Kenya is set to come up with National ICT Accessibility Standard, a first in Africa, as the country seeks to help people with disabilities to access digital services with ease.
The standard will be an initiative of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and inABLE, a nonprofit organization that empowers the blind and visually impaired with computer assistive technology.
The standard will help promote the digital inclusion of people with disabilities (PWDs) and older persons.
It will also make both public and private sector digital products and services (including websites, mobile applications) more accessible and usable by all Kenyan citizens.
inABLE has been advocating for the digital inclusion of PWDs in Kenya and Africa through sustainable partnerships over the last 13 years.
Founder and Executive Director of inABLE Irene Mbari-Kirika said “we are honored to form a solid partnership with the KEBS to develop the National ICT Accessibility Standards towards fulfilling the promises set forth in Kenya ICT Policy 2019.
This will have a crucially positive impact on public and private sector digital products and services by making them more accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities and the elderly, she noted.
The creation of a national ICT Accessibility Standard comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed digital divide and dire need for accessible digital platforms.
KEBS Managing Director Bernard Njiraini explains, “as the world quickly shifted to digital platforms, including virtual meetings, working from home, home schooling and even the government shared more public health information, the lack of access to vital online services disconnected millions of people, especially PWDs.”
“KEBS is committed to delivering meaningful and operational standards that enhance the lives of Kenyans, and we are therefore excited to be working with a dedicated organization like inABLE towards making this possible,” adds Mr Njiraini.
The Kenyan ICT policy mandates full accessibility for PWDs through ensuring that ICT services and emergency communications is made available to the public are provided in alternative accessible formats for PWDs, reviewing existing legislation and regulations to promote ICT accessibility for PWDs in consultation with organizations representing PWDs among others.
Other measures include ensuring that websites of government departments and agencies comply with international web accessibility standards and are accessible for PWDs and promoting research and development for ICT access for PWDs.
KEBS and inABLE will now work with other stakeholders, including the National Council of People with Disabilities in Kenya, Communications Authority (CA), ICT Authority, and individuals with lived experiences to draft the national ICT accessibility standard.
This standard development process is in line with inABLE’s upcoming annual Inclusive Africa Conference happening on September 30 this year with a mission to advance digital accessibility in Africa.