Equal Opportunities Commission


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Press Releases

Task Force to Work on Access to New Information Technologies


"The development and penetration of new information technologies in Hong Kong have enormous ramifications for the way life and business are conducted. It is important that people with a disability and women have a voice to ensure that their interests and needs are catered for. New information technologies can potentially transcend traditional barriers of discrimination and become a leverage in social advancement for all", said Ms. Anna WU, Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

To ensure that people with a disability and women enjoy the benefits of new information technologies, the EOC has set up an Information Technology Task Force (Task Force). Comprising experts in design, technology and training in the information technology field and convened by Dr. Stevenson FUNG, the Task Force will study accessibility issues for people with a disability and women and advise the EOC on improvement measures.

The EOC announced today (22 June 2000) that the Task Force has devised a 18-month action plan for improving accessibility. Dr. FUNG said, "We believe that access issues are policy matters and must be acted upon now. To take remedial action after problems arise is much more costly and continues to place people with a disability and women in a disadvantaged position." The Task Force hopes to work in partnership with Government, private sector and non-governmental organisations in the following action points:

- conduct an accessibility test on Government's on-line based information and service provision systems;

- identify, in conjunction with the banking and financial services industry, areas for improvement to enhance accessibility of ATMs, electronic funds transfer facilities and interactive voice response systems;

- establish a directory of current service provisions, information on training, technology resources and equipment support to people with a disability;

- collate information on existing industry and service codes relating to support for people with a disability and identify areas that require service codes, guidelines and standards for Hong Kong in the future; and

- collate sex-disaggregated data relating to women and information technologies to enable more accurate profiling on women.

One pressing issue is the need for a Universal Design of products, environments and common coding useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design.

Dr. FUNG said, "People with a disability and women face different barriers to access. For people with a disability, accessibility depends on the nature and extent of their disability". He gave examples that people with a visual impairment often cannot read web pages because computer user interfaces are usually graphic based and inherently visually oriented. People with a motor impairment may not be able to use standard keyboard devices while audio information may be meaningless to those with a hearing impairment.

"Access problems for women are different and must be understood in the context of gender roles and gender stereotypes", said Dr. FUNG. He explained that women are still primarily responsible for the home and are not encouraged to the same extent as men in education and career development. Girls tend to enter humanities rather than science and technology streams leading to an under-representation of women workers in the science and technology industry. Training in computer science is considered a matter of personal choice and working women with domestic responsibilities are hard pressed to find time to take up courses outside work. On-the-job training tends to focus on computer applications relevant to specific jobs and unless this scope is widened, few opportunities exist for women to increase their skills and improve career mobility. In the long run, the growth of the 'cyber economy' may lead to a displacement of women workers or leave them entrenched in jobs outside the technology field.

Ms. Anna WU said, "Anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong provide that it is unlawful to discriminate on the ground of disability and sex in employment, access to services, facilities, education and training. Inherent in these provisions is the notion of equal access to information." Ms. WU also drew attention to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), applicable to Hong Kong and said, "ICESCR provides that every person has the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications."

Enquiry: EOC Hotline     25118211