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�Select ALL� e-Accessibility Assessment Report for South Eastern Europe

Foreword:.................................................................................................................6 Preface: ....................................................................................................................8 Executive summary: ...............................................................................................11 1.1 Why e-Accessibility?......................................................................................15 1.2 About this report ...........................................................................................16 1.3 Methodology ..................................................................................................17 2.1 The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 21 2.2. European Union actions and requirements .................................................27 3.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................35 3.2 The overall situation for people with disabilities .........................................36 3.3 National policies and strategies for people with disabilities ......................37 3.4 Implementing the UNCRPD..........................................................................38 3.5 e-Accessibility ...............................................................................................41 Albania ......................................................................................................................55 Bosnia and Herzegovina...........................................................................................57 Croatia.......................................................................................................................62 Kosovo .......................................................................................................................67 Macedonia.................................................................................................................70 Moldova .....................................................................................................................73 Montenegro...............................................................................................................76 Romania ....................................................................................................................80 Serbia ........................................................................................................................83 5.1 Conclusions ...................................................................................................89 5.2 Recommendations ........................................................................................91

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Acknowledgements Authors: Seán Ó SIOCHRÚ; Nera MONIR DIVAN; Nermina TRBONJA Supervisor: Mirela IBRAHIMAGI], Social Inclusion/Democratic Governance Sector Coordinator Team leader: Nera MONIR DIVAN, Programme Analyst Expert review: Raúl ZAMBRANO, Senior ICT for Development Policy Advisor, Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP New York Publication review team: Yuri Afanasiev, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative; Ms. Zahira Virani, Deputy Resident Representative; Armin SIR^O, Head of Programme; Mirela IBRAHIMAGI], Social Inclusion/Democratic Governance Sector Coordinator; Nera MONIR DIVAN, Programme Analyst; Nermina TRBONJA, Project Assistant; D`enan KAPETANOVI], Social Inclusion/Democratic Governance Sector Associate; UNDP Communications Unit

This publication was produced within the Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project of UNDP. The publication does not necessarily reflect the views of UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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e-SEE Initiative Members Assessment Review Team: The authors gratefully acknowledge the following members of the expert review team of this assessment for their significant contributions: Albania: Irena MALOLLI, Director of Strategy & Legislation, National Agency for Information Society Bosnia and Herzegovina: [adi MATAR, Expert Advisor for Information Society, Ministry of Communications and Transport Croatia: Leda LEPRI, Head of Sector for Modernisation of State Administration, e-Croatia Office, Ministry of Administration Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Blagica ANDREEVA, Associate, Operational support for conducting IS development policies, Ministry of Information Society and Administration Moldova: Vitalie TARLEV, Head of International Cooperation and European Integration Division, Ministry of Information Technology and Communications Montenegro: Ru`ica MI[KOVI], Adviser for International Cooperation and European Integration, Ministry for Information Society and Telecommunications Romania: Maria SALVETIU, Counsellor for EU Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Information and Information Society Serbia: Neboj{a VASILJEVI], Assistant Minister, Ministry of Culture, Information and Information Society 1

Kosovo* : Agim KUKAJ, Head of ICT Department, Ministry of Economic Development

1 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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Foreword Access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. The new millennium has already witnessed the accelerated diffusion of mobile technologies across the world, including most if not all developing countries. Millions of new ICT users are now joining the global network and have, perhaps for the first time in their lives, a chance to participate in both governance and decision-making processes. This is particularly true for today’s youth who use digital networks to learn, share and take action on issues and matters that directly concern them. Equally the potential offered by new technologies to persons with disabilities is now more evident than ever. However, access to the typical structures of daily life – education and work, the use of public spaces and socializing, for example – remain largely the domain of the able-bodied. New ICTs therefore offer valuable opportunities to persons with disabilities and become a critical catalyst for helping them to overcome their exclusion and redress existing imbalances. With the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the focus on the issue has now taken a firm human rights perspective. The fact that Article Nine of the Convention explicitly mentions access to ICTs is a strong endorsement in itself. It also clearly establishes that accessible ICTs are no longer charitable offerings but are an accepted fundamental right as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNDP is committed to supporting the implementation of both the UNCRPD and the Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The latter also promotes the development of technologies, applications, and online content specifically suited to the needs of persons with disabilities. Furthermore, policies and programmes are being designed and implemented globally which support the efforts of those committed to providing accessible ICT-based products and services and to ensuring equal access.

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This publication shows how collaboration and cooperation between national governments, CSOs and UNDP can help create more just and balanced societies while targeting the goals of the UNCRPD. In addition, the report also puts forward the argument and evidence that show decisionmakers that taking early action in establishing e-accessibility is not only worthwhile but also makes economic sense. This is particularly relevant for the area of e-governance and e-services, since access to public services can be a critical driver for overcoming the exclusion of persons with disabilities, as well as that of other marginalised groups. Partnerships, targeted policies and timely actions are thus required to ensure that eaccessibility becomes not only part of the development agenda but also paves the way for the sound fulfilment of universal human rights across the globe. I am confident that this publication will create the awareness required to begin addressing this critical topic in the region.

Yuri Afanasiev

UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Preface Propelled by the accelerated development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), the Information Society now plays a critical role in Europe 2020, the European Union’s growth strategy for the coming decade1. In this blueprint for the future, the Digital Agenda for Europe2 makes commitments to e-Inclusion and e-Accessibility. Similarly, e-Governance, including the provision of public services over the Internet and the extension of universal service and broadband to all areas, is now a central plank in EU policies such as the 2009 Telecoms Framework.3 In 2008, e-Accessibility was vigorously strengthened with the approval of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).4 The UNCRPD represents a major milestone in articulating and securing human rights for persons with disabilities. It also represents a first for the European Union since its scope is applicable not only to the Member States that ratify it, but also to the EU as a whole, and thus to all new Members. In fact, it is the first legally binding international treaty to which both the EU and its Member States are parties, and the first to be embodied in its entirety in the EU Acquis (the rights and obligations that EU countries are bound to). The UNCRPD has contributed to significant advances in EU policy in the area of e-Accessibility, as reflected in policies such as the new European Disability Strategy 2010-20205 and the Telecoms Framework Directive.6 South-Eastern European (SEE) countries have recognized the critical relevance of building an Information Society in the region, and are working together towards it within the framework of the Electronic South Eastern Europe Initiative, and its strategic framework, the e-SEE Agenda +. SEE countries were quick to sign and ratify the UN Convention. By the end of 2011, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro had all signed and ratified it, while Albania has signed and is preparing ratification.

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2 Launched November 2010: See http://ec.europa.eu/eu2020/index_en.htm. 3 http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/digital-agenda/index_en.htm. 4 For a summary of its contents in plain language see: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/09/491&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en. 5 Communication from the EU Commission COM (2010) 636 Final. See http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2010:0636:FIN:EN:PDF. 6 See http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2010:0636:FIN:EN:PDF. 7 Services of Social Protection Aimed at Persons with Disabilities, Belgrade 2008. According to a World Bank report, people with disabilities are associated with 20 percent of global poverty. See http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1470.

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But translating the clear obligations on e-Accessibility of the UNCRPD into practical actions is quite another matter, given the complexities of national policy-making and the existing competition over resource allocation. There is the risk that the gap between the general population and people with disabilities in SEE countries could widen in a number of areas. Firstly, people with disabilities, who constitute ten to fifteen percent of the SEE population, are three times more likely than the average person to live below the poverty line.7 The growing trend towards using electronic public services, which emphasizes e-Accessibility, has the potential to bring significant benefits to those with disabilities. Yet, cost alone keeps such benefits beyond the reach of most of them as providing access to marginalized and poor communities is less attractive and profitable for the private sector - and there is almost no incentive for them to make these services affordable. Secondly, market-driven access to ICTs tends to reinforce existing socio-economic inequalities. Current evidence suggests that educated, employed and networked populations are best positioned to use ICTs to advance their careers and enhance their quality of life. Marginalized groups usually lack the skills required to capitalize on the benefits of ICTs. This is particularly the case when it comes to e-services and e-participation. The net result is that the delivery of public e-services, which should be a means to tackle exclusion, actually end up exacerbating it. ‘Transactions costs’ — quantitatively in terms of lack of access and high usage costs, and qualitatively in terms of the absence of user skills and the unsuitability of e-services themselves — would thus be higher for marginalized groups compared to other sectors of the population.

Affordability, access and effective use should thus be the key goals of any public policies related to e-governance and e-services if they are to address disadvantage and disability. This report makes the case to policy makers that these issues should be tackled at the outset; early action in these areas will yield quick results, not just socially but also economically and politically. In the workshops and consultations undertaken by UNDP´s Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project, policy makers were offered guidance on how to include e-Accessibility standards into web services from the very start. This can not only lower costs but also saves significant resources in the long run, eases the path for service migration and, in some circumstances, enhances overall public access.8 There is a growing awareness that people with disabilities, and indeed other groups that also face barriers to accessing the Internet, make extensive use of public services. Supporting online access can thus result in significant savings for the public sector. Consultations carried out for the purpose of this publication with civil society organizations working with people with disabilities revealed that this group constitutes a market in itself, and one that can substantially benefit from using the Internet effectively. This publication is part of the wider e-SEE Initiative and the Empowering Marginalised Groups 7 Services of Social Protection Aimed at Persons with Disabilities, Belgrade 2008. According to a World Bank report, people with disabilities are associated with 20 percent of global poverty. See http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1470. 8 See for instance Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for your Organisation, http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/.

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in e-Governance project that aims to take advantage of a unique constellation of e-Accessibility incentives and opportunities that have been launched in the past few years in SEE countries. The goal is to actively promote e-Accessibility and help create an enabling environment for accessing online public services for poor people and marginalized communities; while the incentives come from commitments included in the UNCRPD, the EU Acquis was recently extended to include these areas, thus opening doors for additional EU funding across a number of programmes. Follow-up actions revolving around this collaborative product are in the process of being implemented within and between SEE countries. They build on the existing e-SEE Agenda+ and the region-wide network of experienced e-Leaders, which already has several years of working together through the joint RCC and UNDP Electronic South Eastern Europe Initiative and its Sarajevo-based e-SEE Secretariat. The follow-up aims to reinforce the commitment of regional governments to build an inclusive Information Society, and their decision to create and implement e-Accessibility Actions Plans, as agreed in the Tirana Ministerial Declaration in November 2011. This publication is the result of the joint efforts of signatory governments to the e-SEE Initiative, UNDP, the Regional Cooperation Council9 and civil society organizations in nine countries in South Eastern Europe. It provides, for the first time, a mapping of e-Accessibility actions in the region, summarizing achievements and good practices; it highlights challenges, outlines lessons learnt, and makes recommendations towards the future advancement of e-Accessibility in light of existing structures such as the UNCRPD and the e-SEE Initiative.

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9 http://www.rcc.int/

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Executive Summary In South Eastern Europe close to fifteen percent of the population has a visual, hearing, speech, cognitive, or motor impairment disability; and they are three times more likely than the average person to live below the poverty line. e-Accessibility is about overcoming the socio-economic and technical barriers that people with disabilities and other marginalized populations, such as older people, experience when seeking to participate on equal terms in the Information Society. It can refer to any type of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) used by citizens, and involves everything from e-Accessible websites for public e-services, to telephony support for blind people, to subtitling on television. The countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) are legally committed to address accessibility issues in general and e-Accessibility in particular. e-Accessibility has been greatly reinforced by the coming into force in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which is a major milestone in articulating and securing human rights for persons with disabilities. Indeed, SEE countries have been quick to sign and ratify the UNCRPD. However, translating the clear commitments in the UNCRPD into practical actions is a different matter, in the competitive environment of national policy making and resource allocation. By emphasizing e-Accessibility, the growing trend towards the provision of electronic public services has the potential to bring significant benefits to those with disabilities. Yet, such benefits are currently beyond the reach of a huge number of them, reinforcing their disadvantage instead of reducing it. This publication is part of the wider regional Electronic South Eastern Europe Initiative (e-SEE) and UNDP’s Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project10 that seeks to take advantage of a unique constellation of e-Accessibility incentives and opportunities that recently emerged in SEE countries. It aims at reinforcing the commitment to building an inclusive Information Society, and the SEE inter-ministerial decision to create and implement e-Accessibility Actions Plans agreed upon in Tirana in November 2011. The report also draws attention to the fact that a pure market-driven access to ICTs, tends to reinforce existing socio-economic inequalities. Since providing access to marginalized and poor 10 Funded under the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund.

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communities is less profitable, many services are either unaffordable or unavailable, and the required skills to support effective use are often not present. This is particularly evident in the area of e-Services and e-Governance as access to public services can be a means to overcome exclusion and thus redress the imbalance in opportunities. The report makes a strong case for the critical role of the state in making online public services, assistive technologies and access to ICTs available to people with disabilities. This publication provides for the first time a mapping of e-Accessibility actions in the SEE region, summarizing achievements and good practices; it highlights implementation challenges, outlines lessons learnt, and makes recommendations towards the future advancement of eAccessibility in light of the UNCRPD, the e-SEE Initiative and EU accession commitments. Moreover, the report identifies a number of major challenges in the areas of physical accessibility, access to education from an early age, the adequacy of allowances and social support, and access to employment, among others. The focus on e-Accessibility is in no way intended to undermine the daunting challenges involved in these wider areas. Rather, the argument is that enhanced e-Accessibility can improve the overall personal environment of people with disabilities in other areas, bring its own benefits, and — perhaps most important — can and should be successfully deployed at very little additional cost if implemented simultaneously and in parallel with ongoing e-Governance service provision plans for all citizens. A compelling case is made that there is no excuse for governments not to invest additional modest resources required to ensure that e-Governance services are fully e-Accessible for people with disabilities. The report findings indicate that progress in implementing e-Accessibility across the countries of South Eastern Europe varies considerably.

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In general, little has been done in the area of television (subtitling, signing and audio description) beyond a main daily news bulletin that has been made accessible to those with hearing and sight difficulties, Croatia being an exception.

The key driver in accessible telephony has usually been the requirement to become compliant with the the universal service aspects of the EU’s Telecommunications Directive, which have been implemented to differing degrees. However, the components related to people with disabilities are perhaps the least observed — such as lower connection fees and tariffs, and especially affordable assistive technologies and usable public telephony.

ICT and Internet training for people with disabilities is not among the strongest commitments listed in international treaties. Thus, actions need to take place to ensure this happens, capitalizing on the fact that access is becoming widely available and is more affordable. At present, training and support for using ICTs and the Internet inside and

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outside educational systems is limited mainly to pilot and one-off projects. This translates into a meager effective demand for ICT services, including e-Government services, from people with disabilities. This in turn may be used as a reason to prioritize them — thus creating a negative cycle which ends in inaction. •

Web accessibility of e-Government services is at a relatively low level overall, and tends to be uneven within countries (between different ministries for instance) as well as between them. However, many countries are taking initial steps, and central eGovernment portals tend to be best adapted. But there is still a long way to go in terms of providing the appropriate environment resources to enable e-Government services to become W3C compliant.

The implementation and monitoring structures for the UNCRPD have been designed in most countries, but are applied unevenly and inconsistently across the region. Most countries are sincerely engaged in developing the structures and processes that will, over time and as resources become available, lead eventually to full compliance. However, there is often mutual distrust between ministries and civil society, a defensiveness on the part of the former and large expectations on the part of the latter. This can mean that such structures and processes are not optimized for effective coordination between and cooperation among all sides involved. Nevertheless, it is government and the relevant ministries that are ultimately responsible for ensuring that these are configured in the best way possible. As noted, most countries of South Eastern Europe have yet to implement to any significant degree the requirements relating to people with disabilities under the EU’s Telecommunications Directive – and the UNCRPD also imposes a number of requirements in this area. The European Union is at the same time moving swiftly towards increasing the minimum level of service to be covered under universal service obligations, and is likely to add access to broadband in the not too distant future. These services are critical to enabling people with disabilities to secure the advantages that ICTs can offer them. The telecommunications sector as a whole, including mobiles phones, is extremely profitable, and there is no clear basis to assume that it cannot deliver the requirements that would make a huge difference to people with disabilities. The low level of skills in ICTs throughout the region also has to be addressed in order to take full advantage of more accessible and affordable ICTs. Even where significant educational initiatives are taking place to ensure that young people learn how to use ICTs, such initiatives can exclude the means that would enable this learning for children with disabilities, by not providing adequate access to computer labs or assistive technology packages. A similar problem can apply in relation to programmes that promote widespread public access to the Internet in libraries and other public facilities. Another issue addressed by the report relates to the challenge for people with disabilities to 13

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identify, try out and purchase assistive technologies. There are very few options in the SEE region that allow people to view assistive technologies, and to determine through trial and error whether they are suited to their specific needs. They then face the difficulty of finding out where to purchase them and when they succeed the payment of an import tax is often required. Finally, the report demonstrates that SEE countries have before them a wide menu of possible actions to support e-Accessibility. It is a good time to take stock of strengths and weaknesses, to identify the potential, and to implement activities at the regional level linked to European Union programmes, standards and developments. A number of actions proposed in this report focus on regional cooperation not just among governments through the e-SEE Initiative but also with NGOs and the private sector.

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1. INTRODUCTION 1.1

Why e-Accessibility?

e-Accessibility is about overcoming the range of barriers that people with disabilities and others such as older populations experience when seeking to participate on equal terms in the Information Society. e-Accessibility can potentially refer to any type of ICT used by citizens, and involves everything from websites for e-government services, to telephony support for blind people to subtitling on television. Up to 15 percent of the population across the European Union has a disability, such as a visual, hearing, speech, cognitive, or motor impairment, and SEE countries can expect to have a similar or higher proportion. A perhaps surprising number of international agreements, regulations and guidelines cover this area. At the highest international level, the UNCRPD, ratified and coming into force in 2008, is the relevant legal context. No single EU directive is dedicated to e-Accessibility, but actions are spread across areas such as Television Without Frontiers (for subtitling), the Copyright Directive (for copyright exemptions), and the Telecoms Framework (for assistive technologies). e-Accessibility is also covered by policy, and guidelines and benchmarking exist for programmatic support. Furthermore, moves are afoot to strengthen these and to enact more legislation. There is at least a five-fold justification for early action in the area of e-Accessibility: 1. It is worthwhile in its own right to improve access to services to people who are already marginalized. It helps fulfil the promise of the Information Society to reduce rather than increase the disadvantages certain populations face. Conversely, insufficient effort in this area is likely to further marginalize these groups. 15

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2. Improving access to services, public and private, to such a significant proportion of the population opens significant market/sales opportunities, and can help public services fulfil their remit in a cost effective manner. 3. Improving e-Accessibility for the marginalized could also lead to improved access for ablebodied people; it can reduce the cost of web service development, and enhance the prospects for migrating web services onto new platforms such as mobile phones. 4. The earlier action is taken, the easier it is to integrate e-Accessibility into development of e-Services and to lower the cost. 5. Pursuing approaches that follow EU guidelines and recommendations will assist in the convergence of different aspects of the development of the Information Society in the EU and SEE countries.

1.2 About this report The specific goals of this report are:

1. to outline the international context regarding e-Accessibility including existing legal instruments and strategic level documents; 2. to develop a comparative picture of e-Accessibility for able-bodied people versus people with disabilities; 3. to assess the current level of e-Accessibility and e-Accessibility stakeholders; 4. to identify good practices in the region; 5. to develop a set of recommendations for government and other stakeholders on how to: - address the obstacles to e-Accessibility; - comply with requirements for the UN and EU. This report is part of a larger project, ‘Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance’, that is being implemented in the context of the e-SEE Initiative. It is a regional project designed by the UNDP Country Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by DG/BDP NY, and funded by the UNDP’s Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund to support the South Eastern Europe region in the implementation of the Inclusive Information Society Priority Area of the e-SEE Agenda+, the regional action plan for Information Society development, and the UNCRPD. The programmatic priorities of the project are therefore fully aligned with the targets of e-SEE Agenda+. 16

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The project is being implemented by the Sarajevo-based UNDP-funded e-SEE Initiative Secretariat, capitalizing on their existing knowledge, networks and resources. Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance and the e-SEE Secretariat are positioned within the Social Inclusion/Democratic Governance Sector. The UNDP Country Office in Sarajevo is working closely with the fellow UNDP Country Offices in the region, while the Office of Senior ICT Advisor at the BDP in New York is providing expertise and playing an advisory role. Government-appointed members of the Regional e-Governance Advisory Taskforce (REGATA) act as government Focal Points for their respective countries.

1.3 Methodology The research presented in this report is the outcome of two complementary factors. The first is the unique epistemological position of the e-SEE Secretariat as the regional knowledge resource centre. Being able to draw on its eleven years of institutional memory, knowledge, resources and networks has proven hugely valuable to this research. The second is the analysis and synthesis of the findings of the missions to programme beneficiary countries, conducted with several purposes in mind. The methodology included both structured face-to-face interviews and group discussions. Interviewees were selected with the support of the network of project government counterparts (REGATA). They were advised in advance by REGATA about this publication, its goals and their contribution, thus helping create an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Following an open call for proposals, the e-SEE Secretariat/Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance research team was constituted. A Senior Assessment Consultant joined the e-SEE Secretariat and project team in UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina. The research process comprised the following stages: • • • • • • •

development of the research plan and methodology; 18-day mission to nine countries of South East Europe; review of extensive documentation gathered; country report drafting; verification of results by REGATA; analysis, recommendations and conclusions; final review, editing and formatting.

The team convened in June 2012 in Sarajevo to finalize the research plan and methodology. Interviews were guided by a set of pre-designed questions to be delivered in either a 60 or 90 minute 17

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format. The research team conducted an 18-day mission in the region. The countries visited (in order of research meetings) were Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Moldova, Romania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The primary goal of the research mission was to identify the gaps, challenges and obstacles facing each country in addressing the current needs of beneficiaries. The research served as a primary input in the design of project capacity-building activities, including training, which was supplemented by digital self-learning online courses and targeted educational publications. This ensured that ownership of the programme rested with the Western Balkans, which is a shared goal of UNDP and RCC who are jointly providing support to the e-SEE Initiative. Secondly, the mission conducted a ‘situation scan’, tracking the record of the implementation of the e-SEE Agenda+, with a primary focus on accessibility levels of e-Governance solutions and services in line with Annexes 1 and 2 of the e-SEE Agenda+, and the steps taken by the e-SEE Initiative member countries to implement the UNCRPD. This was both timely and necessary due to the endorsement of the e-SEE Agenda+ deadlines by the ministers in charge of ICT in SEE and the related Ministerial Declaration in November 2011 in Tirana, where the clear focus was placed on prioritizing the development of an inclusive Information Society, and the formulation of e-Accessibility Action Plans towards this end. Thirdly, the missions were organized with a view to collecting best practice projects and activities in e-Accessibility, documenting them as well as providing a mechanism for the exchange of these good practices, lessons learnt and expertise, within the SEE region. The team conducted onsite visits to acclaimed best practice accessible-ICT projects in the beneficiary countries, where they could see these projects and solutions at work; learn firsthand about processes of implementation, the advantages, flows, lessons learnt, and their practical implementation; and interact with both staff and beneficiaries. During the missions, a total of 228 key persons from 98 institutions in 9 countries were interviewed over a span of 18 days. Of 228 interviewees, 142 were male and 86 were female. Individual face-to-face structured interviews were held with members of each institution in order to maximize the opportunities for subjects to freely voice their obstacles, challenges and concerns, as well as training needs. Interviews and focus groups were set up with the following groups of key players working on Information Society issues in the SEE region: a) line ministries for the development of an Information Society in each participating country directly responsible for implementation of e-SEE Agenda+; b) focal points for implementation of UNCRPD, and all governmental institutions that play a supporting role to the implementation of the UNCRPD, ombudsperson offices, etc.; c) other ministries/state institutions indirectly involved in implementation of the e-SEE 18

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Agenda+ due to the interdisciplinary nature of the agenda and ICT being a cross-cutting issue. These include the ministries of education, economy, culture, public administration reform, interior affairs, gender equality, foreign affairs, labour and social affairs, etc.; d) civil society, associations for persons with disabilities and research institutes (international and national); e) international organizations (UNDP COs, USAID) active in ICT, human rights and social inclusion. The REGATA network members had organized a series of meetings with key stakeholders12 in each country, and supported the visits. The interview approach on many occasions extracted deeper and more honest answers than initially expected. Furthermore, it provided space for elaboration and examples, discovering new relationships, and modifying issues covered as the work proceeded. Detailed information was collected on what works, and what causes problems or produces benefits. Face-to-face interviews also helped strengthen relationships with target groups, contributing to an important goal of the e-SEE Secretariat: to further extend its network in the area of social inclusion, establish new contacts, and consolidate existing relationships with the line ministries as direct project beneficiaries. Another important goal of the missions was to connect the ICT ministries with the Focal Points of the UNCRPD,13 to provide them with the tools, ideas, and to facilitate their cooperation. Brainstorming sessions with the line ministries in charge of implementing the development of the Information Society and UNCRPD were arranged in the format of group discussions, to consider ways in which ICTs can be used to advance the UNCRPD agenda. The bias implicit in all self-reporting approaches has been taken into consideration, along with the fact that the interviewer must often accept the word of sources regarding the accuracy of information provided. Although much of what the interviewer learned is based on the perceptions and knowledge of the people being interviewed, rather than objective and behavioural data, the associated risk was minimized by several measures including follow-up desk research, documentary and web analysis and telephone interviews. Moreover, the knowledge, networks and institutional memory of the e-SEE Secretariat, combined with the extensive experience of the consultant helped ensure the integrity of the information collected. Draft national assessments were circulated among the REGATA network members for comment and verification, before preparing the final publication.

12 ICT Ministries, UNCRPD Coordination Mechanisms and Focal Points, NGOs and Associations concerned with Persons with Disabilities issues. 13 Article 33.1 UNCRPD obliges the States Parties, to designate one or more Focal Points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the UNCRPD.

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2. THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK This section presents an overview of the UNCRPD, its significance and main sections, the requirements it sets in all aspects of e-Accessibility and how it is to be implemented. This is followed by a description of the major instruments and actions at the European Union level relating to disability in general and e-Accessibility in particular.

2.1 The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) The UNCRPD represents a major milestone in articulating and securing human rights in the 14 area of disability. It is a strong document and breaks new ground in many areas. Previous United Nations agreements, such as the final Declaration of the World Summit on the Information Society, had made reference to disability and the Information Society, notably in the Tunis Commitment 15 (emphasis added):

18. We shall strive unremittingly, therefore, to promote universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICTs, including universal design and assistive technologies, for all people, especially those with disabilities, everywhere, to ensure that the benefits are more evenly distributed between and within societies, and to bridge the digital divide in order to create digital opportunities for all and benefit from the potential offered by ICTs for development. 14 See http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disabilities-convention.htm. 15 See WSIS-05/TUNIS/DOC/7-E: 18 November 2005 http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/7.html.

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20. To that end, we shall pay particular attention to the special needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups of society including migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees, unemployed and underprivileged people, minorities and nomadic people, older persons and persons with disabilities. But these tend to be passing references, noting persons with disabilities alongside a host of other marginalized groups. The UNCRPD, on the other hand, even in the area of e-Accessibility, is explicit, focusing on the specific circumstances of people with disability and covering a wide scope of issues.

2.1.1 Goal, Legal Obligations and Enforcement On 3 April 2008, Ecuador ratified the UNCRPD, making it the 20th country to do so, the minimum number required for the UNCRPD to enter into force. The 30-page UNCRPD document and its Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 and opened for signature and ratification on 30 March 2007. As of April 2012, 112 states had ratified the UNCRPD 16 through their own legal system, from a total of 153 signatory states. In South East Europe these include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, while Albania has signed the UNCRPD but not yet ratified it. The UNCRPD is enforced by a Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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The purpose of the UNCRPD is:

... to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. Signatories to the UNCRPD agree to ensure equality and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities, defined as:

those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Rights covered in the UNCRPD include a right to accessibility, a right to liberty and security of person, a right to living independently and being included in the community, a right to personal mobility, a right to education and health, a right to an adequate standard of living and social protection, and a right to participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.

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16 For updated table see http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-15&chapter=4&lang=en. 17 The Optional Protocol allows individuals to make complaints to the Committee, a right not present in most UN conventions and treaties. This has been signed and ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia and signed by Macedonia, but neither signed nor ratified by Moldova and Albania.

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The critical legal and policy obligations to which states commit themselves, set out in Article 4 (1), are:

(a) To adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention; (b) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities; (c) To take into account the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and programmes; These are legally binding on states, though it should be noted that enforcement of international covenants is, in practice, primarily by bringing moral pressure to bear. Even those countries ratifying the Optional Protocol can at most be advised of the results of a complaints enquiry, and ‘invited’ to explain to the Committee what action has been taken. Nevertheless, the UNCRPD is a powerful weapon in the hands of those who seek to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, and chronic failure to comply can be a source of serious embarrassment and may have significant consequences for governments nationally and internationally.

The UNCRPD and the Information Society Several Articles and Clauses are relevant to the Information Society. An early clause in Article 4 specifically relates to ICTs. Here, states commit themselves:

(g) To undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disabilities, giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost; This is followed by a provision on the provision of information around assistive technologies:

(h)To provide accessible information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities; 23

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Article 9 deals directly with accessibility, and here the reference to e-Accessibility is explicit and indeed on an equal standing to physical accessibility (emphasis added): 1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

(a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces; (b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services. The Article continues:

2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures: (g) To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet; (h) To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost. Article 21 on freedom of expression and opinion and access to information is also critical in this context and makes several specific references to the Internet:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion ... including by: (a) Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost; (b) Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions; 24

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(c) Urging private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities; (d) Encouraging the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities. Separately, Article 30 covers cultural life, recreation and leisure, but references to cultural materials (such as books), television, films and even theatre have implications in terms of electronic assistive aids:

1. States Parties recognise the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall tale all appropriate measures to ensure that person with disabilities: (a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats (b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats. At a more general level, the UNCRPD in the Preamble makes reference to specific groups and their needs:

(s) Emphasizing the need to incorporate a gender perspective in all efforts to promote the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, (t) Highlighting the fact that the majority of persons with disabilities live in conditions of poverty, and in this regard recognizing the critical need to address the negative impact of poverty on persons with disabilities Article 6 is dedicated to women with disabilities, emphasizing that they are subject to multiple discrimination, and Article 7 to children with disabilities. These strongly suggest that specific measures should be taken, and attention devoted, to address the needs of these groups. Overall, the language used is firm, and the emphasis is on early action. It is thus beyond doubt that all states ratifying the UNCRPD are obliged to: •

undertake research into e-Accessibility technologies;

promote, at an early stage, the design, development, production and distribution of accessible ICTs, so that they become affordable;

promote knowledge about them;

promote access to ICTs for people with disabilities; 25

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enable people with disabilities to use ICTs in general, including electronic services and emergency services.

Implementing the UNCRPD Article 33 outlined structures for implementing the UNCRPD at the national level. Each State is to designate:

...one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a coordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels. Given the prominence of e-Accessibility in the UNCRPD, it would seem reasonable that someone should have specific responsibility for this area within the overall coordination mechanism. A monitoring mechanism must also be established, and “civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.” Furthermore, there are reporting requirements (Article 35):

1. Each State Party shall submit to the Committee, through the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, a comprehensive report on measures taken to give effect to its obligations under the present Convention and on the progress made in that regard, within two years after the entry into force of the present Convention for the State Party concerned. 2. Thereafter, States Parties shall submit subsequent reports at least every four years and further whenever the Committee so requests. Finally, it is worth noting that international cooperation is strongly encouraged under Article 32, and covers supporting capacity-building, exchange of information and experience, best practices and training programmes, cooperation in research, and facilitating access to and sharing assistive technologies. 1. State Parties recognize the importance of international cooperation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realization of the purpose and objectives of the present Convention, and will undertake appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities. Such measures could include, inter alia: 26

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(a) Ensuring that international cooperation, including international development programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities; (b) Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices; (c) Facilitating cooperation in research and access to scientific and technical knowledge; (d) Providing, as appropriate, technical and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies. All of this provides a compelling incentive for SEE countries, that cooperate closely through the e-SEE Initiative mechanisms, to take action on e-Accessibility at an early rather than a late stage, and to build in a regional dimension at the earliest opportunity. From this perspective, the existence of the e-SEE Agenda+ as a platform for action is highly advantageous.

2.2. European Union actions and requirements The European Union mandate, and hence the Acquis Communitaire, in the area of disabilities is a particularly strong one. It is underpinned by Charter and Treaty: •

Article 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU states that ‘the EU recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.’ In addition, Article 21 prohibits any discrimination on the basis of disability.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) requires the Union to combat discrimination based on disability when defining and implementing its policies and activities (Article 10) and gives it the power to adopt legislation to address such discrimination (Article 19).

Further, the UNCPRD applies not only to individual EU member states, but soon also to the EU as an entity in itself, and thus to all new members. It is in fact the first legally binding international human rights instrument to which the EU and its Member States are parties, and the first to be embodied in its entirety in the Acquis. 27

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In practice, e-Accessibility dimensions are spread (albeit not always by that name) through a number of EU directives and other legal instruments in areas as diverse as subtitling for broadcasting, copying exemptions in publications, and telecommunications accessibility directives. However, during the last decade, efforts have been made to pull these together into a single framework. The major efforts are discussed below. Since the launch in 2005 of the i2010 initiative of the European Commission, e-Inclusion in general has been recognized as a key enabler of economic and social progress, contributing to growth and employment in the Information Society, and thus supporting the Lisbon agenda. Indeed, bridging broadband and accessibility gaps or improving digital competencies translates into new jobs and services. Initial estimates indicate that benefits from e-Inclusion in the EU could be between 35 and 18 85 billion over five years. E-Accessibility has emerged as a prominent part of the e-Inclusion agenda. A landmark for e-Accessibility was the June 2006 Ministerial Riga Declaration on ICT for an 19 inclusive Information Society, which set concrete targets for Internet usage and availability, digital literacy, and accessibility of ICT by 2010. It quotes a figure of just 3 percent of public websites in 2005 that comply with the minimum web accessibility standards and guidelines. Among the targets it sets are the following:

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halve the difference in Internet usage between people with disability and the average of the EU as a whole from 2005 to 2010;

fully implement e-Accessibility provisions across EU legislation on electronic communications and terminal equipment, using all other instruments available, with the effectiveness of measures to be regularly assessed;

ensure that the needs of users with disabilities are fully taken into account in the review of the electronic communications framework, including setting up a group with Member States representatives to address needs for legislative action on e-Accessibility;

explore by 2007 European e-Accessibility standards and common approaches in public procurement for ICT products and services, for all public administrations, with a view to making these mandatory by 2010.

foster the application of common requirements and standards, for accessible and usable ICT hardware, software and services, to be supported by appropriate user involvement, and means of demonstrating conformance, e.g., labelling;

encourage innovation, interoperability and open architectures of accessible convergent communications, while promoting European solutions on the international scene including in standardization processes;

facilitate accessibility and usability of ICT products and services for all, especially for people with disabilities. This includes accessible digital content on all platforms, interoperable assistive technologies, and mainstreaming inclusive design and design-for-

18 Quoted in the European i2010 initiative on e-Inclusion, ‘To be part of the information society, Impact Assessment’. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, Council, European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions COM (2007) 649, p.2. . http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/policy/i2010_initiative/index_en.htm 19 See http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/ict_riga_2006/doc/declaration_riga.pdf.

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all in the development of ICT products and services. As has become the norm for European Ministerial Declarations, this was endorsed not only by EU Ministers, but also by the European Free Trade Association and accession and candidate countries. A little over a year later, a Communication from the Commission was already admitting that “most of Riga targets may not be achieved. Fragmentation of efforts and lack of collaboration continue 20 to persist.” It called for increased visibility and greater stakeholder commitment, and the creation of the enabling conditions including any necessary legislation. The pace of activity has increased since then in the area of e-Accessibility. The Digital Agenda 21 for Europe, one of the flagship initiatives of Europe 2020 published in August 2010, includes a number of proposals for action:

There is ... need for concerted actions to make sure that new electronic content is also fully available to persons with disabilities. In particular, public websites and online services in the EU that are important to take a full part in public life should be brought in line with international web accessibility standards (page 26). Among the EU Actions proposed is one to:

Systematically evaluate accessibility in revisions of legislation undertaken under the Digital Agenda, e.g. e-Commerce, eIdentity & eSignature, following the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; (page 27). The Digital Agenda reinforces the Ambient Assisted Living joint research programme with 22 Member States, originally launched in 2008 and funded under the Framework Programme (FP7). Although focused mainly on independent living for older people, the goal is:

to make sure that the digital society permits a more independent and dignified life for people who are frail or suffer from chronic conditions and for persons with disabilities. The Digital Agenda also calls on Members States to implement by 2011 the provisions on disability in the Telecoms Framework and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The Telecoms Framework Directive, passed in November 2009, makes progress in a number of areas in terms of improving access.23 The Users’ Rights Directive within the Framework now consistently uses the term ‘equivalent access’, being defined as ‘functionally equivalent’. This means that people with disability are legally entitled to services that, in how they function for the user, are equivalent to those available to everyone. The Directive also includes “certain aspects of terminal equipment to facilitate access for disabled end-users” within the scope of the legislative proposal, which will contribute to ensuring end-to-end connectivity and interoperability between equipment, networks and services for users with disabilities. 20 http://eur-lex.europa.eu. 21 http://eur-lex.europa.eu. 22 See http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/e-Inclusion/docs/ageing/aal_overview.pdf. 23 See European Disability Forum athttp://www.edf-feph.org/Page_Generale.asp?DocID=13854&thebloc=23100.

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The 2008 Television Without Frontiers Directive Article 3(c) states that:

“Member States shall encourage media services providers under their jurisdiction to ensure that their services are gradually made accessible to people with a visual or hearing disability.” Thus, Member States have the obligation (“shall”) to encourage media services providers to progressively make their services accessible, by for instance promoting e-accessibility measures and/or supporting initiatives from media services providers. The Directive also offers some examples on how to develop accessibility: “the means to achieve accessibility should include, but need not be limited to, sign language, subtitling, audio description and easily understandable menu navigation” 25 (Recital 64). A further significant milestone has been achieved with the publication in November 2010 of a new Commission strategy, European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a 26 Barrier-Free Europe. Again, it notes that progress is too slow, and underlines a business case for making services and products available to all. For instance, the EU market for assistive devices is in the region of 30 billion, but is still too fragmented and has huge scope for growth. The main focus is on eliminating barriers, and eight main areas are identified for action. e-Accessibility comes under Area 1 Accessibility, and is set alongside access to the physical environment and to transportation. It proposes to use legislation and other instruments such as standardization to optimize accessibility. It will: •

• • •

explore the merits of adopting regulatory measures to ensure accessibility of products and services, including measures to step up the use of public procurement (proven to be very effective in the United States); encourage the incorporation of accessibility and ‘design for all’ in educational curricula and training for relevant professions; foster an EU-wide market for assistive technology; consider proposing a ‘European Accessibility Act’ by 2012 that might include developing specific standards for particular sectors to substantially improve the proper functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services.

Each of these is likely to include e-Accessibility aspects.

24 See http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/audiovisual_and_media/l24101_en.htm. 25 The European Disability Forum produced a toolkit on how to adapt this into national law: Toolkit for the Transposition of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive into National EU Member States Law. September 2008 http://cms.horus.be/files/99909/MediaArchive/library/EDF_Toolkit_for_the_Transposition_of_AVMS_Directive.pdf.

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26 Communication from the EU Commission COM (2010) 636 Final. See http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2010:0636:FIN:EN:PDF. This will shape future EU action in this area.

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Significantly for South Eastern European countries, in relation to EU external actions, the Action Plan commits the European Union to a carrot-and-stick approach:

The Commission will work where appropriate within a broader framework of non discrimination to... ensure that candidate and potential candidate countries make progress in promoting the rights of people with disabilities and ensure that the financial instruments for pre-accession assistance are used to improve their situation. (page 9) Furthermore, it explicitly states that:

The Commission will work to ensure that EU programmes in policy areas relevant to people with disabilities offer funding possibilities, for example in research programmes EU action will support and supplement national efforts to improve accessibility and combat discrimination through mainstream funding, proper application of Article 16 of the Structural Funds General Regulation, and by maximising requirement regarding accessibility in public procurement. (page 10). Finally, a monitoring framework — a requirement anyhow under the UNCRPD — will also be established, and a progress report produced by the end of 2013.

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The Action Plan is accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document, with a list of actions from 2010 to 2015. The relevant ones are outlined in the table below: Table 1. Actions to prevent, or identify and eliminate barriers to accessibility Specific objective

Prevent, identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility. Key areas include the built environment, transport and information and communication including technologies and services. Key actions

When

2011 Launch a cost benefit analysis and data collection on accessibility of goods and services in the areas of ICT, built environment and transport addressing the functioning of the internal market, as preparation for the possible development of a European Accessibility Act 2012-2013 - Prepare a European Accessibility Act setting out a general accessibility framework in relation to goods and services including public services Explore the possibility to complete the legal framework addressing rights of persons with reduced mobility by covering all relevant modes of transport Make full use of all existing legal instruments and address disability matters in their revisions following the UN Convention in the area of Information Society in line with the Digital Agenda for Europe - Implement the disability related provisions of the Electronic Communication 2010-2015 Directives and the Audiovisual Media Service Directive, with their recent -

-

-

-

-

revisions Systematically evaluate accessibility in revisions of legislation undertaken under the Digital Agenda, e.g. , e-Identity & e-Signature, following the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Promote dialogue between users and industry towards voluntary agreements on: - copyright: EU MoU on access to works by people with print disabilities - digital television: cooperation between industry and organisations of persons with disabilities Based on a review of options, make proposals by 2011 to ensure that public sector websites (and those offering basic services to the public) are fully accessible by 2015; Develop accessibility standards to ICT for their use in public procurement in the context of Mandate 376

32 27 See November 15th 2010 SEC (2010) 1324, at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/SECMonth.do?year=2010&month=11.

2010-2015

Ongoing

2011 Ongoing

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Support research on new technologies for assistive technology and accessible mainstream solutions -

-

Mainstream accessibility following Design for all in relevant mainstream standards through a standardisation Mandate Consider relevant disability issues, where possible, within the context of the follow-up to the Commission Report “Towards more efficient and fairer retail services in the Internal Market for 2010” and within the context of the ecommerce activities Improve application of Article 16 of the Structural funds general regulation to progress on accessibility Take into consideration, in projects run by the EU Joint Research Centre, technical aspects related to usability by all, including people with disabilities

2011

2010-2015

2010-2015 2010-2015

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3. AN OVERVIEW OF E-ACCESSIBILITY IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE 3.1 Introduction This section summarizes the main features of the Country Reports (see section 4), drawing on each as well as on additional material, to paint an overall picture of e-Accessibility in the countries of South Eastern Europe. It also sets them in the wider context of the environment for people with disabilities and challenges facing them, and where possible draws comparisons with the European Union. Although the focus of this section is primarily e-Accessibility, the issue must be understood against the backdrop of the general situation for people with disabilities. This offers an indication of the level of priority given to the issue in a country, which is of course also heavily influenced by its overall economic strength. Key areas relating to the quality of life for people with disabilities are thus first briefly reviewed. We next look at national policies and strategies that directly address the issue of disability; laws, institutions and practices – including incentives and payment schemes – that govern access to employment and training opportunities. We then look at implementation. The implementation of the UNCRPD of course is a major indicator of the current prioritization of, and approach taken to, issues of disability. We are less concerned with the extent to which the specific obligations have been met in different countries — lengthy delays are unavoidable and inevitable for many countries. The UNCRPD in this sense can be seen as inspirational, and an opportunity for all countries to aspire to the same high standards even 28 if it will take years and perhaps decades to fully live up to them. Rather, our interest here is in the nature of the response from different countries: whether they have accorded its implementation a degree of priority and whether people with disabilities and their organizations have been invited to 28 Such Conventions explicitly make reference to different rates and levels of economic development and available resources, and competing basic needs around human rights. It is to be expected that countries with fewer resources will require a longer period, sometimes a very significantly longer period, to be in full compliance. The UNCRPD itself can also speed up this process, by setting more precise goals and enhancing the legitimacy of those in the national context, especially NGOs, demanding that such goals are met.

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participate in the process of defining goals and monitoring progress. Section 3.4 below thus gives an overview of what is happening in this area. Following this, we look at e-Accessibility more directly. Different components are explored, including accessibility in relation to: •

television

telephony

Internet and ICT training

web accessibility

Where possible, attention is drawn to the status of each of these in the European Union, though no figures are available to allow a direct comparison with South Eastern Europe.

3.2 The overall situation for people with disabilities There is little doubt that people with disabilities in most countries of South Eastern Europe face serious and ongoing challenges in achieving equality, gaining employment and often even in managing to make a living. In general, the indications are that the conditions there are worse, sometimes much worse, than in most countries of the European Union – though a lack of directly comparable figures makes the difference difficult to quantify. Some key areas of concern are the following: •

Poverty: People with disabilities have a much higher rate of poverty;

Training and education: The level of training and education for people with disabilities is in all countries is much lower than in the wider population;

Employment: People with disabilities, especially women, suffer the highest levels of unemployment;

Isolation: The number of people with disabilities isolated in the home, on their own or supported by families is not known, but it is undoubtedly very high due to lack of employment, poverty and lack of accessible and affordable transport. A strong stigma is still attached to disability in many communities.

This is not to suggest that governments are unconcerned about these issues. They are aware that the situation must be improved, and committed public servants are taking action everywhere. Moreover, every country in the region has NGOs working tirelessly to improve the circumstances of people with disabilities, and many also lobby energetically.

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But there are significant differences in the vigour with which governments pursue the agenda for people with disabilities, and the dominant approach even among NGOs varies from a traditional charity-based ethos to the rights-based approach that is espoused by the UNCRPD.

3.3 National policies and strategies for people with disabilities All e-SEE Initiative members have adopted national strategies to address the situation of people with disabilities, in the following years: Albania 2005; Bosnia and Herzegovina 2009; Croatia 2007; Kosovo 2009; Macedonia 2010; Moldova 2010; Montenegro 2008; Romania 2005; Serbia 2006. Usually these are based on explicit government policy. All are informed by and aspire to be in compliance with international standards in this area, as contained for instance in the 2006 Council of 29 Europe Action Plan and the UNCRPD. However, countries vary hugely in terms of the resources dedicated to their implementation, the level of political commitment and priority given to them, and the extent to which people with disabilities and their organizations were consulted in the preparation and are involved in their implementation. Progress, with some exceptions in specific areas, tends to vary from slow to very slow, as indicated at least by reports by national ombudsman offices, the European Commission Progress Report and other sources. (A number of countries have an ombudsman with responsibility for people with disability, either dedicated, as in Croatia, or as part of a wider responsibility for human rights as in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.). All countries seem to face problems of insufficient resources dedicated to tackling issues such as employment (allowances, employer subsidies, and workplace adaptation), training and education, and to adapting transport, building and other areas. Most have introduced minimum quotas for employing people with disabilities in the private sector in a gradated way, with the smallest employers being exempt. There is also a system of fines, or sometimes a choice of making a payment, for non-compliant employers. Some, though not all, also have quotas in the public sector for employing people with disabilities. Most also have established a special fund into which the fines and payments are placed – though an issue in a few countries is that the proceeds of the fund are not always or entirely dedicated to improving the employment situation of those with disabilities and may be redirected towards the general budget. Finally, there seems to be a widespread problem in enacting laws related to employment, exacerbated by the low level of compliance or enforcement.

29 See https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=Rec%282006%295&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&Site=CM&BackColorInternet=9999CC&BackColorIntranet=FFBB55&BackColorLogged=FFAC75

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3.4 Implementing the UNCRPD All countries in the region have been quick to sign and ratify the UNCRPD, except Albania, 30 which is moving towards ratification. Although all EU countries have signed it, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Malta and the Netherlands are yet to ratify, as is the USA. Table 2 shows the dates of signature and ratification. Table 2: Signatories and ratification of the UNCRPD Country

Signed

Ratified

Albania

22 Dec 2009

Not yet

Bosnia & Herzegovina

29 Jul 2009

12 Mar 2010

Croatia

30 Mar 2007

15 Aug 2007

Macedonia

30 Mar 2007

29 Dec 2011

Montenegro

27 Sep 2007

2 Nov 2009

Republic of Moldova

30 Mar 2007

21 Sep 2010

Romania

26 Sep 2007

Serbia

17 Dec 2007

31 Jan 2011 31 Jul 2009

Of course, formal ratification and being in compliance are very different things, and as noted earlier it is accepted that economic and social factors will mean that some countries will require a longer period than others to become compliant. Nevertheless, as we have seen, all are obliged to put in place structures that will facilitate the process of compliance, including monitoring progress and enabling the participation of non-governmental actors. Progress in this area might be regarded as an indicator of the level and nature of commitment of governments to the UNCRPD. The key obligations in this area are (Article 35):

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one or more focal points within government must be established regarding the UNCRPD;

a coordination mechanism must be established to facilitate actions across different sectors;

a monitoring mechanism must be established and civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and representative organizations, must participate fully in the process;

an initial progress report, on measures taken to fulfil obligations must be submitted to the United Nations within two years of ratification, and thereafter at least every four years.

30 Kosovo, not being a member of the United Nations, is not eligible to sign or ratify the UNCRPD. Officials there note that they are studying it carefully and that efforts are underway to align their activities and laws with the convention.

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Progress in the region varies greatly — allowing of course that ratification by different countries was spread over a five-year period. Croatia, for instance, has already delivered its initial report on progress to the UNCRPD Committee in October 2011, about four years after ratification, 31 one of about 24 countries to have done so. Currently, the reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia (which are expected soon) are due, and that of Moldova later in 2012. Most countries have appointed or identified a focal point for the UNCRPD within government, to act as a contact both internationally and nationally, though some such as Montenegro (ratified November 2009), Macedonia (ratified December 2011) and Albania (not yet ratified) are still in the process. The process in Albania, for instance, has created an Inter-Ministerial Working Group to look at all questions relating to the UNCRPD. The Focal Point is usually within the ministry directly responsible for improving the circumstances of people with disabilities (if one exists), and is linked to the coordination mechanism that has been set up. However, in several countries there has been institutional confusion regarding the roles and duties of different ministries in implementation of the UNCRPD. This is partly due to nature of the Convention itself which cuts across sectors and applies to various spheres of life ranging from access to public spaces and buildings to access to technologies, products and services related to the information society and social communication media, education, health, transport, sports, goods and services open to public, relations with justice administration and cultural heritage- and as such requires expertise in various fields and an interdisciplinary approach. Although the UNCRPD focal point should, according to the UNCRPD itself and the overall governance principles be the responsible party with the full leverage in the implementation process of all the aspects of the Convention, in reality due to the lack of substantive capacity in these various fields the focal point often falls short of keeping up with the UNCRPD implementation process- and responsibility is delegated and shifted elsewhere often resulting in standstill. The result is a worrying picture that shows how the lack of clarity and consequently accountability in this context, leads to further delays in implementation of the UNCRPD and to deteriorated condition of persons with disabilities in society. The implementation of the UNCRPD is, for obvious reasons, generally integrated within the national policy and strategies for people with disabilities. For instance, in Croatia, the two entities responsible for the National Strategy for the Equalisation of Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities — the Ministry of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity, and the Committee for Persons with Disabilities — have also been given responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the UNCRPD. Similarly, in Montenegro, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare oversees both the UNCRPD and the Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disability. In Romania, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection services is the Focal Point for the UNCRPD and also looks after the National Strategy for the Social Protection, Integration and Inclusion of People with Disabilities, though the monitoring framework has yet to be established. 31See http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/Sessions.aspx. Only a few have been approved by the committee (not including Croatia), which meets twice a year. The others are in the process of being scheduled. Once submitted, the full text will be available here. The Croatian report is available, for the moment, until it is approved, at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/futuresessions.aspx.

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The participation of people with disabilities in the monitoring process has sometimes required the creation of a new body. Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, has formed a Council for Persons with Disability, which includes government, agencies and associations concerned with disability. In Moldova, a Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities oversees the process. In Serbia, a Working Group was first formed with 20 ministries, the idea being to add additional NGOs; that has now been revised to a more manageable and effective Working Committee of 12 to 14 ministries, including two bodies that represent people with disabilities nationally. Croatia has a Committee for Persons with Disabilities, with 24 members: 11 are representatives of state bodies, 11 are from national unions of persons with disabilities and two from scientific institutions. Of these, six are persons with disabilities. Thus, there has certainly been progress. But there are also concerns reported from civil society and from other sources. In several countries, NGOs and others lobbied strenuously for government to sign and then ratify the UNCRPD. Their success raised hopes that significant change would result. Such high hopes have often not been fulfilled, and those who worked hard are disappointed, leading to some extent to a lowering of morale in the sector. This is compounded in cases where there is a lack of political will, a sense that the relevant authorities are merely paying lip service to the UNCRPD. This can be manifested in a low levels and poor quality of participation in the monitoring and reporting process, and apparent delays in appointing a clear focal point. The reason behind all this is often a lack of finances. Even where political will exists in the relevant authorities, the Ministry of Finance is often cited as the source of constraint. Overall, then, the region can be satisfied with the speed of accession to the UNCRPD, and has made reasonable though uneven progress on setting up the structures needed to implement it. The real challenge still awaits most countries: taking the difficult decision and prioritising the resources needed to implement it in a concerted, participative and speedy manner. e-Accessibility, as part of that, offers a relatively low-cost area in which significant and rapid progress can be made.

3.5 e-Accessibility e-Accessibility is about ensuring that people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups such as older people, can in practice exercise their right to participate in society’s electronic information and communication services, including media, on equal terms with those without disabilities. The concept covers a number of areas, chief among them being access to television for people with hearing difficulties, access to telephony and the Internet in general, as well as accessing and using e-Government services. 40

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The application of e-Accessibility extends to areas such as reading, where audio-books and hardcopy-to-voice readers can play a role, or accessible ATM machines for obtaining cash – rights that able-bodied people enjoy. We now examine services that are delivered to the entire population via electronic means, and e-Government services. The current level of support for e-Accessibility in media and telecommunications is considered first, followed by web accessibility in the area of eGovernment services.

3.5.1 Television Television (and radio) remains a central medium for news, culture and entertainment in a situation in which people with disabilities have far less access to the Internet than the rest of the population. Accessibility features in television include sign language on screen, subtitling, and audio description (where the pictures and video shown are described by the presenter). The potential of accessible technologies rises hugely with the introduction of enhanced interactivity of digital terrestrial television, and the possibility of advanced technologies such as built-in screen readers and voice recognition. Although again it must be stressed that no comparative figures are available for South Eastern European countries and the EU, those developed by the European Monitoring of e-Accessibility (MeAC) 32 programme in their 2011 report on 13 selected EU countries do show some interesting trends. The main criteria deployed here are the availability of sign language, subtitling and audio description.

32 See http://www.eaccessibility-monitoring.eu/researchResult.aspx. For a range of benchmarking statistics and studies for accessibility, including telecoms, television, at home see http://www.eaccessibility-monitoring.eu/BSC/.

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EU

Czech Republic

Denmark

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Ireland

Italy

Portugal

Spain

Sweden

Netherlands

UK

Table 3: Television content accessibility in the EU

Total Television content

28

35

17

33

31

13

26

29

33

20

28

25

27

51

Public broadcasters

36

42

32

45

31

22

25

37

35

30

26

47

46

51

Commercial broadcasters 21

28

17

3

20

31

4

28

22

30

9

31

3

51

Source: MeAC 2011 p. 117. The UK, with the BBC Corporation as a strong public service broadcaster, comes in best, and notably commercial broadcasters are also strongly regulated there. Overall, commercial television is much weaker than public service with regard to accessibility. Although there is some correlation to the strength of the economy (e.g., Greece and Portugal are low on the scale) it is also clear that it is not simply a matter of economics, with Denmark and Germany ranking lower than the Czech Republic. This suggests that lack of resources cannot be cited as an adequate explanation for inaction in this area, and appropriate regulation can clearly achieve a lot. The indications are that in South Eastern Europe comparable figures would be low. With a few exceptions, most SEE countries provide no more than subtitling and sometimes signing for short news bulletins, usually once a day. There is also the occasional magazine or specialized programme dedicated to people with disabilities, with subtitling and sign language, also referred to as signing. Additional information on Teletext is also available in some countries. Croatia is among the exceptions with three news broadcasts a day subtitled and with signing in Croatian. Serbia is also committed to implementing some relevant aspects of the Media Without Frontiers Directive (see Section 2.2 above) although there are reports that this has been delayed.

3.5.2 Telephony Both fixed and mobile telephony are also vitally important areas for accessibility for people with disabilities, their importance heightened (as for television) by their more limited effective access to computers and the Internet. 42

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A huge range of assistive technologies exist that enable people with all kinds of disabilities to use telephones — voice synthesizers and recognition, large-size phone buttons, to audio-dialling and screen readers, to name some. Public phones can also be adapted for wheelchair use, for blind people, and those with hearing difficulties and motor disabilities. Technology is not really a problem in this area. Table 4 shows the situation in 13 EU countries and four non-EU, for both fixed (including public) and mobile phones, in relation to accessibility. The indicators employed include such matters as how much information about accessible products and services is offered on the operator websites; the availability of phones with technical features such as compatibility with hearing aids, hands-free and big buttons; and information about accessibility in public telephones. One thing it does demonstrate is the huge disparities between EU countries, largely unrelated to levels of economic development: Greece and Sweden, for instance, are very significantly lower than all others, with Spain and Denmark scoring the highest. It also demonstrates that the European Union is not a world leader in the area, considerably behind the United States and Canada. Table 4: Status of telephony accessibility 46 44

GRAND TOTAL TOTAL EU COUNTRIES

35

Czech Republic

55

Denmark

48

France

44

Germany

20

Greece

41

Hungary

52

Ireland

54

Italy

44

Portugal

57

Spain

28

Sweden

43

The Netherlands

54

United Kingdom

52

TOTAL NON-EU COUNTRIES

48

Australia

57

Canada

46

Norway

60

United States of America

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70 43

Source: MeAC 2011, p. 68.

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The European Union has been quite active through the Telecommunications Directive, and in particular its universal service aspects. In general, partly because of the influence of the Directive, there is significant activity in South Eastern Europe — more in the process, than actually realized — in relation to universal service for telephony for the general population, in part because the sector is so profitable and lack of resources cannot plausibly be cited as an obstacle to implementation. Yet, specific actions to ensure universal service for people with disabilities are still largely underdeveloped. Many of these are also not costly — the provision of information on the availability of services, for instance, costs little (although it might reveal how little is actually available to people with disabilities). The key requirements, given the lower levels of income for people with disabilities — as compared to the EU, both absolutely and relative to the population as whole — are lower connection fees and tariffs, and affordable assistive technologies. In some countries such as Albania, the process of privatization of the sector significantly worsened the situation for people with disabilities, who had previously enjoyed free connections, reduced tariffs and free equipment, though partial compensation was put in place by means of a fixed annual grant for people with disabilities to cover all communication costs. It was not possible to determine if, in the wake of privatization, this is a general feature of the region. Few if any operators in any country provide assistive handsets, and in general tariff and connection discounts are not mandatory for operators and are offered usually when they want to gain market advantage or have a corporate social responsibility policy (usually another form of marketing). This applies at present in Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia. Romania has recently adopted the EU regulatory framework, including the provisions related to universal service, and Emergency Ordinance no. 11/2011 that includes tariff concessions. The situation is likely to improve in quite a few countries in coming years, however, and is already underway in Croatia (advanced in terms of implementing the Directive), Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo is about to pass a new law that includes a mandatory requirement to ensure “equivalent access to and use of telephone services available to the disabled end-user,” and will oblige all operators to regularly inform subscribers with disabilities of details and service available. The regulator will be responsible for ensuring that this actually happens on the ground. It is expected that the Law on Electronic Communications which addresses this issue will be approved by the Assembly by mid-July this year. Serbia has also advanced in the process, and is committed to ensuring that the four main operators provide a defined set of services at affordable rates to disadvantaged groups including people with disabilities, has established a register of such groups, and is in the process of negotiating the details. There is also a regulation to ensure that public phones are accessible, though it has yet to be implemented. 44

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Probably weakest, and this applies also to the EU, is the lack of assistive technologies, that, even when other obstacles have been eliminated, is the last one to be addressed for many of those with disabilities.

3.5.3 ICT and Internet Training Access to the Internet at home is directly related to access to telephony, which is necessary for Internet access, as well as wireless and cable. No specific rights or supports exist in this area for people with disabilities (such as lower broadband tariffs or assistive personal computer technologies). However, a couple of areas are worth mentioning. One is the provision of community or group/centre access to ICTs, adapted for people with disabilities. Such access, to be useful, must be in fully physically accessible locations, include assistive technologies, and preferably offer some support or training. There are a couple of hopeful examples in the SEE region: •

In Macedonia, the 22 public cybercafés throughout the country are currently being upgraded to become e-Accessible centres, complete with a full range of adaptive technologies attached to a dedicated computer.

The Kosovo National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities proposes the provision of an accessible multi-media workstation in each municipality, including one equipped with assistive technologies, although there has been limited progress so far.

Another area of support for Internet access was alluded to earlier: the area of ICT training for people with disabilities. This is important for at least two reasons. First, one point emerging in all countries of South Eastern Europe is the very low level of ability among people with disabilities to use ICTs, including personal computers and the Internet. Representatives of people with disabilities throughout the region believe this to be a major barrier to participation in ICTs. Even with a full array of assistive technologies, web accessibility and affordability schemes, the limited capacity to actually use ICTs (with the obvious exception of television and telephony) will still deny effective access to the Internet and to all the services and potential it offers. For instance, an association for the blind in Croatia estimates that of a population of about 6,000 blind people, approximately 100 are actually using PCs at home or at work, and of these maybe 20 to 30 could be classified as advanced users, able to use the web, word processing and spreadsheets. Many factors contribute to this, including poverty, prejudice that confine many to the home, lack of transport, absence of and inaccessible training facilities, limited literacy and so forth. And this is, of course, part of a wider problem of low levels of participation in training and education, which 45

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gets worse at higher levels of education. Furthermore, the small number of people with disabilities that are ICT-trained can be a selffulfilling prophecy: it can be used to support the argument that there is little demand for Internet-based services (including e-Government services) and adaptation for people with disabilities, since so few people will take advantage of it. Second, ICTs are used in other areas such as education, hence ICT training can offer distinct opportunities to enable people with disabilities overcome precisely some of the underlying factors that lead to their exclusion and disadvantage, and to gain access to their full human rights. The use of ICTs in education, for instance through distance education allowing work from the home or local centres; and in employment by eliminating entirely the disadvantage of some disabilities; and in the delivery of e-Government services directly to the home, all mean that ICTs can play a critical role in reducing disadvantage and in supporting the rights of people with disabilities. There is thus a strong case that ICT training, far from being neglected, should be significantly prioritized for people with disability. Overall, it must be concluded that the provision of ICT training for people with disabilities is very limited in the countries of South Eastern Europe. This applies to dedicated training centres for people with disabilities, as well as to the adaptation of general ICT training and education facilities for people with disabilities. In Serbia, an NGO has run ECDL courses over a ten-year period for disadvantaged groups, including different groups with disabilities. In Montenegro, the Ministry of Information Society and Telecommunications ran an ECDL course dedicated to people with disability. Many of these countries are in the process of reviewing and revising the wider educational and employment policies, institutions and opportunities for people with disabilities, at all levels. The issue here is whether the skills required to use ICTs are to be included in this wider picture. Below are some more recent and notable projects and policy initiatives in the SEE region:

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In Macedonia, some 82 assistive technology packages are to be distributed to schools. Separately, local NGOs, with external aid, have already delivered assistive devices and educational software to 21 mainstream primary schools, including extensive teacher training.

In Romania, the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports has launched a 5m programme to support the education of children with special needs, especially with intellectual disabilities. It includes the development and implementation of a curriculum for ICT skills including use of the Internet.

Also in Romania there are plans to extend an existing programme to open over 250 ICT

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centres in schools and libraries across the country to include assistive technologies and WCAG-compliant web accessibility in each one (WCAG refers to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that provide recommendations for making web content more accessible). In Croatia, an NGO funded by the government has established a youth centre with a special focus on disabilities and on providing expertise and support to people with disability at a tertiary level of education.

3.5.4 Web Accessibility in Government Services The level of e-Accessibility for government websites, and e-Government services in particular is a central focus of this report. The term ‘web accessibility’ is used since almost all interaction with e-Government services is through the web, or it is the primary option. In general it refers to the degree of conformity of WCAG or W3C standards and guidelines in this area. Before commenting on the situation in the EU and in South Eastern Europe, the definition and case for web accessibility is briefly presented.

The case for web accessibility The goal of web accessibility is to ensure that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web — which includes contributing to the web — to achieve their goals and secure their rights as effectively as can able-bodied people. That special consideration must be given to people with disabilities was recognized early on 33 by those developing the World Wide Web’s technical standards and interfaces. As early as 1999, the first set of guidelines was produced and periodically updated. These cover the issue of e-Accessibility in the context of several components and define actors who must work in combination to create accessibility for people with disabilities, including: •

web content, the information in a web page or web application, including text, images, and sounds, but also code or markup to define structure, presentation, etc.;

web browsers, media players, and other ‘user agents’;

assistive technology, such as screen readers, alternative keyboards, switches and scanning software;

users’ knowledge, experiences, and adaptive strategies using the web;

designers, coders, authors, and other developers, including developers with disabilities and users who contribute content;

authoring tools, including software that creates websites;

33 This was the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). For the earliest guidelines see http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/ and the latest updated in 2008: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/.

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•

evaluation tools such as web accessibility evaluation tools and HTML/CSS validators.

Thus, between the final web user and the original authoring tool developers lies a sequence of layers, software, hardware and content, each of which must be appropriately adapted, at the technical level. These can be represented as follows: Figure : Components of web accessibility

Source: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/components.php. At this stage, and in part thanks to the work of the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, the technical possibilities exist in most web authoring tools and environments to build applications and services that people with disability can use. Parameters of interaction and content presentation can in principle be built so that people with disabilities can access the web, if not with equal ease as ablebodied people, at least at a level that enables them to make full use of its possibilities. The problem is that web accessibility is sometimes placed well down on the list of priorities when it comes to providing web-based services, whether public e-Services or e-Commerce based activities of the private sector. The rationale, seldom stated explicitly, is that the priority should go to providing services for the majority, and, as circumstances and resources allow, services can then be 48

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extended to more marginalized groups for whom additional effort must be made. Whether stated or not, there is in fact little justification for such thinking. Apart from any legal or regulatory obligations to introduce web accessibility — and leaving aside for the moment the obvious ethical and social rationale in terms of human rights and equal opportunity — there are several very practical reasons to introduce web accessibility:

1. Ensuring web accessibility need not cost more. In the context of building a web application from scratch, or in major overhauls of such services, it does not actually cost more to ensure many aspects of web accessibility. Most authoring and interface tools already include the tools necessary to ensure web accessibility. And there exist sources of free professionally made handbooks, guides and software to inform developers with limited experience in this area. Some assistive technologies are an exception to this and can cost money, but ensuring that the basic system can accommodate such assistive technologies is usually completed for little cost. Indeed, there can be savings from implementing some aspects of web accessibility. The use of Style Sheets for differently abled people, that control font size, style, background colour, contrast, etc. of the entire website, make it much quicker and easier to update or review websites, avoiding the need to make changes to each page individually. Style sheets can also reduce the access bandwidth requires.

2. Web accessibility offers benefits to everyone, including able-bodied, not just those with disabilities. Those with temporary disabilities such a fractured arm or reduction of vision or hearing, will also obviously benefit; but as populations age a growing number begin gradually to lose sensory and motor abilities without ever becoming officially classified as people with disabilities. There are other ‘accidental’ benefits, for instance: •

redundant text/audio and video (i.e., duplicating other content) can be useful for those with different learning styles, low literacy, or for second-language users;

those with low bandwidth access or in noisy environments will have better service through content presented in text form as well as images (useful for people with blindness via automated reading);

captions on audio files (useful for people with a hearing disability) enables better machine indexing of content and better searching.

3.Web accessibility can improve and facilitate design on other applications. Transferring existing services and content onto other media, such as to mobile phones with small screens, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) or public kiosks, can be greatly simplified if they already exist in multimodality. i.e., with support for visual, auditory and tactile access.

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There are also practical benefits deriving from improved access for people with disabilities.

4. People with disabilities can be viewed as an eager, even captive, market! People with disabilities can benefit more from online e-Commerce than others due to various obstacles they can meet to conventional shopping and commercial activities, whether they relate to transport, interaction or physical accessibility. Thus they are more likely to use e-Commerce but only if it is made accessible to them. 5. The web can increase efficiency of service delivery to those with disabilities. Often people with disabilities interact at a higher level with state services. Ensuring that such services are readily accessible by them can save considerable time and avoid delivery costs by other means, and of course improve the living standards of those with transport difficulties. Overall, then, the case for prioritizing web accessibility is strong.

Web accessibility in the European Union Figure 2 below shows the comparative level of accessibility of government websites in EU Members States and in four non-EU countries. The level of accessibility to the content of government websites was established based on three indicators: existence of certification or labelling schemes for government websites; provision of accessibility claims about the conformance with WCAG 1.0/2.0 in government websites; and conformity of these websites with these standards. For the last, eight government websites were chosen (two each from central, regional and local government, and two e-Government services) and assessed for the degree of web accessibility, using a composite indicator of conformity to WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 standards, using both automated evaluation tools and manual evaluation procedures.

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Figure : Government website content accessibility (2011): Percentage compliance

GRAND TOTAL

39

TOTAL EU COUNTRIES

39 35

Czech Republic

36

Denmark

21

France

41

Germany

27

Greece

30

Hungary

32

Ireland

43 40

Italy Portugal

76

Spain

25

Sweden

44

The Netherlands

61

United Kingdom

39

TOTAL NON-EU COUNTRIES

42 42

Australia Canada

38

Norway

35

United States of America

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Source: MeAC 2011. Although comparable figures are not available for South Eastern European countries, the table does illustrate the wide spread among EU countries and also that it is not necessarily the wealthiest countries that score the highest. Improving the accessibility of government website content is not necessarily expensive, but is based more on the political will to do it.

Web accessibility in South Eastern Europe An overall assessment is not possible and indeed no systematic assessment has been undertaken in any of the countries under study. Croatia comes closest as part of a larger effort to improve e-Government services and web accessibility. In Serbia, the National Agency for Information Technologies and Internet (current Directorate for the Digital Agenda) is charged with evaluating the 51

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degree of e-Accessibility and overall WCAG 2.0 compliance of each government institution offering eGovernment services, based on a transparent set of criteria given to each. In Albania, a study was undertaken by e-SEE Initiative representative from the Agency for Information Society using online tools of web accessibility of municipal e-Government services, concluding that there was a high degree of variance, some scoring highly and other very poorly. Actions taken by governments in the region to enhance web accessibility in e-Government services cover a spectrum ranging from light encouragement and a reliance on the professional standards of private companies contracted to build e-Government websites, through to active enforcement and potential fines in the cases of non-compliance.

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In Albania, the Strategy and Action Plan for the Information Society approved in August 2011 includes significant investment in improving e-Government services, including the use of W3C guidelines.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the political fragmentation has prevented the development of a single state level e-Government portal, but at Entity and Cantonal level, e-Government services are emerging.

The e-Government Portal in Croatia was upgraded in 2010 to comply with W3C guidelines, though the situation across other ministry websites is uneven.

In Kosovo, each institution and ministry develops its own website, but the hosting ministry encourages them to be W3C complaint. And the National Action Plan for Persons with Disability contains a specific commitment to adopting W3C accessibility standards, including in tenders and contracts, on all public websites, which may be incorporated into law and include the possibility of prosecution for non-compliance.

The Macedonian e-Inclusion Strategy is producing a localized guide to WCAG 2.0, and under a new Law expected for 2012 e-Government services will be required to comply, those failing facing a fine as a last resort. The goal is to encourage and support ministries and institutions to become compliant.

Though the current IT strategy contains no mention of e-Accessibility, Moldova’s eGovernment Centre is investing about $8 million over five years in developing e-Government services all of which, it is planned, be compliant with W3C guidelines.

Montenegro has made its e-Government portal fully compliant with the WCAG 1.0 W3C, and for all the future upgrades an effort will be made to follow the WCAG 2.0 recommendations. However, other institutional and inistry websites are responsible for their own e-Accessibility levels.

In Romania, compliance with W3C guidelines among e-Government services is not

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compulsory, but there are plans for an inter-ministerial protocol on the issue that would make it mandatory. •

Serbia’s Directorate for the Digital Agenda (formerly the National Agency for Information Technologies and Internet: NITIA) has taken a concerted and gradual approach, first producing guidelines in 2008, upgraded in 2010 through a participative process, covering W3C guidelines amongst other matters; alongside this offering incentives and support; then after a period evaluating the degree of compliance and accrediting those in compliance.

A few countries, often working with NGOs, have also developed specific (W3C compliant) websites providing information and links to all matters relating to disability.

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4. COUNTRY STUDIES Albania Background institutions and Programmes 34

The National Strategy on People with Disability was adopted originally in 2005. It is monitored by the National Council for People with Disabilities, formed in 2006 and comprising six Ministries and five organizations representing people with disabilities. It meets at least three times yearly. Initially under the Deputy Prime Minister it is now the responsibility of the Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. The Strategy is supported by a Secretariat within the Ministry of three people (one of whom is blind). 35

The following is the comment in the European Commission Progress report 2010:

Implementation of the National Strategy for People with Disabilities suffers from insufficient budget allocations at central and local government levels. There is a lack of appropriate health, education, social and employment services for people with disabilities. Their level of inclusion in the labour market is very low. Quotas set by law to promote their access to employment are generally not met (not even in public institutions). The disability legislation is fragmented, with different categories benefiting from special status. The government is working on a draft law which will cover all people with disabilities.

The UNCRPD Albania signed the UNCRPD in December 2009 and is currently moving towards ratification. 34 See http://www.adrf.org.al/images/right_menu/national_strategy_pwd_eng.pdf. 35 http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2010/package/al_rapport_2010_en.pdf page 85.

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The process is being overseen by an Inter-Ministerial Working Group, comprising the various relevant ministries and chaired by the Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. A framework law will define the focal point in the government, the monitoring mechanisms and so forth.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media When the main telecom operator was publicly owned, people with disabilities had free connections for certain groups and tariff reduction for others, and free equipment. In its place, an annual grant for people with disabilities was introduced to cover communication costs. Currently, some telecom operators provide special packages for disabled people.36The Law on Electronic Communication37 has a number of provisions on universal service which are in line with EU directive of 2002. There is going to be soon an amendment to the Law on Universal Service obligations to fully comply with the EU requirements. This is expected to include measures to support accessibility and affordability of ICTs for people with disabilities, including requirements for appropriate terminal equipment. A new media law is also in the pipeline which will set standards for subtitling and signing for people with disabilities.

e-Government Services The Minister for Innovation and ICT (MITIC) is leading the process of development of the Information Society in Albania. The National Agency for the Information Society (NAIS), a government agency under MITIC, is active in a number of relevant areas. A new Action Plan was approved in August 2011. It includes significant investment in improving e-Government services for businesses, citizens and within government. All will be developed using the W3C standards.

Good Practices and Resources Following the intensified discussion of the e-SEE Initiative on the issue of e-Accessibility and the dialogue kick-started with UNDP’s Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project, NAIS undertook a study of the level of e-Accessibility implemented in municipal websites, alongside a number of other factors, and in e-Government services, reporting in November 2011. Using the 38 online evaluation tool Wave (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool), the study concluded that there was a high degree of variation, with some services and websites scoring highly on web accessibility, and others much lower. In general, the newer ones scored higher.

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36 See: http://www.vodafone.al/vodafone/Offer_dedicated_to_people_with_hearing_difficulties_1422_2.php. 37 Law no. 9918 19.5.2008. 38 See http://wave.webaim.org/.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina Background: Laws and Policies There is little doubt but that people with disabilities face very difficult circumstances in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The complexity of governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the separate jurisdictions place additional constraints to pursue the issue. The division of responsibilities between state, entity, canton and municipality levels makes it extremely difficult to bring about systematic and coherent change in relation to the circumstances of people with disabilities. They often receive very different benefits, and have different rights, depending on where they are living. The state level Ombudsman for Human Rights has drawn attention to the issues,39 but has little power to influence the situation. Recourse to the courts to vindicate rights, depending on the level at which a case is taken, is not a precedent that can always benefit a wider group. According to an Ombudsman’s Special Report of 2012, Bosnia and Herzegovina lacks a framework law in this area; no laws have been adopted specifically to improve the treatment of people with disabilities; regulations are inconsistently applied and the criteria for granting work or living allowances and payments to people with disabilities have not been harmonized; there is little coordination or cooperation at the different levels and between the different areas; and there is a lack of systematic record-keeping or a database of those with disabilities. A state–level policy titled ‘Policy in the Area of Disability’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted in May 2008 by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees. Following this at the entity level, a Strategy and Action Plan for the Equalisation of Opportunities for People with Disabilities 2010-2014 was approved in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (one of the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina), as was a Strategy for Promoting the Social Status of Persons with Disabilities 20102015 in the other entity, Republika Srpska. However, the problem here, as in other areas, is that little progress has been made in implementing them and indeed some problems, such as the differential treatment between war veterans with disabilities and others with disabilities, have become exacerbated. Amendments to the Law on the Fundamentals of Social Protection, Protection of Civilian Victims of War and Protection of Families with Children in the Federation of BiH in 2009 mean that a minimum 90 percent disability is required to secure disability and care allowances (previously the level had been 60 percent), but this does not apply to those with war-related disabilities. War veterans with disabilities and civilians disabled during the war both receive more than other people with 39 See Special Report on the Rights of People with Disabilities issued by the Ombudsman for Human Rights in 2010. http://www.ombudsmen.gov.ba/docs/Invaliditet_ENG.pdf.

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disabilities, though the civilians disabled receive 70 percent of what war veterans get. There are thus three distinct levels of benefits in cases where the level of disability may be identical, in effect a 40 discriminatory system. The Republika Srpska entity maintains a payment differential between two groups, war veterans with disabilities, and others with disabilities (including civilians disabled during the war), but maintains a much higher differential in payments to the former as compared to that in the Federation entity. As stated in the research of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo, the most severe and common ways of violating the rights of persons with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the fields of social protection, health, education, rights of access to information, labour and employment, and in the field of organized action of people with disabilities. Even where laws regulating this area exist, there is an evident record of discrimination in practice. This is partly due to the fact that disability is not dealt with under a single law and policy but separately by different ministries in health care, labour, employment, war veteran’s affairs, protection of civilian victims of war, social protection, and so on. There is also a lack of common criteria regarding the grounds on which rights may be exercised, leading to discrimination between persons with disabilities according to the cause of disability and place of residence, and creating inequalities in claiming rights, obtaining personal disability benefits, financial compensation for assistance and care by another person, and compensation for assistive equipment. Hence, certain categories of persons with disabilities are entitled to claim benefits with 20 percent disability, others with 30 percent, the third group with 60 41 percent and certain categories with 90 percent disability. According to the March 2012 Report on the overall situation for people with disabilities, the financial compensation in Bosnia and Herzegovina ranges from 41 to 1,800 BAM per month, depending on the type of disability and place of residence. Furthermore, there continue to be extended delays in payments for those who have entitlements. Serious concerns are also expressed about the method of assessing levels of disability, with the committee for determining the degree of disability, as part of an ongoing review process, 42 systematically downgrading the level of disability to below the entitlement level. With regard to employment, both political entities are taking steps to increase the number of employees with disabilities by providing incentives to employers or by introducing the obligation of progressive employment of this category of people. Progress, however, is slow. The Law on Vocational Rehabilitation, Training and Employment of Persons with Disabilities was adopted after several years of delay in March 2009 by the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the associated Fund for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities was established in mid-2011. The law requires that one in 19 employees must be a person with a disability, with a rising ratio over the coming years. In Republika Srpska, the fund has been established

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40 Comments from Initiative and Civil Action (ICV on the 1st National Report on the Implementation of the Revised European Social Charter by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Council of Europe, page 35. See http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/reporting/statereports/BosniaHerzegovina1add_en.pdf. 41 The report is produced by the Network of organizations of persons with disabilities Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the context of the project implemented by the Agency for Cooperation, Education and Development — Aced — in partnership with the Coordination Committee of PwD organizations of RS KOOIRS, March 2012. 42 This was claimed by a number of NGOs interviewed.

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based on a 2004 law (amended in 2006) and is being administered. The fund provides money for selfemployment or incentives for employers to hire persons with disabilities. However, in neither entity have the practical procedures been put in place that would significantly improve the situation of those with disabilities. The absence of statistical and other information on the extent, nature and characteristics of those with disabilities is also a major obstacle to those seeking to improve the situation for those with disability. There is no central registry of people with disabilities, and the last overall census was undertaken in 1991. Although there has been some legislative success at state level, examples of practical progress for people with disabilities come from working from the ground up. For instance, in the Canton of Sarajevo, a formal coalition of NGOs has been formed that currently comprises ten of the major organizations working in the area of disability. With external support from SHIA (Swedish Organisations’ of Disabled Persons International Aid Association), the coalition is working closely with the Canton government to jointly develop for the first time in the Federation entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina a Strategy for the Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities, in line with the Federation’s strategy. This will enable the implementation of an agreed annual programme from the Canton budget, beginning in 2013. Among the positive examples is the formation of a classroom for children with autism in the Mjedenica Centre for Children with Disabilities, applying for the first time in the SEE region the CABAS 43 methodology. This initiative, however, is project based and its continuation in 2013 is subject to the fundraising success of the NGO Edus. Progress can also come through the Courts. The Open Society Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through its vigorous Anti-Discrimination Programme, has successfully pursued two cases of discrimination against children with disabilities and their right to equal schooling. A third example of progress is the testing of a model of how to support independent living for people with intellectual disability. SUMERO (Union of Organizations Supporting People with Disability of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) has applied the UK NHS model of community-based living to provide a full set of supports in five apartments (four in Sarajevo and one in Mostar), with four to five people living in each. The challenge in all three cases, however, is to turn local success into national change within a fragmented system. In the case of the jointly developed Sarajevo Canton Strategy, SHIA is supporting two other cities in the Federation, Mostar and Tuzla, in a similar process; and the creation of coalitions in Doboj and Bijeljina in Republika Srpska. But the process is taking time.

43 The Comprehensive Application of Behaviour Analysis to Schooling (CABAS®) is a research-driven systemwide approach providing individualized programmes for children and young people with and without disabilities.

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Pursuing legal cases to vindicate rights can be an even more arduous task since judgements at one Canton do not have the force of legal precedent at Federation level so multiple additional cases have to be pursued. The wider implementation of the independent living model, tested and proven by SUMERO, depends on their successfully lobbying for a new law at the Federation level that would recognize its validity, and then its application at lower levels.

The UNCRPD Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the UNCRPD and its Optional Protocol in July 2009 and ratified it in March 2010, after a significant public campaign by people with disabilities across the spectrum. The focal point for the UNCRPD is the state-level Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, while the state-level Ministry of Civil Affairs has a coordinating role. A Council for Persons with Disabilities was formed under Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Council of Ministers to support monitoring and reporting of the UNCRPD and the coordination between and among the various political levels and NGOs. It comprises the following 20 members: •

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity: 5

Republika Srpska entity: 4

District Br~ko: 1

State Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees: 1

State Ministry for Civil Affairs: 1

NGOs: 10

The Council met a total of five times between late 2011 and September 2012. A benefit of the Council is that it offers a formal point of contact between NGOs involved with disability and the state level, something that was lacking up to now. The first UNCRPD monitoring report of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been completed in summer 2012.44The NGO representatives from both entities were included through four thematic groups of the Council for Persons with Disabilities, upon the completion of the first draft of the Report. They provided answers to Article 33 of the UNCRPD. Several NGOs have expressed the belief that current Laws at the different levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina are discriminatory, and directly contrary to many of the Articles of the UNCRPD. There is also a high degree of scepticism as to whether the political will exists to implement it with any degree of commitment.

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44 http://www.mhrr.gov.ba/Javni_poziv/INICIJALNI%20%20IZVJESTAJ%20BIH.pdf

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e-Government Services Although plans and strategies are in place at the state level and in both entities for the development of the Information Society, the level of e-Government services remains limited overall for reasons related to the political fragmentation outlined earlier. There is at present no policy that ensures that websites and services, as they emerge, are compliant with W3C standards and are generally e-Accessible. Currently, no assessment is being carried out in this regard with regard to existing services.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the process of harmonizing its telecommunications sector with EU requirements, including implementing the Telecoms Directive. However, so far this has not included, as components of universal service, any specific entitlement for people with disabilities in relation to telephone or Internet tariffs, or in relation to accessing assistive technologies at home with fixed line or mobile sets, or in public phones and other public places. The public service broadcaster does provide signing and subtitles for one news bulletin every day.

Good Practices and Resources A number of initiatives have been taken by NGOs to improve the situation of people with disabilities using ICTs. Infoservice.ba, supported through UNDP’s Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project, is a web-based service covering several countries in the Balkan region (BiH, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro), offering news articles for blind and visually impaired people concerning community and world news as well as the issues relating to disability. The service was conceived by an individual, Amir Mujezin, himself visually impaired as a personal attempt to forward the goals of the UNCRPD. The service has posted over 5,000 articles and gained over 100,000 hits. After securing copyright agreements, the service is sent a précis of articles for use free of charge by major national media outlets. Its founder acts as editor and uploads about 30 to 40 articles a day relevant to people with disabilities. Users can download an open source screen reader free of charge or use their own to listen to the articles. There is no advertising and it is entirely run by Amir’s voluntary efforts. Plans to employ a group of people with disabilities to write and edit further stories are in place, but funding has not yet been secured. To assist in realising this idea, UNDP has supported it by providing the set of online tutorials for the blind people on how to author and edit articles, as well as technical assistance and the hosting of the web portal. It offers a good example of how ICTs, with limited funding, can improve the lives of a significant number of people in the region. 61

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Croatia Background and Programmes In January 2011, a total of 531,506 people were officially registered as having disabilities, 60 45 percent male and 40 percent females, about 12 percent of the total population. In June 2007 Croatia adopted a National Strategy for Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 2007-2015. Implementation is coordinated by the Ministry of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity and the Committee for Persons with Disabilities, a governmental advisory body. Croatia also has an Ombudsman for Persons with Disabilities established by Law. The ombudsperson assumed her duties in July 2008. It is an independent body, the main task of which is the monitoring, promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, reporting annually to the Croatian Parliament. The relevant legal instruments relating to employment of people with disabilities are the Law on Mediation in Employment and Entitlements during Unemployment (2008, 2009, 2010) and the Rulebook on Active Job Search and Availability for Work (2009). The quota system for employing people with disabilities has been revised as follows: by the end of 2012 employers must have one person with a disability for every 24 employees; by 2016, one for every 19; and by 2016, one for every 16. Those failing to achieve this are obliged to make a Special Incentive Contribution into the Fund for Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities, established in 2003. The contribution is set at 0.2 percent of the wage bill of public employers, and at 0.1 percent of private employers.

The UNCRPD Croatia signed the UNCRPD in March 2007, and ratified it, including the Optional Protocol, in August 2007. 46

According to the first Monitoring Report, delivered to the United Nations in October 2011, the coordinating role is jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity and the Committee for Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has 24 members: 11 are representatives of state bodies, 11 representatives of national unions of persons with disabilities and two representatives of scientific institutions. Of these, six are persons with disabilities. The umbrella groups for people with disabilities, the Union of Associations of Persons with Disability in Croatia, (SOIH) is also a member. 62

45 Initial reports submitted by States parties under article 35 of the UNCRPD: Croatia. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 27th October 2011. See www2.ohchr.org/SPdocs/CRPD/futuresession/CRPD.C.HRV.1_en.doc. 46 Ibid p. 58.

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This first report makes little reference to aspects of the UNCRPD that relate to e-Accessibility.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media Although one mobile and one fixed line operator do provide a tariff discount for people with disability, it is not obligatory. Assistive technologies are not subsidized for telephony or ICTs. However, the EU’s Universal Service Directive is being transposed into law, and this is likely to make a difference in the future. Three news broadcasts a day are subtitled in Croatia, also with an interpreter/translator of Croatian sign language. The Teletext service also provides some information and news.

e-Accessibility and e-Government Services It is accepted officially that few people with disabilities have the skills required to access and use e-Government services effectively, and that “e-services are specially useful as they enable 47 performing a range of tasks over the Internet from their homes.” 48

Some progress has been made on this front. e-Croatia, the government programme responsible for promoting the Information Society and for the development of the e-Government Portal, choose the theme of people with disabilities for 2010, and supported activities in the area including the upgrading of their portal in terms of e-Accessibility and the W3C guidelines. However, there is no major initiative to promote e-Accessibility among ministry websites and e-Services. In 2011, e-Croatia focused on older people, offering a one-month training programme (two classes a week) in basic computer and Internet use, with volunteer trainers. Their target of training 200 people was far exceeded, so they are hoping to replicate the course in the future.

Good Practices and Resources A number of NGOs and others involved in third level education, some working closely with each other, are providing support for people with disabilities to gain access to and achieve success in third level education. The NGO Zamisli (IMAGINE), the Association for the Promotion of Quality Education for Young People with Disabilities, established a youth centre with a special focus on those with disabilities, providing information and support on higher education. Currently they have funding for three years, beginning in mid-2010, from the Ministry for Health and Social Security to offer a range of concrete assistance actions including: •

a captioning service, for deaf students, in which a typist sits beside the student in class and types out what is being said so that the student can read it simultaneously. Three typists are on call for this;

digitization of books for text-to-voice readers.

47 Ibid. page 30. 48 See http://www.e-hrvatska.hr.

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A particularly successful activity was recently the subject of a television programme in which, beginning in 2010, a talented tetraplegic student is supported to study entirely from home. A personal assistant connects the student to lectures via Skype, mobile phone and SMS, attending all classes and relaying the content by video and audio. The student can put questions directly to the lecturer. If problems arise with communication, the lecture is video recorded for playback by the student later. The Ministry covers the wage of the personal assistant for half-time, as well as communication and technology costs. The centre currently has 43 people using their services. A selection and tailored support process is in place. Each year they issue a Call for Users. Initially, candidates indicate their needs by email. They are then interviewed to assess their specific needs and to enable the design of personalized solutions. So far they have managed to support every student who has come forward for assistance. Another NGO, SUMSI, the Croatian Union of Organisations for Youth and Students with Disability, is active in the area of arts and culture. Their Project “I Hear, I See” enables young people with disabilities to go to and enjoy the theatre. CARNet is a government institution that supplies network infrastructure and support for its use in higher education, and it too has e-Accessibility activities. It ran a web accessibility conference in 2009, including in it an innovative competition on e-Accessibility. Since the conference, CARNet has added an e-Accessible module to its six week e-Learning Programme, as well as screen readers to enable blind people to access the lessons. CARNet activities relating to the promotion of web accessibility and the development of accessible online content and activities take place on several levels: 1. raising awareness of CARNet users, as well as the broader community, on the need to ensure accessible educational content and activities; 2. adapting the existing, and developing new, educational content and other services provided by CARNet in accordance with accessibility standards; 3. educating users on the standards and ways of developing accessible online educational content and activities in accordance with universal design principles, and raising awareness on the need to ensure proper support for their use. An overview of these CARNet activities is provided below: 1. As a part of raising the awareness of its users, as well as the broader community, on the need to create accessible educational content and activities, CARNet organized several events on the topic. It also established cooperation with experts and organizations on questions of web accessibility and the development of web accessibility standards. 64

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CUC 2009 •

As part of the CARNet User Conference, CUC 2009, keynote Mr Robin Cristopherson 49 (from) delivered a speech entitled ‘Internet for all – now and in the future’, outlining the key elements of accessible web design and demonstrating concrete examples of accessible websites.

Another CUC 2009 event comprised a round table entitled ‘Web accessibility – Let’s remove information barriers’50 which included the representatives of NGOs, associations for people with disabilities, educational and public institutions.

Webfestival 2009 •

In 2009, a web competition held back-to-back with the CUC conference dealt with the topic of web accessibility. Authors could register their web pages for the competition and win awards for the most accessible web pages. One of the goals of the competition was to stimulate authors of web content to develop accessible web pages and Internet content.

The website of Webfestival 2009 was used to inform users about web accessibility, characteristics of accessible web pages and to provide useful resources related to the topic of web accessibility. As a part of the festival and in cooperation with a nonprofit 52 organization ZaMirNet, a one-day symposium was held under the title ‘Web for all!’ The topics included online education of people with disabilities, assistive technologies used by the blind and sight disabled as well as motor-disabled persons, principles of developing accessible websites, the legal framework needed and examples of web accessibility projects. The speakers included a representative of W3C, Mr Shadi Abou-Zahra; the Ombudsman for People with Disabilities, Ms Anka Slonj{ak; web design experts, members of the Faculty of Organisation and Informatics, ZaMirNet, as well as disabled web users themselves.

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Public debate on the possibilities of online education for people with disabilities •

CARNet participated in a public debate organized by the Croatian-American Society and the Ombudsperson for People with Disabilities held on 19 May 2011, during which the potential of online education for people with disabilities was discussed. CARNet presented the possibilities offered by e-learning in general as well as for people with disabilities.

2. CARNet is working on adapting its existing services in accordance with accessibility standards, and when developing new services for its users it strives to apply the proscribed standards, so that the content and services it offers are accessible to all user groups. •

Most of the CARNet public website has been adapted to comply with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Adaptation is still in progress.

49 Video recording of the speech is available at http://mod.carnet.hr/index.php?q=watch&id=838. 50 Video recording of the round table is available at http://mod.carnet.hr/index.php?q=watch&id=839. 51 See http://webfestival.carnet.hr/2009/web_pristupacnost. 52 Video recordings from the symposium are available on the CARNet Media on-demand portal: http://mod.carnet.hr/index.php?q=search&query=webfestival+2009&page=10.

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CARNet CMS for schools: a web maintenance system developed as one of the services it offers to schools has also been partly adapted to accessibility standards. A brochure was issued on the development of good quality and interesting school websites, a part of which deals with web and online content accessibility.

CARNet provides its users with support for the use of Moodle, which has a module that enables the adjustment of accessibility features.

3. As a part of its educational activities CARNet conducts education of users on the standards and principles of developing accessible online educational content and activities, in accordance with universal design principles. •

As a part of the online course ‘Development of online courses with Moodle, the participants learn how to create accessible educational content within universally designed online courses.

Within the CARNet e-Learning Academy a special unit is dedicated to accessibility of online educational materials, in which the participants learn about the universal design of instruction, assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.

The SRCE (University of Zagreb Computing Centre) also provides support to people with disabilities. There are about 200 students with disabilities among the 60,000 in the university. The SRCE assist faculty to provide support for them, for instance through the provision of screen readers, Braille readers, and other assistive technologies to which all students are entitled. Finally, also of note is the development of a system for paraplegics to control all tools and utilities in their homes, using 53 ICT-based voice control in the Croatian language, developed by a professor in the University of Rijeka.

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53 See: http://www.eglas.hr/taxonomy/term/3 and http://www.riteh.uniri.hr/~mvrankic/.

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Kosovo Background institutions and Programmes There are no reliable statistics for the number and circumstances of people with disabilities among Kosovo’s population of 1.8 Million, but one estimate puts it at 150,000 or around 8 percent of the population. As is often the case, the definition and accurate identification of people with disabilities remain problematic.There is a National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities in Kosovo, approved 54 in May 2009, which draws on a wider Strategy and Action Plan for Human Rights 2009-2011. The document identifies the low integration rate of persons with disabilities, said to represent 10 percent of citizens living in Kosovo, especially in education, employment, public transport and general public services, as a key challenge. A commission is in place to monitor the plan that includes NGOs, but it has not been particularly active. A draft law for blind and partially sighted persons is also going through the process of approval in the Kosovo Assembly. The Law on Vocational Ability, Rehabilitation and Employment of People with Disabilities stipulated that all administrative bodies, private and public employers and NGOs are required to hire a minimum of one person with a disability for every 50 workers, and to ensure adequate working conditions for their employees with disabilities. Employers not in compliance are required to pay a monthly contribution, which goes to the budget of Kosovo and is used to implement projects for people with disabilities. Fines ranging from 500 to 2,000 can be imposed. However, there is concern among NGOs that it is not being adhered to even by public employers, and claims that employers are refusing to pay with impunity. There is serious concern overall that the Strategy and Action Plan for Human Rights, which in principle is supported by civil society organizations, is not being implemented and that there is an 55 unwillingness to devote funding towards it. Nevertheless, awareness concerning disability is rising, and acceptance among the community is growing.

The UNCRPD Kosovo, because of its international political status, cannot ratify UN Conventions. However, the UNCRPD is being studied carefully and efforts are underway to align activities and upcoming laws for people with disabilities in Kosovo with the UNCRPD.

ICT Training and Other Initiatives There have, over the years, been a number of project-based initiatives to provide training and 54 National Disability Action Plan for the Republic of Kosovo 2009-2011 (pp. 43 –118). Available at http://www.cooperazioneallosviluppo.esteri.it/pdgcs/italiano/iniziative/pdf/DISABILITY_PLAN_KOSOVO_REPORT.pdf. 55 A Legal Handbook Vulnerable and Marginalised Groups in Kosovo, ECMI Kosovo, p. 17. Available at http://www.kosovo-legalaid.com/tmp/images/stories/ECMI_Kosovo_-_Legal_Handbook_-_En.pdf

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employment placements to people with disabilities. A few of these have introduced ICT skills, but they have closed when funding ran out.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media No obligatory concessions are available to people with disabilities for reduced tariffs or assistive technologies. State television has one signed news bulletin a day. However a new Communications Law, expected to pass soon, does contain the following article among the mandatory provisions of universal service (Article 28): “ensuring conditions for equivalent access to and use of telephone service available to the disabled end-user, including access to emergency services and information in telephone directory for all users in the Republic of Kosovo.” It also obliges all operators to (Article 65) “regularly inform disabled subscribers of details of products and service designed for them.” The National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities proposed the provision of an accessible multimedia workstation in each municipality to facilitate access to information and communication, each including a computer with a set of assistive technologies. This project is being funded by the Ministry of Local Governmental Administration and its implementation is ongoing. The Action Plan also contains a couple of specific commitments concerning e-Accessibility:

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Adopting W3C web accessibility standards, including in public tenders and contracts, for all new websites of central and local Government and of public entities;

Developing screen reader software in the languages of Kosovo, for text to voice access for persons with visual impairments. A screen reader programme for blind persons is already available in the Bosnian language and can be used free of charge by Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian minority.

e-Government Services Each institution and ministry designs its own website, all of which are hosted by the Department of e-Governance and Administrative Processes in the Ministry of Public Administration. They are encouraged to be W3C compliant, and many employ reputable ICT companies that would normally follow the guidelines. Furthermore, the commitment to W3C web accessibility standards in public tenders and contracts and for all new public websites under the National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities is likely to be incorporated into new legislation, encompassing the possibility of prosecution for failing to comply. 68

56 National Disability Action Plan, Activities 5.4-5, 7, pp. 100-101.

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Good Practices and Resources A number of examples of good practice are found in Kosovo. • •

The University of Pristina has recently opened a computer laboratory with full adaptive technologies for students with disabilities. The ECDL Kosovo foundation ran a successful European Computer Drivers License training programme with HandiKOS for 22 people with disabilities. All completed within the normal time period, and almost all have since gained employment. Since 2009, 300 blind people have received a three-month training course in ICT usage. The training was provided in 12 municipalities, on the premises of the Association of Blind and Visually Impaired. In 2011, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired was equipped with assistive technologies for the blind (Braille Display) and with an informatics cabinet equipped with information technology customized for blind people (Braille Display and two gobble cameras) donated by the Czech Development Agency. There is also an informatics cabinet equipped with Braille Display, screen reader programmes and a Braille printer in a resource centre in Peja. So far, 33 blind people have been trained to use these assistive devices. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare also provided an IT cabinet in the centre to train teachers in screen reader programmes. So far, seven teachers have completed the training and a further eight are currently enrolled.

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Macedonia Background Institutions and Programmes Macedonia adopted in 2010 a National Strategy on Equality of Rights of People with Disabilities 2010-2018, and an Action Plan has since been approved. It falls under the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. There is criticism, however, regarding the pace of progress. The European Commission 57 Progress Report 2010 for instance noted Overall, the absence of a resolute and coordinated approach continues to limit the effectiveness of the rights of people with disabilities, such as their access to health and special care and their social integration. Preparations in this area are at an early stage. This is reinforced in the 2011 Progress Report produced in October: “Implementation of the 58 national strategy on equality of rights of people with disabilities 2010-2018 has not progressed.”

The UNCRPD Macedonia is the most recent of the countries in the region to ratify the UNCRPD. Signed in July 2007, it was ratified by parliament in December 2011. The Optional Protocol was signed in July 2009, and has not yet been ratified. The focal point has not yet been identified. The NGO Open the Windows, in cooperation with the Centre for Society Orientation from Serbia, has already published an easy-to-read version of the 59 UNCRPD in Macedonian.

ICT Training and Other Initiatives The National Strategy for e-Inclusion 2011–2014 (under the Ministry of Information Society and Administration) is pursuing several developments in this area. The Strategy has been approved and budgets are in place. In compliance with the strategy, Macedonia already has 22 public cybercafés spread throughout the country that offer free Internet access to the public. Under the Strategy, each of these centres will be provided with Assistive Technology packages that include a Braille keyboard, joysticks, screen readers and other components. These will be attached to a dedicated computer, set aside for the priority use of more marginalized groups including people with disabilities and older people. (Older people will have exclusive use at certain times.) Printers are also available. The cybercafés are also being upgraded to provide a better learning environment and tools. In all, the plan is to disseminate 100 Assistive Technology packages, the remaining 82 to selected schools. 70

57 See: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2010/package/mk_rapport_2010_en.pdf p. 53. 58 See http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2011/package/mk_rapport_2011_en.pdf p. 54. 59 You can see the English Language version at http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wor/uncon/un-agree.pdf

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In a separate development, Open the Windows, under the USAID-funded Equal Access for Equal Opportunities project, provided assistive peripheral devices and educational software and delivered training in assistive technology use to 21 mainstream primary schools in the country. The schools received a set of 10 of the most commonly used assistive peripheral computer devices: bigbutton keyboard, joystick, trackball and switches; along with software including the G-Compris educational software suitable for use in the lower primary school classes. Training, delivered at the schools, covered more than 400 participants, 300 of whom were teachers and the others in a range of relevant local occupations.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media There currently exist no special arrangements for people with disabilities to support affordable access to ICTs, in terms for instance of tariff concessions or subsidized assistive technologies. However, a universal service provider was designated during 2011, and this may improve the situation in the future.

e-Government Services Though not entirely compliant, all e-Government services in Macedonia are aware of the W3C requirements and most implement them to differing degrees. The e-Inclusion Strategy is taking steps to improve this, and several other aspects of e-Accessibility, including the following: •

The production of a localized Guide for WCAG 2.0, including promotion in the public and private sector. Furthermore, under a new Law on Electronic Services expected to be enacted during 2012, all e-Government services will be required to comply, and those failing can be fined. The approach is to provide support to ministries and institutions to become compliant with the legal sanctions only as a last resort.

A company has been contracted to produce a Speech Synthesis database in the Macedonian language that will enable screen readers and other assistive technologies.

As noted above, a dedicated computer with assistive technologies will be available at all 22 public cybercafés.

The cybercafés are being converted into learning or training spaces, with staff equipped and trained as ‘animators’ to provide ICT skills to those currently with limited capacity and advice on e-Government services.

‘ICT for Change’ is a programme for unemployed people offering training courses in ECDL, to be launched during 2013 and delivered by the private sector and universities.

60 See http://portal.openthewindows.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=97&Itemid=43.

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More generally, the e-Government portal has a total of 34 active institutions and bodies, and is being further upgraded and expanded constantly.

Good Practices and Resources The e-Inclusion Strategy had strong input from NGOs in Macedonia, including Metamorphosis 61 and Open the Windows. Both have been very active in ICT and inclusion for many years, the latter especially on the issue of disability. They have built up considerable experience and credibility, and collaborate well with official bodies involved in promoting the Information Society and e-Inclusion. The evolution of the public cybercafés from more or less passive centres to active and inclusive learning clubs has several components. Open the Windows is currently undertaking research to establish a baseline among the 22 public cybercafés (and other open Internet access centres) in terms not simply of the physical and technical features but also the skills and capabilities of the staff. Using a questionnaire with 30 to 40 questions to conduct surveys in both public and private cybercafés, they ask about physical access and assistive technologies, and also about the soft skills available to work with young people, older people, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. The goal is to generate a ‘profile of an e-Inclusive cybercafé employees’ and then to produce guidelines on what is required. This links well with the e-Inclusion Strategy’s plan to upgrade the cybercafés into ‘eAccessible clubs’, where ICT learning is available, and support is provided to access and use e-Government services. Open the Windows also supports an Accessible IT Portal with news and resources.

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61 See www.metamorphosis.org.mk and http://www.openthewindows.org/.

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Moldova Background institutions and Programmes The situation for the estimated 176,000 people with disabilities in Moldova in 2010 is very challenging. They often face discrimination, social exclusion, poverty, unemployment and limited access to public services. Indeed they may be considered as “the most vulnerable social group in 62 terms of social exclusion.” Report on the analysis of the situation regarding the rights of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Moldova Centre for Legal Assistance for Persons with Disabilities. Available at . For instance, in terms of employment, in year 2010, 535 people with disabilities had registered with employment agencies and less than 15 percent were hired. At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that progress has been made in the last 20 years. The legal and strategic framework is currently undergoing a major redesign, the responsibility of the Division on Disability within the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family. The earlier law of 1991 had in large part been left unimplemented, and the new law is also intended to strengthen enforcement. A Strategy for Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities covering 2010 to 2013 has also been approved, but the implementation mechanisms are lacking. A major focus is to deinstitutionalize care and education for people with disabilities, especially young people. As under the old law, all companies employing 20 people and above must ensure that at least 5 percent are people with disabilities. The new law allows for fines for those not complying. The destination of the resources gathered by fines, however, is still being discussed, with NGOs favouring a fund that would devote the resources gathered to creating employment, while certain sections of the government favour the money going into the general exchequer. There are also concerns around the proposed classification of people with disabilities. In order to gain access to vocational training, they must be able to show they are capable of work. But if they do, they may jeopardize their state disability payment. These and other issues are in the process of being worked out.

The UNCRPD The Republic of Moldova signed the UNCRPD in March 2007 and ratified it in September 2009. The Optional Protocol has not been signed. It is overseen by a Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which includes a large 62 Report on the analysis of the situation regarding the rights of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Moldova Centre for Legal Assistance for Persons with Disabilities. Available at http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/session12/MD/CLAPD-CenterLegalAssistancePersonsDisabilities-eng.pdf.

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number of representatives from civil society as well as the relevant ministries. However, so far, little progress is evident on the ground, the lack of finance being a major issue. NGOs had lobbied strenuously for the Government to ratify the UNCRPD.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media There are some small concessions from the fixed line and mobile operators for people with disabilities, in terms of a limited number of adapted mobile phones, and some free fixed line minutes. But there are no mandatory entitlements.

e-Government Services An e-Government Centre was established in August 2010 with ambitious plans to develop eServices, funded by a five-year $20 million loan from the World Bank. It has three main areas of intervention: a. digitizing public services, with a target of completing the majority of them, and delivering at least 50 percent of services over them, by 2020; b. a unified common government infrastructure, including an ‘M-Cloud’, shared services, a payment gateway, and a government portal that will integrate the existing nine e-Services already available; c. capacity-building, and a legal framework, including, the training of‘e-Transformation Coordinator Officers and IT managers in all ministries. About $8 million will be spent on digitizing services and these will be aligned with the EU digital agenda, which will ensure compliance with W3C e-Accessibility standards. The ‘e-Transformation Coordinator Officers’ will be formed into a council to facilitate full coordination and good communications, which might serve as a useful vehicle for developing e-Accessibility across the system. The current draft IT strategy, Digital Moldova – 2020, under the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, includes a special chapter on e-Accessibility. It comprises one of three pillars aiming to build capacities and encourage inclusion. The first draft of the document is expected to be presented for public debate in September 2012. The state organization Registru is responsible for three of the key national registers, on population, legal entities and geographical indicators, and also hosts departmental registers such as those for drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration. As yet, and awaiting the finalization of a secure eSignature system, they do not make these services available to the public. However, they have not been designed following W3C guidelines and no e-Accessibility evaluations have been undertaken. 74

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Good Practices and Resources There are three main organizations working on behalf of people with disabilities in Moldova; the Association of Invalids, the Association of Blind Persons and the Association of Deaf Persons.

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Montenegro Background and Programmes The situation for people with disabilities in Montenegro is challenging. Although recent evidence is hard to come by, in 2003 the Poverty Reduction Strategy estimated that close to 60 percent 63 of people with disabilities lived at or below the poverty line. There are few employment opportunities and the probability of finding employment is low. In the context of EU negotiations, the Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule informed the government: 64 “We are very concerned about the status of the disabled in Montenegro.” However, there are some policies in place and strategic activity around them. A Strategy for Inclusion of the Persons with Disabilities in Montenegro covering 2008 to 2016 was approved in 2008. It covers policy measures in the thematic areas of health care, social welfare, education, vocational training and employment, accessibility, culture, sports and recreation, as well as on representative associations. This was followed by successive Action Plans to implement the Strategy for 2008 to 2009 and for 2010 to 2011. An Advisory Committee that includes ministries, four national NGOs, trade unions and employers was established, and progress on the Strategy is reported to the government annually. In March 2008 a Law on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of the Persons with Disabilities was passed, aimed at improving the rehabilitation and employment opportunities of people with disabilities; as well as a law on accessibility for disabled persons in business premises. The first of these laws introduced affirmative action (Article 9) into the legal framework for the first time in support of stronger social inclusion for people with disabilities. Article 107 of the same law specifies additional protection for people with disabilities, and mandates an employer’s obligation to provide 65 them with a work environment that suits their abilities and educational levels. However, implementation of all of these remains problematic. The Law on Vocational Rehabilitation does allow for a Fund for the Rehabilitation and Employment of People with Disabilities, established under the National Employment Agency. Private employers are obliged to employ people with disabilities under a quota system. Employers with between 30 and 50 employees must employ one person with a disability; and above 50 staff the figure is 5 percent of employees. Those failing to comply must submit 5 percent of their total salary bill into the fund. The fund then subsidizes companies employing people with disabilities, on a sliding scale over time depending on the level of disability, beginning at 50 percent disability. For instance, those with 80 percent disability are subsidized to 80 percent of their wage in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 50 percent in the third, and not at all thereafter. The fund also pays for training programmes, 76

63 See National Human Development Report 2009, Montenegro: Society for All., UNDP, p. 54. http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Montenegro/Montenegro_NHDR_2009_EN.pdf. 64 Quoted in http://enil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/OTVORENO-PISMO-finalno_en.pdf. 65 Ibid p. 54.

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awarded to private service providers who must be approved by the committee. So far only a few companies have gained such approval and the contracts awarded are limited to them. But there are problems. Several NGOs expressed their disagreement with the application of the criteria of disability. It is common for people with a significant disability to retain a full ability to work — for instance, paraplegics can have a full ability to work in jobs requiring mental capacity only. No subsidy is available in such cases since the criterion relates to the extent to which a disability inhibits the ability to carry out the job. Furthermore, most companies chose simply to pay into the fund — but not all the fund is spent on people with disabilities. Whatever is left unspent must be returned to the general exchequer. For instance, by mid-2011 about 3.5 million had been submitted to the fund and about 600,000 spent. If it remains unspent by the end of the period, it reverts to the general budget. NGOs have attempted to address this through the submission of various proposals, but it would require a change in the law, which is not currently envisaged.

The UNCRPD Montenegro signed the UNCRPD in September 2007, including its Optional Protocol, and ratified it in November 2009. Five hundred copies were distributed in Braille and 100 copies with audio and sign language versions. Formally, the Focal Point required by the UNCRPD had not been designated as of July 2012. The UNCRPD is overseen by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, which also coordinates the Strategy on Disability. An intergovernmental group has been established, which will receive submissions on the UNCRPD’s implementation with the intention of reporting on progress to the UNCRPD Secretariat. It is envisaged that the report will be drafted with expert support of UN agencies in the upcoming period. NGOs are producing a submission but, contrary to a requirement in the UNCRPD, have no direct participation in the production of the report. A Council for the Care of Persons with Disability has also been established recently, which could act in the future as a coordinating body for the UNCRPD.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media In terms of providing affordable access to telephony and Internet, as well as to assistive technologies, Montenegro has made limited progress. Telecom operators do offer a discount for fixed, mobile and Internet access (18 percent in the case of one company) but this is at the discretion of the providers. Some offers are also available only for an initial period, after which they revert to the full tariff. 77

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No support is available for assistive technologies for the use of ICTs including domestic telephony or public phones, and screen readers for instance receive no subsidy. However, legislation has now been passed relating to universal service that may make a difference as it includes minimum levels of universal service entitlements and specific support for people with disabilities. As of July 2012, there is ongoing public discussion on amending the Rulebook on Tariffs and universal service packages for low-income users. The Rulebook, in the context of its universal service provision, is proposing a price reduction for persons with disabilities and persons with low incomes of 20 percent. A number of issues limit the availability of subtitling and signing in television, which comprises subtitling and signing of one news summary a day. A private channel had been providing a more extensive service, but it had relied on external funding which has since ended. Official approval of several new graphemes for signing in Montenegrin is cited as a factor in inhibiting more widespread use of signing.

ICT Training and Other Initiatives The level of ICT literacy is low, and few training opportunities are tailored to the needs of people with disabilities. The Ministry of Information Society and Telecommunications (MIST) recently organized a training seminar for people with disabilities which was over-subscribed, indicating a high level of potential demand. They also ran a number of ECDL courses, one of which, run in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Sport, was dedicated to people with disabilities. An earlier initiative by the Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro (AYDM) to provide ECDL training for young people with disabilities ceased in 2009 when funding ended. AYDM believes that such programmes are especially important as they bring people with disabilities out of the home, to which they are often confined, and foster social integration — an argument also for longer term training.

e-Accessibility and e-Government Services Currently the e-Government portal is accessible in some dimensions, both the Cyrillic and Latin version, particularly for visual accessibility. They are adapted for screen readers. A new stage of development for the portal is just beginning and the budget is available. Under this, the plan is to have the portal fully e-Accessible and compliant with W3C guidelines, though there are no plans in MIST to become active in ensuring that other websites are compliant.

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Good Practices and Resources AYDM is developing, with technical and design support from MIST, a website intended as a portal for people with disabilities. It will include a ‘life situation’ section, and employment, training and other opportunities. There will be the option for association for people with disabilities to create their own website, with their own design and content, within this the overall framework. It will be fully accessible. With the exception of MIST support, it will be run on a voluntary basis. The Association of Paraplegics of Montenegro (APM) has 13 local offices and about 2,000 members, mainly with physical disabilities. AYDM is also a national NGO, with about 100 members.

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Romania Background and Programmes The National Authority for People with Disabilities (NAPD), under the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection, estimated that in March 2011 there were over 690,000 people with disabilities in Romania, comprising about 3.2 percent of the population. While acknowledging that this appears low, in part because there is no international standard, they anticipate that the UNCRPD will over time assist in establishing a common definition. A National Strategy on the Social Protection, Integration and Inclusion of People with 66 Disabilities was approved in 2005 covering the period 2006 to 2013. 67

The 2006 Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Disabled Persons, which came into force in 2008, covers a range of key areas from access to work, adaptation of the workplace, education, accessibility more generally and aspects of e-Accessibility. The NAPD estimates that about one in eight of people with disabilities are currently in employment, a figure that has risen in recent years, and attributes the rise to new opportunities offered by the 2006 law. This obliges all employers of over 50 people to draw 4 percent of their workforce from people with disabilities, and failing that to pay into a fund 50 percent of the average wage for each position not filled. The fund is located within the general state budget. People with disabilities also do not pay tax, and can, depending on their level of disability, retain their Disability Benefit while working. Those seeking employment go to their County Employment Agencies (there are 41 in total, and one in Bucharest) half of which also offer employment counselling specifically for people with disabilities. The National Authority is also running a publicity and information campaign around employment issues and opportunities.

The UNCRPD Romania signed the UNCRPD in September 2007, and ratified it at the end of January 2011. The Optional Protocol was signed a year later. The goal is to implement it fully within three to four years. The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection serves as the Focal Point, and the coordination mechanism is currently under discussion. The Monitoring Framework has not yet been established, but it is likely that the National Council for People with Disabilities will be representing 80

66 See http://www.anph.ro/eng/news.php?ida=11. 67 Available in English at http://www.anph.ro/eng/news.php?ida=5.

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NGOs. At present, the National Authority is encouraging the three main NGOs, the Association of Blind People, the Association of Deaf People, and the National Association for People with Disabilities, to integrate with the National Council. The first Monitoring Report is scheduled for the end of 2012.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media In common with some other countries in the region, the EU Telecoms Framework is being transposed into law in Romania. Legislation is in parliament, and it includes tariff concessions for excluded groups.National television channels also carry subtitling and signing for some news bulletins.

ICT Training and Other Initiatives The Ministry of Communications and the Information Society (MISC) is implementing an ambitious programme entitled Knowledge Based Economy (KEP) to promote the Information Society in Romania. It funds a total of 255 centres in libraries and schools in disadvantaged communities, each under a devolved structure of local partnerships between public authorities, NGOs and companies, intended to reinforce sustainability. It also offers grants for people to set up ICT enterprises. Although KEP currently does not have a specific component relating to people with disabilities, it is in dialogue with World Bank (who co-funds KEP) to develop a scheme to ensure e-Accessibility in the 255 centres. Building on several successful examples of assistive technology collaborations in schools with private sector suppliers (such as Microsoft and HP), two components are proposed: •

the provision of assistive technologies in the centres;

the full implementation of WCAG web e-accessibility in all centres.

e-Accessibility and e-Government Services There is a new Strategy for the Informatisation of Romania, containing an e-Accessibility component. The 2006 law created a legal framework for action in a number of areas including accessibility of public websites relating to those with visual impairments, and the use of pictograms, which are currently being standardized, in websites. In e-Government services, new developments include a provision to enable people to apply directly online for family benefits, and an Electronic Register of Social Services established to allow 81

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people to apply directly. The National Authority for People with Disabilities established a website, , covering all relevant laws, regulations and statistics, a range of relevant services and activities. It also contains a set of Guidelines for e-Accessibility websites, based on international standards, and developed by MCIS. Its use is not compulsory on public websites but there is a proposal for a Protocol between MCIS and the Ministry of Labour to give it legislative force and to make it mandatory.

Good Practices and Resources A couple of projects may have relevance elsewhere.

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The Equal Opportunities on the Labour Market project has led to the development of an instrument for vocational assessment of people with disabilities, and it has now piloted in three areas. It uses a variety of tests to assess when a job might be appropriate, and links these to employers. It is supported by EU Structural Funds, and takes advantage of international expertise.

The Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports has launched a programme, with a budget of about 5 million, to support the education of children with special needs, especially with intellectual disabilities. It includes the development and implementation of a curriculum that meets international standards for inclusive education, and trains children to acquire the skills needed to use ICT resources and the Internet.

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Serbia Background institutions and Programmes According to the European Social Watch Report 2010, 80 percent of people with disabilities in Serbia were unemployed in 2009, 70 percent of them living in poverty and barely surviving on social security benefits. The National Employment Agency recorded 22,758 unemployed people with 68 disabilities, and only 68 of them found a job. The Serbian Ombudsperson has warned that their position is worsening due to the high level of unemployment, poverty, discrimination, political 69 underrepresentation and the prevalence of violence, particularly against women. The legal framework in Serbia has improved in recent years with the adoption of the Law against Discrimination (2009), the Law against Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities (2006), and the Law on Professional Support and Employment of Persons with Disabilities (2009). Furthermore, the Law on Construction obliges investors and constructors to respect standards in relation to the accessibility of public, business and residential buildings. The Law on Tenders also requires that these 70 standards be respected. A Strategy for Improving the Position of Persons with Disabilities was launched in December 2006 covering the period 2007 to 2015, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The labour market for people with disabilities was restructured after the introduction in May 2009 of a new Institutional Framework for Employment, based on experience in Italy, the United Kingdom, Slovenia and elsewhere. It includes the creation of a Budget Fund for Professional Rehabilitation and Employment Promotion of Persons with Disabilities. This includes covering costs to enable private sector employers to comply with the new conditions, including non-discriminatory employment practices; the provision of professional rehabilitation for those recruited with disabilities; and the development of a plan by all companies with more than 20 employees to ensure that the workplace is friendly to those with disabilities. Employers have a choice in terms of how they contribute. First, they can employ people with disabilities, following a quota system based on employee numbers (none for under 0 staff; 1 for 20 to 50; 2 for 50 to 100; and 1 more for each additional 50 staff). Alternatively, they may choose to purchase goods from special companies with at least 50 percent of staff with disabilities, previously state-owned but recently privatized. Third, they can place money into the Budget Fund in lieu of the above, and if they decline all of these they can be fined a larger amount. The fund raised 21 million during 2011, and it also offers a wide range of grants including for people with disabilities to set up their own businesses. 68 See http://www.socialwatch.eu/wcm/Serbia.html. 69 Quoted in European Social Watch Report (2010) Serbia: Social Inclusion Needs Socially Responsible Governance, ibid, and referencing Mrsevic, Z. (2010) Experiences of the Ombudsperson in combating discrimination against persons with disabilities. This report is, according to ibid, to be found on www.ombudsman.rs . 70 http://www.socialwatch.eu/wcm/Serbia.html.

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A Centre for Employment of People with Disabilities has also been created as part of the National Employment Service. It is too early to fully assess the impact of the new system, though in the first phase the indications were positive in terms of the numbers employed. Many of these had already been employed, but not acknowledged as having a disability.

The UNCRPD The UNCRPD (including the Optional Protocol) was signed by Serbia on the 17th of December 2007 and ratified by the Parliament on the 31st of July 2009. The focal point for the UNCRPD was appointed in 2010 and is with the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, State Administration and Local Self-Government. The coordination mechanism for implementation, also required under the UNCRPD, was set up in several stages. Initially, the Ministry established a Working Group comprising about 20 ministries with the intention of adding a significant number of NGOs. However this was felt to be unworkable, and the Working Committee was scaled back to 12 to 14 in total. NGOs represented include the National Organisation for People with Disabilities and the Council for People with Disabilities which advises government. These receive the draft ministry reports for comment, and they in turn circulate them back to their members. The goal is for the full Working Group to approve the report regularly delivered to the United Nations (due every two years). The fact that it comprises both ministries and NGOs does, understandably, make the process more difficult as they disagree in many areas. But the outcome is, according to the focal point, worth the effort.

e-Accessibility in Telecommunications and Media In common with many countries in the region, Serbia is aligning its telecommunications policy with that of the European Union as laid down for instance in the Telecoms Directive. This includes the issue of accessibility for people with disability. There is still some way to go, however. The new Law on Electronic Communications was adopted in mid-2010. The associated Rulebook on Universal Service defines the level of mandatory universal service as well as special measures to ensure equality for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. It was decided that the universal service would be implemented by those operators providing services with a nationwide reach: Telekom Srbija, VIP Mobile, Telenor and Orion Telecom. Universal service will be provided at technologically neutral basis, thereby ensuring greater availability of services. Operators have reached an agreement, in cooperation with the Serbian Republic Agency for Electronic Communications (RATEL) to also cover remote and rural areas with low penetration of fixed telephony; 84

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the first report on the impact of this initiative will be available in the course of 2012. One problem is that awareness among the general public on the various possibilities of using the universal service is very low. Serbia is committed to making a set of defined services accessible and affordable through imposing universal service obligation on operators. Such services include fixed telephony and Internet (to an unspecified speed), and affordability is generally interpreted as a discount on monthly subscriptions and usage bills. In the past, some telecom operators have taken initiatives as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments or as marketing efforts, such as providing older people with larger, adapted phones, or an ‘alert service’ in the form of a pendant button. A register has been developed of households entitled to support, comprising those in which any individual receives one of a set of defined social programme supports targeted at poor and marginalized people. These include: •

low-income benefit recipients;

families with children below the poverty line;

people with disability;

families with adopted children.

In total, this covers about 300,000 households, of which perhaps 60,000 to 70,000 comprise households of people with disabilities. The four main operators are obliged to participate in the scheme, offering these households affordable access. The intention is that after a period, any operator deemed to be unfairly burdened with universal service obligations will receive a payment in compensation, though the details are not yet fully worked through. There also appears to be very limited awareness of the scheme among those who might be entitled to the benefits. While this covers access and affordability, there is no support available at present for people with disabilities in terms of assistive technologies for telephony or Internet use in their homes. There is a regulation to ensure the public phone boxes are made accessible, including lowering phone boxes, Braille keypads, and wired interfaces. In practice, some public phone boxes have been adjusted for people with disabilities, but many still are not. Due to the common EU trend of replacing booths with specialized mobile telephone devices for persons with disabilities, RATEL will decide whether to adopt this new trend or proceed with mass customization of the existing booths. Another area relevant to e-Accessibility is television, covered under EU legislation with the 71 Television Without Frontiers Directive, relating to such aspects as subtitles and signing. A media strategy for Serbia has been approved by the government, after consultations. 71 See http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/audiovisual_and_media/l24101_en.htm.

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The digitization of television began experimentally in March 2012, and the goal is to fully implement it by mid-2015. Digital TV will bring new opportunities for people with disabilities, such as the possibility of subtitling and selecting audio channels in different languages. Nevertheless, translating these technical possibilities into improved access will depend on a strong commitment from media content producers and broadcasters, and the availability of resources. Cooperation with the ITU was established during 2012, on drafting proposals for a regional project for supporting access to and use of digital television, including the establishment of national training centres, focusing on persons with visual impairments, and providing software and specialized equipment (assistive technologies).

e-Government Services There has been significant activity, going back several years, in the area of ensuring that eGovernment services are e-Accessible. The approach is gradual, offering encouragement alongside growing pressure to comply, and is part of the larger effort to improve e-Government services in general. In March 2008, the National Information Technology and Internet Agency (NITIA) prepared the Guidelines for Making Public Administration Websites V.2, building considerably on an earlier version. This document focuses on e-Accessibility of websites. This was approved by the Government in June 2008, and all public institutions were advised to, as much as possible, harmonize their websites and e-Services with this document. Then, in December 2010, NITIA prepared Version 3 of the same document, in cooperation with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Society, UNDP and Transparency Serbia, which was adopted by the Government on 23 December 2010. This focused especially on content and transparency for both information and online services, but W3C guidelines were built into all sections. Recommendations were put forward concerning e-Accessibility in each of a set of key components of web development: content, graphics, navigation, functionality and technology. As a part of v.3, criteria for assessing compliance with the guidelines were developed. The process of developing and implementing Version 3 was seen as critical to its success. A Working Group for assessing fulfilment of proposed criteria was established. NITIA continuously provided assistance to ministries seeking to implement the guidelines, within its capabilities and resources, and also provided suggestions of how the services might be improved. At the same time, government institutions were given a period of six months, till the end of June 2011, to adapt or rebuild their websites in compliance with the guidelines. Following a government reorganization in March 2011, NITIA was re-established as the Directorate for the Digital Agenda, charged with the task of evaluating the degree of compliance of website of each institution, 86

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and to report to the Government by October 2011, based on a set of transparent criteria made available to these institutions. A total of 115 public administration websites were assessed by a working group, between July and September 2011. Several sub-criteria were used to measure e-Accessibility including accessible navigation, W3C validation of the front page of the website and ‘clean’ URLs. The report, afterward adopted by the Government on 29 December 2011, concluded that most public administration websites have accessible navigation (85 percent) and a low percentage passes W3C validation (16 percent), and almost half have clean URLs (45 percent). At the beginning of 2012, the Directorate for the Digital Agenda prepared version 4 of Guidelines, considerably updated and redesigned. In this version e-Accessibility guidelines are presented in a separate chapter and proposed as one of key elements of web development. The Government decided to oblige all institutions to harmonize their websites with the proposed guidelines. New criteria were also developed, with e-Accessibility covered by three aspects: W3C validation, accessible navigation and scalability of the website. Evaluation of the degree of compliance of websites is planned for September-October 2012 (all the institutions were informed in March 2012 of the term of evaluation and new version of the guidelines and criteria). In the meantime, in addition to ongoing consulting services provided by the Directorate for Digital Agenda, there is training available to all civil servants, organized through the Government Human Resource Management Service. The training, using best practice examples, focuses on learning how to apply elements of the guidelines, including e-Accessibility, NITIA have been active in others areas of e-Accessibility of Government services. During 2009, NITIA built eight accessible websites for local governments (Majdanpek, Se~anj, Plandi{te, Nova Varo{, ]i}evac, Bajina Ba{ta, Trgovi{te, Priboj), some available in (official) minority languages. There is also a new ‘Life events’ section on the e-Gov Portal http://www.euprava.gov.rs for people with disabilities. Currently, there are seven services in this section of the portal, all on sophistication level 1 (i.e., providing information without the possibility for two-way communication with the government). However, the Directorate for the Digital Agenda is currently putting considerable effort into providing full electronic services for people with disabilities (exchange of documents between the institutions directly, without the participation of service users). Cooperation is established with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Pension and Disability Insurance Fund, Republic Fund of Health Insurance, the National Employment Service, the public enterprise ‘Roads of Serbia’, the local municipality of city of Belgrade (department for the protection of soldiers and invalids), the Government Team for Social Inclusion and various civil society organizations. Some of services currently in development phase are: •

free parking for disabled; 87

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certificate of the level of disability;

exemption of highway tolls;

exemption of import duties for vehicles for disabled people.

The National e-Government Portal is available in all official minority languages, as are the services provided by local self-governments where these minorities live. All services can be accessed in three different ways: through ‘life events’, name of the service and the service provider. The national portal will include text-to-speech conversion (for people with visual impairment) in its next upgrade, currently being developed. NITIA had also developed a proposal to establish a Centre for Assistive Technologies, where people with disabilities would be employed to assess and advise on technologies. Funding, however, is not yet available to pursue it.

Good Practices and Resources The examples of e-Government services above may be cited as an example of good practice. Although the process is ongoing, the largely non-mandatory (or at least non-enforceable) approach combined with incentives and supports in the form of guidelines and assistance appears to be paying off. The carrot and stick approach may be relevant to governments attempting similar e-Accessibility programmes in the region. A second area relates to NGOs and IT training and support. The International Aid Network (IAN), based in Belgrade but active in several countries in the region, ran a workshop on assistive 73 74 technologies in November 2011. This was part of a wider e-Inclusion project called Click to Europe. 72

IAN also runs a Telecentre focusing on disadvantaged groups. Over a ten-year period, it has trained over 5,000 people to an ECDL (European Computer Drivers License) standard. They have also 75 run special courses for deaf people using sign language interpretation, for people with cerebral palsy in an institution dedicated to their care, and for children with disability in a dedicated school. IAN is also a founder member of the Balkan Telecentre Network with centres in Serbia (Belgrade and Novi Sad), Croatia (Zagreb and Slavonski Brod), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Travnik and Prijedor) and Macedonia (Gostivar). 76

At their Novi Sad centre, IAN also runs a Resource Centre for Assistive Technology part of a Resource Centre for Persons with Disability in partnership with the Ecumenical Humanitarian 77 78 Organisation, and with Lifetool, an Austrian organization. The centre offers consultations to families on different assistive technologies and how to access them, many of whom have only limited awareness of the possibilities. However, they do not have the facilities to enable people to try out the technologies; and people with disabilities also pay high import duties to obtain them from abroad. 88

72 See http://www.ian.org.rs/english/index.htm. 73 See http://www.ian.org.rs/events/clicktoeurope/assistivetechnology.htm. 74 See http://www.ian.org.rs/events/clicktoeurope/index.htm. 75 See http://www.ian.org.rs/education/projectsandactivities/empowermentdeafpeople/index.htm. 76 See http://resursnicentar.ehons.org/en/assistive-technology/. 77 See http://ehons.org/enjoom/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=27. 78 See http://www.lifetool.at/.

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5. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5.1 Conclusion This report focuses primarily on e-Accessibility for people with disabilities. In reviewing the wider background for people with disabilities, a number of major challenges have been identified in relation to improving their general circumstances in the areas of physical accessibility, access to education from an early age, the adequacy of allowances and social supports, access to employment and so on. Agreements like the UNCRPD and Council of Europe Strategy, as well as the prospects (and reality) of EU accession, set a rigorous agenda to be pursued by governments, and lobbied and worked for by civil society for many years to come. Our focus on e-Accessibility is intended in no way to understate the daunting challenges involved in these wider areas. But enhanced e-Accessibility can improve the circumstances of people with disabilities in others areas, brings its own benefits, and — perhaps most important — can and should be achieved at very little additional cost if implemented during the ongoing course of developing and providing all citizens with e-Governance services. A compelling case can therefore be made that there is no excuse for governments not to invest the very small resources required to ensure that e-Governance services are fully e-Accessible for people with disabilities. The countries of South Eastern Europe are legally obliged from several directions to improve e-Accessibility, and indeed accessibility more generally for people with disabilities. The UNCRPD and European Union accession requirements put the onus on SEE countries to act. The ratification of UNCRPD and significant steps towards putting in place the structures needed to implement it are signs that most governments are aware of and willing to act on their obligations. 89

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Apart from these legal obligations, there are strong economic arguments to act on eAccessibility, and most of all, a sound social and ethical basis for action. 1. Improving e-Accessibility is worthwhile in its own right, improving access to services to some of the most marginalized people, and helping to fulfil the promise of an inclusive Information Society. 2. Improving access to services, public and private, to such a significant proportion of the population opens significant market opportunities, and can help the public service fulfil their remit in a cost effective manner. 3. By-products of designing in e-Accessibility include improved access for able-bodied people, reduced cost of web service development, and enhanced prospects for migrating web services onto new platforms such as mobile phones. 4. Pursuing approaches that follow EU Guidelines and recommendations will assist in the convergence of the Information Society aspects of the EU and SEE countries. Furthermore, the economic and political arguments point towards the additional benefits of taking action early. This is likely to lower costs but also to increase economic benefits and speed up social benefits. Progress in implementing e-Accessibility across the countries of South Eastern Europe varies considerably.

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In general, in the area of television (subtitling, signing and audio description) little beyond a main daily news bulletin has been made accessible to those with hearing and sight difficulties, Croatia being an exception.

The key driver in accessible telephony is usually the need to become compliant with the EU’s Telecommunications Directive, the universal service aspects of which have been implemented to differing degrees. However, the requirements relating to people with disabilities are perhaps the ones least observed — lower connection fees and tariffs, and especially affordable assistive technologies and usable public telephony.

ICT and Internet training for people with disabilities is not among the strongest obligations listed in international treaties, though some measures must be taken to ensure that, as access does become available and affordable, it can be taken advantage of. At present, support in terms of training and support to use ICTs and the Internet, inside and outside the educational systems, is mainly limited to pilot and one-off projects. This leads to little effective demand for ICT services, including e-Government services, among people with disabilities, which in turn may be cited as a reason not to prioritise them — a negative cycle leading to inaction.

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Web accessibility of e-Government services is at a relatively low level overall, and tends to be uneven within countries (between different ministries for instance) as well as among them. Many countries, however, are taking initial steps, and central e-Government portals tend to be best adapted. But there is still a long way to go in terms of providing the appropriate environment resources to enable e-Government services to become W3C compliant.

The pressure for action across the spectrum of e-Accessibility is gaining momentum in the European Union context with the publication of Directives and Action Plans, and indeed many South Eastern European countries might find themselves falling further behind, facing an even greater challenge in the future. But there is also growing financial support for early action, at least in terms of accession funds, Framework R&D Programme and other sources of finance. Furthermore, there is an appeal from the EU for concerted action, for cross-regional collaboration and exchange, and resources are likely to come available for moves in that direction. SEE countries have before them a wide menu of possible actions to support e-Accessibility. It is a good time to take stock of strengths and weaknesses, to identify potential, and to build cooperative activities at the regional level linked to European Union programmes, standards and developments.

5.2 Recommendations Implementing the UNCRPD As elaborated earlier on in the publication, in several countries of South Eastern Europe there has been institutional confusion regarding the roles and duties of different ministries in implementation of the UNCRPD. This is partly due to nature of the Convention itself which cuts across sectors and applies to various spheres of life ranging from access to public spaces and buildings to access to technologies, products and services related to the information society and social communication media, education, health, transport, sports, goods and services open to public, relations with justice administration and cultural heritage- and as such requires expertise in various fields and an interdisciplinary approach. Although the UNCRPD focal point should, according to the UNCRPD itself and the overall governance principles be the responsible party with the full leverage in the implementation process of all the aspects of the Convention, in reality due to the lack of substantive capacity in these various fields the focal point often falls short of keeping up with the UNCRPD implementation process- and responsibility is delegated and shifted elsewhere often resulting in standstill. The result is a worrying picture that shows how the lack of clarity and consequently accountability in this context leads to further delays in implementation of the UNCRPD 91

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and to deteriorated condition of persons with disabilities in society. In line with the above, the foremost recommendation applicable to the context of South Eastern Europe would be to strengthen capacities of those institution acting as the UNCRPD focal points so that they can be fully equipped with the know-how and resources to deal with the commitments of the Convention. On the other hand, it is crucial to sensitize and educate other ministries (education, health, transport, ICT, etc.) about the importance of the UNCRPD and its implications for their sector. For example, the Ministry responsible for ICT should be educated on the social inclusion component of ICTs, and be familiarised with the W3C standards before venturing on implementation of the central e-government portal and egovernance services. In addition to the formal guidelines to producing the UNCRPD Monitoring Report and the Council of Europe Strategy, a number of more informal guidelines are available to support and facilitate the implementation of the UNCRPD. One is a handbook produced by the Secretariat of the UNCRPD directed at parliamentarians, the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities It seeks to: …raise awareness of the Convention and its provisions, promote an appreciation of disability concerns, and assist parliaments in understanding the mechanisms and frameworks needed to translate the Convention into practice. By providing examples and insights, it is hoped that the Handbook will serve as a useful tool for parliamentarians to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities all over the world.

Handbook, No 14 2007, http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=212. It is available in English and five other languages (though none of those spoken in the South Eastern European region). The first recommendation here is therefore as follows: Rec. 1: To Government: Governments should ensure that all relevant staff and others involved in the monitoring and implementation of the UNCRPD have access to the content of these guidelines, and as much as is practicable adhere to them. The other, produced by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is directed at human rights monitors. It is designed to: …assist those engaged in human rights monitoring to effectively include the perspective of persons with disabilities in their activities, by not only integrating persons with disabilities in general monitoring work, but also by paying specific attention to monitoring the situation and enjoyment of rights by persons with disabilities where required.

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Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guidance for human rights monitors Professional training series No. 17 http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Disabilities_training_17EN.pdf. Thus, a similar recommendation is made to NGOs. Rec. 2: To NGOs: NGOs involved with people with disabilities should ensure the widespread dissemination of this document among themselves, but also amongst others involved, and use it where appropriate. However, having the appropriate information to hand is not enough. The implementation and monitoring structures for the UNCRPD have been designed and are applied unevenly and inconsistently across the countries in the region. Most countries are sincerely engaged in developing the structures and processes that will, over time and as resources become available, lead eventually to full compliance. However, there is often mutual distrust between government/ministries and civil society, a defensiveness on the part of the former and exaggerated expectations on the part of the latter. This can mean that these structures and processes are not optimized for maximum effort and cooperation from all sides. Nevertheless it is government and the relevant ministries that are ultimately responsible for ensuring that these are configured in the best way possible. Rec. 3: To Governments: It is vital that government and appropriate ministries establishing the processes for implementing and monitoring the Convention are using international best practices, with full sensitivity to local circumstances, in terms of consultation and transparency. Anything less, in the somewhat fraught context of many countries, will yield less than optimal results, and ultimately put obstacles in the way of implementing the UNCRPD. (See also under Regional Recommendations.)

Accessible Television The EU’s Television Without Frontiers Directive requires countries to “ensure that services are gradually made accessible to people with a visual or hearing disability.” The analysis of EU countries has shown that, because of their remit, public service broadcasters are best at providing accessible television. But firm regulation can also oblige commercial broadcasters to ensure they reach out to people with disabilities. The figures also suggest that limited overall economic resources (as judged by levels of gross domestic product) need not be a factor. Thus, the recommendations here to government and regulators are as follows: Rec. 4: To government/regulators: Public service broadcasters should be given firm responsibility to implement gradually increasing accessibility, and the resources made available to do so; 93

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Rec. 5: To regulators: The broadcasting regulator should oblige commercial channels, either at the earliest opportunity or when licenses are renegotiated, to provide at least a minimum level of services. In particular, the process of switching from analog to digital terrestrial television, and the enhanced possibilities for viewer/user interactivity, may offer opportunities to improve the performance of broadcasters in this area. It has been noted in some countries that programmes targeting people with disabilities have become popular and successful, even among the population more generally. Rec. 6: To commercial broadcasters: Explore the possibility with relevant NGOs of making programme that target people with disabilities, and their wider families and communities. NGOs working with people with disabilities can also play a role in lobbying but also in producing programmes of broadcast quality. Many EU and some SEE countries would have templates for programmes formats of relevance. Rec. 7: To NGOs: Lobby for improved accessibility, and explore the possibility of making programmes about, for and with people with disabilities, including finding relevant sponsors.

Accessible ICTs As noted, most countries of South Eastern Europe have yet to implement to any significant degree the requirements relating to people with disabilities under the European Union’s Telecommunications Directive. The UNCRPD also imposes a number of requirements in this area. The European Union is at the same time moving swiftly towards increasing the minimum level of service to be covered as a universal service, and is likely to specify access to broadband in the not too distant future. These services are critical to enabling people with disabilities secure the advantages that ICTs can offer them. The different levels of support in EU countries suggest that overall levels of economic development need not be a major determining factor here. Furthermore, certain things can be done at only a tiny cost, such as ensuring that people with disabilities are fully aware of all their entitlements. The telecommunications sector as a whole, including mobiles phones, is extremely profitable, and there is no basis for claiming that it cannot afford to make the changes that would make a huge difference to people with disabilities. Rec. 8: To governments/regulators: Governments, and regulators as appropriate, should take immediate steps to assess the current circumstances for people with disabilities in relation to connection fees, tariffs, assistive technologies and public access to telephony and data/Internet; and to put in place, and gradually implement, a plan to ensure they offer a reasonable level of access. 94

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This should include the possibility of encompassing broadband in the future. The very low level of skills in ICTs throughout the region also has to be addressed in order to take full advantage of more accessible and affordable ICTs. Even where significant educational initiatives are taking place to ensure that all young people learn ICT skills, such initiatives can unintentionally exclude the means by which they can learn. A similar problem can occur with regard to programmes that promote widespread public access to Internet in libraries and other public facilities. Rec. 9: To governments: Ministries involved in initiatives that promote Internet access and training in educational institutions (at all levels), as well as those promoting them to the public in general, should ensure that all such initiatives include the necessary physical access, adaptive technologies and human resources to enable people with disabilities to make full use of them. A further issue relates to the challenge for people with disabilities to identify, try out and purchase assistive technologies. There are very few centres in the region that allow people to view assistive technologies, and to determine through trial whether they are suited to their specific needs. They then face the difficulty of finding out where to purchase them, and often the payment of an import tax. Rec. 10:To NGOs: NGOs are most likely to be in a position to provide front-line access to assistive technologies. Efforts could be made by them to identity or compile databases of assistive technologies, and, resources permitting, to make them available for trial by their members. Rec. 11:To governments: Government should support the efforts of NGOs in this area, and also consider reducing or eliminating import taxes on assistive technologies, especially those produced within the region. Rec. 12:To the private sector: Private sector organizations involved in producing, importing or selling assistive technologies should collaborate with NGOs to make these available for trial, and for purchase at minimum cost for people with disabilities.

web Accessibility for e-Governance A key focus of this report is e-Accessibility to e-Governance services, comprising mainly (though not exclusively) web-accessibility i.e., online web-based services. This includes being compliant with the international W3C standards that enable people with a range of disabilities to interact with, contribute to and fully participate in online services. Doing this is not necessarily expensive; indeed, it is very likely to save money and support service innovation in the medium to long term. Furthermore, there is a set of software and online tools available, sometimes in local languages, from the W3C Consortium that are specifically designed 95

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and intended for this purpose. There are a number of steps involved. The first is to assess the current situation among all e-Government services, often fragmented among different Ministries and institutions. Rec. 13:To governments: Using the available tools and other survey instruments, governments should undertake a complete audit of e-Accessibility of all their e-Government services, and provide transparent access to the results. The next step would be to produce and implement a plan to gradually ensure compliance. Rec. 14:To governments: A plan should be developed, in consultation with NGOs, to fully implement web accessibility over a period of time. This is likely to include both practical support, including the technical skills and resources (such as guidelines) needed by ministries; as well as possible sanctions if, after the agreed period, they have not improved sufficiently the services. Another aspect of a strategy might include strict public procurement guidelines to ensure W3C compliance. NGOs have an important role to play in this process. Rec. 15:To NGOs: NGOs, using the tools available, could assess key e-Governance services in terms of compliance with W3C guidelines, and use that as a means to pressure service suppliers to improve their service.

Regional e-Accessibility Recommendations A number of the above areas are suitable for regional level cooperation among governments through the e-SEE Initiative and also with NGOs and the private sector. An important one is in relation to information gathering and statistics. No reliable statistics are available on e-Accessibility figures and statistics in the region. These are vital for effective government policy and for tracking progress, and useful to NGOs planning priorities in this area. Comparable figures would be particularly useful in relation to converging with EU standards. Such work is already underway for some years in the European Union, through the Monitoring 79 e-Accessibility (MeAC) studies. Rec. 16:To governments in the region: Comparable statistics, within the region and with the European Union should be gathered in e-Accessibility. This could involve implementing a methodology identical, in full or in part, as the MeAC study. (The methodology is presented in detail in the report.) Rec. 17:To governments in the region: In relation to web-accessibility above (Recs. 12-14), there is significant potential for sharing best practice and resources used. This should be organized possibly through the e-SEE network. Rec. 18 To NGOs in the region: There is significant potential for compiling regional level 96

79 See Annex 1: http://www.eaccessibility-monitoring.eu/researchResult.aspx Click on ‘Download 2011 report’

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resources and databases by NGOs, with appropriate support. This could include a database of all adaptive technologies, and of relevant expertise, in the four regional languages. Finally, the development of structures and processes for implementing and monitoring the UNCRPD is another area in which cooperation might be useful. This report outlines some of the diverse approaches taken. Ministries might benefit from sharing their experiences with others in the region. This could include some of the solutions found, in practice, for effective and low cost ways of complying with various aspects of the UNCRPD. Rec. 19:To governments in the region: It is recommended that good practices in the implementation of the UNCRPD are shared between relevant ministries in the region.

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