility standard will promote the digital inclusion of people with disabilities and older people. This will help make digital products and services in the public and private sectors (including websites, mobile apps, among others) more accessible and usable by all Kenyan citizens.
inABLE has actively advocated for the digital inclusion of people with disabilities in Kenya and Africa through sustainable partnerships for the past 13 years.
Irene Mbari-Kirika, Founder and Executive Director of inABLE has been a champion of digital accessibility: “We are honored to form a strong partnership with KEBS to develop national ICT accessibility standards to deliver on promises made. in the Kenya ICT 2019 Policy. This will have an extremely positive impact on digital products and services in the public and private sectors by making them more accessible to all, including people with disabilities and the elderly ”.
The creation of a national ICT accessibility standard comes at a crucial time, as the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed a significant digital divide and an urgent need for accessible digital platforms. Bernard Njiraini, MD, KEBS explains, “As the world has rapidly shifted to digital platforms including virtual meetings, working from home, home schooling and even the government has shared more public health information , lack of access to vital online services has disconnected millions of people. , especially people with disabilities.
Njiraini, adds. “KEBS is committed to providing meaningful and operational standards that improve the lives of Kenyans, and we are therefore delighted to be working with a dedicated organization like inABLE to make this possible.”
The Kenyan government has taken a number of first steps in Africa, setting an example for other African nations. For example, the Big 4 Agenda, a 5-year accelerated development plan is designed to accelerate the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030, which aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialized middle-income country offering a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment. This program is based on four pillars, including the manufacturing sector, intended to lead Kenya to the top 50 in the Ease of Doing Business Index of global banks; food safety; universal health coverage; and affordable housing. One of the six key enablers of this program is technology and innovation, which focuses on expanding current e-government services to the 47 counties, among others.
These e-government services will be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, thanks to Kenya’s new ICT policy released in 2019 which is highly inclusive and responsive to the digital needs of people with disabilities in Kenya. The policy calls for full accessibility for people with disabilities through some of the following measures:
- Ensure that ICT services and emergency communications made available to the public are provided in alternative accessible formats for people with disabilities
- Review existing legislation and regulations to promote ICT accessibility for people with disabilities in consultation with organizations representing people with disabilities, among others
- Ensure that the websites of government departments and agencies comply with international web accessibility standards and are accessible to people with disabilities
- Promote research and development for access to ICT for people with disabilities, among others.
Over the next few months, KEBS and inABLE will work with other stakeholders, including the National Council of People with Disabilities in Kenya (NCPWD), the Communications Authority (CA) and the ICT and People Authority. with lived experiences, to draft the national ICT Accessibility Standard plan. This standards development process is in line with the upcoming annual inABLE conference on Inclusive Africa to be held on September 30.e this year with the mission of advancing digital accessibility in Africa.