Disabilities and rehabilitation

WHO celebrates International Day of Disabled Persons

8 December 2006 - On 8 December, WHO took the opportunity of the International Day of Disabled Persons to raise awareness about E-Accessibility, this year's theme. To mark the Day at WHO Headquarters, a lunchtime seminar was organized. Key presenters were Dr Katherine Seelman, Associate Dean for Disability Programs, University of Pittsburgh, USA; Mrs Thi-hanh Fleuret, Correctrice braille, Bibliothèque Braille Romande et livre parlé; and Ms Jane Wallace, Web Manager, WHO Headquarters.

The presenters briefed participants on, respectively, the history of assistive devices and technologies for people with disabilities, the challenges of preparing web sites so that they are fully accessible, and efforts on the part of WHO to improve the WHO web site. Regarding the latter, the WHO Web team is promoting accessibility in three main ways:

  • outside of WHO, the team is discussing the topic at meetings of web managers to raise awareness;
  • within WHO, the team has changed the presentation of top level content to ensure screen readers for the blind or visually impaired can interpret the pages; and
  • for the technical units, the team has demonstrated the need for accessible web sites through live demonstrations of screen readers, updated internal web training materials to emphasise how to make sites accessible, and developed some new tools for building sites that are easily interpreted by screen readers.

Additional changes that can be made to web sites to make them accessible include making the names of links meaningful so that screen readers can interpret them correctly; providing alternate text for images and graphics so that they can be read by screen readers; and writing in a simple, clear and concise manner.

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