EOC Takes the Important First Step towards Technology Accessibility for Persons with a Disability
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) launched its revamped Home Page today (24 November 1999) which is user friendly to persons with a disability. The EOC urges both the public and private sectors to take up similar initiatives in light of rapidly advancing technologies so that persons with a disability, especially persons with visual impairment, can access information without obstacles.
"Our society has become information-oriented and the Web has emerged as a pivotal technology for the 21st century. The use of the Internet and other information technology is spreading at an unprecedented speed to business activities and to individual and family life. It is extremely important that persons with a disability not be left behind in this information revolution," said Ms Anna Wu, Chairperson of the EOC.
"The level of accessibility within a society shows the degree of acceptance of different abilities among its members as well as respect for the fundamental rights of individuals in accessing information and services," continued Ms Wu.
"The government has set out as one of its policy objectives to promote the development, understanding and usage of information technology in Hong Kong. Members of the public may in the near future obtain government services through the Internet. We call on the government to do more and take the lead in revamping the modes of providing information and services so that everyone has the same level of access. Amidst the fast-paced development, the needs of persons with a disability must be catered for, otherwise they will become even more marginalized," said Ms Wu.
The revamped EOC Home Page is designed to accommodate the needs of various kinds of Web surfers. Persons with a colour deficiency can select monochrome versions, whereas persons with a severe visual impairment can access the text-only modes and read the information with a Braille display, a voice synthesizer or other conversion devices. Surfers with low vision can select font sizes which fit their needs and persons having difficulties in using the mouse can browse the Home Page by using function keys.
"The revamped EOC Home Page is approved by 'Bobby', which is a web-based tool created by the Centre for Applied Special Technology in the U.S. that analyzes web pages for their accessibility to persons with a disability," explained Mr. Michael Chan, Director (Administration) of the EOC. "To become 'Bobby approved', a Web site must fulfill certain requirements, for example, providing text equivalents for all non-text elements and ensuring that all information conveyed with colour is also available without colour."
Mr. Kim Mok, one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of 1999, who is blind has surfed the EOC's Home Page and confirmed its accessibility. "Equal access to information can expand opportunities for persons with a disability, so I am very glad that the EOC takes up this important initiative of advocating for Web accessibility," said Mr. Kim Mok. "Providing text-only modes does not require complicated or costly work, but it makes a big difference for us and gives us back our sight."
"The advancement in information technology could expand the education and career opportunities of persons with a disability," concluded Ms Wu. "This will enrich their lives, and help them live independently and fully integrate into community life. From the pragmatic side this will reduce social costs. But more importantly, it is about realizing equal opportunities for all."
In this revamp exercise, the EOC also caters for the needs of the general public by improving the layout, design and structure of information flow and adopting a more interactive approach. For instance, individuals could lodge a complaint under the anti-discrimination ordinances by filling in an on-line complaint form on the EOC Home Page.
Enquiry: Ms Shadow Chan 21062149