With a focus on providing equal eAccessibility opportunities, The Sultanate celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2013
Aiming to ensure equal access of government services and to spread the culture of digital access to all segments of the Omani society including those with disabilities, the Sultanate represented by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development yesterday celebrated the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, at City Seasons Hotel, with the presence of Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, ITA’s CEO, and other government officials.
Highlighting the ITA’s efforts in providing fair and equal life opportunities to persons with disabilities and the elderly people through the use of information & communication technologies (ICT), Khalid Sulaiman Al Siyabi, eGovernment Consultant at ITA, said: “ITA started the eTransformation project, which aims to facilitate services to citizens and residents at the Sultanate. Undoubtedly, persons with disabilities and the elderly people are an integral part of the system of this country, and therefore it is our duty to ensure access of the government services easily and conveniently.”
With regard to the eAccessibility policy adopted by ITA, Mr. Al Siyabi said: “One of the main goals of the eTransformation plan is to ensure eAccessibility, which is of a direct relevance to the community and must be given equal opportunity. The ITA has taken great care to adopt the eAccessibility policy that has been approved by His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy, Chairman of Information Technology Authority Board of Directors.”
In his presentation, Dr. Zuhair Al Habib, a disability expert at the Ministry of Social Development, pointed out the disability statistics in the Sultanate, saying: “According to the 2010 population census, the number of people with disabilities in the Sultanate reached 62,506, that is 3.2% of the total population of the Sultanate. Following His Majesty’s directives to transfer ‘Al Wafa Social Centers’ to be governmental centers, the Ministry of Social Development’s role is focused on restructuring these centers in accordance with international standards, increasing the number of Al Wafa Centers according to the actual needs in the regions, and further establishing three centers for the welfare and vocational rehabilitation that accommodate large-capacity (200 member) in Salalah, Sur and Nizwa.”
As Dr. Zuhair stated, “Ministry specialists wish to fulfill certain goals in this field, including ensuring every disabled individual living in the Sultanate has digital access and can easily use all public-use devices, such as Banks and eGovernment devices. Furthermore, we will work on the availability of all devices in all stores inside the Sultanate instead of traveling to get them.”
To highlight the eAccessibility policy terms, Noor Al Hinai, Web Developer at ITA, delivered a presentation, in which she defined eAccessibility as, “The usability of products, information or services based on information and communications technology (ICT) by persons with disabilities and the elderly in the same degree of effectiveness used by non-disabled persons.”
The ITA adopted the eAccessibility policy in September 2012 in cooperation and implementation with ten sectors, communications, social affairs, transport, internal affairs, education, health, banking, media, workers and eGovernment.
Ms. Al Hinai explained ITA’s role in implementing this policy, saying: “The ITA’s role focuses on raising awareness about the initiative among service providers and users, working with the government agencies to plan for the implementation of the policy in the eGovernment sector and to manage the implementation of this plan, and connecting service providers with the global organizations to exchange international experiences and work to find solutions according to the best practices in the field.”
Regarding the government entities’ role in implementing the policy, Ms. Al Hinai said: “Government entities have to take the initiative to work at providing easy access to government services, employ people with disabilities, work on upgrading access to information and electronic government services to make it easy for people with disabilities and the elderly, through websites or electronic portals, communicate with people with disabilities to listen to the challenges they face to access eServices.”
A number of people with disabilities presented their experience and success story. Two of those are employees at ITA, Sheikha Mahmood Al Jassasi, Web Content Translator, and Ali Abdullah Al Amri, Help Desk Specialist. Another experience was shown by Safia Al Bahlani, an Artist, who has a physical disability. At the end of the ceremony, the people and organizations participated in developing the eAccessibility policy were honored.