Singapore aims to provide accessible digital content for people with disabilities

Asia-Pacific, March 3 2011

While we exploit technology and work on interoperability to share digital contents over multiple platforms, what we don’t realise is that we might inadvertently leave behind a group of individuals who may have difficulty accessing these digital content, said Chia Woon Yee, Director of Technology & Vocational Training at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD).

While countries aim for a knowledge workforce and government moves digital, individuals with visual impairment, physical disabilities, hearing impairment and learning disabilities may have been neglected. These people may not be able to interact with digital contents unless the contents are made accessible, explained Chia to FutureGov Asia Pacific.

“As more and more information is transferred electronically, making digital content accessible becomes a social responsibility, especially if the content is meant for the public,” she said.

Hence, SPD has made a formal advocacy appeal to the Government to reinstate a direction on accessible ICT and web accessibility in the Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) Masterplan, and to take the lead by making all government and e-government portals conform the international standards of web accessibility by 2015.

According to Chia, making digital content accessible is neither a difficult nor expensive task. “Most common software applications like Adobe PDF maker and Microsoft Office have built-in tools for making documents accessible,” said Chia.

While providing accessibility benefits people with disabilities who are deemed a minority group, Chia said that it should not be forgotten that these same accessible features are also useful for non-disabled people—such as older persons who are slower, people with low literacy, people who have low Internet bandwidth, and individuals accessing content through mobile devices.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outlines the following four basic principles in making websites accessible:

  • Perceivable— Information and user interface components must be presentable to users such that they can perceive the presented information, i.e. it can’t be invisible to all their senses
  • Operable— Users must be able to operate interface components and navigate. The interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform
  • Understandable— Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface
  • Robust— Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. Users must be able to access the content even as technologies advance


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