FUNDING OPPORTUNITY for Research on Accessibility of US-Funded Overseas Programs

Posted on 12 June 2009. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, Call for Nominations or Applications, Funding, Human Rights, Inclusion, Opportunities, Policy & Legislation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

NCD Announces Funding (Research) Opportunity
On May 13, the National Council on Disability in the US announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NCD-09-02) for a cooperative agreement to study “The Accessibility of U.S.-funded Overseas Facilities and Programs.”

NCD is interested in examining and understanding the responsibilities of U.S.-funded overseas facilities and programs, both public and private. NCD is seeking applicants to research and develop an NCD report with the following three components: 1) An analysis/examination of international law, to determine how U.S.-funded international development organizations will be required to comply with Article 32 of the Convention in those countries which have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and 2) an empirical follow-up to NCD’s 2003 report on how USAID is implementing its own disability policy overseas and its impact thus far, along with its compliance with Sections 501, 503, and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in its overseas operations. The report should review whether these protections against discrimination are being implemented by government employees and contractors working abroad, and will examine whether U.S.-funded programs are being operated in a manner that is accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities; and 3) evaluate progress on NCD’s recommendations regarding the accessibility of U.S. embassies and missions, as well as Department of Defense (DoD)-funded programs and facilities.

The deadline for received full proposals is 5:00 p.m. EDT on July 1, 2009.

For additional information, please contact Joan Durocher at 202-272-2117 or

This announcement received via the Global Partnership for Disability and Development mailing list.

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NEWS: Disability Inclusion in Poverty Reduction Strategy in Mozambique

Posted on 24 February 2009. Filed under: Case Studies, Inclusion, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), News, Poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Note from We Can Do editor: Many developing countries are required to develop a “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper” (PRSP) as a condition for receiving debt relief from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This strategy paper is meant to describe how the country will reduce poverty among its citizens. A country’s PRSP can have a profound impact on the policies and programs it implements to fight poverty. But not all PRSPs are fully inclusive of people with disabilities. This can mean they are left behind while others are gaining new opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. Rosangela Berman Bieler, at the Inter-American Institute on Disability recently circulated the following email on the mailing list for the Global Partnership on Disability and Development describing how people with disabilities were included in the process of developing the PRSP in Mozambique.]

by Rosangela Berman Bieler

Dear Colleagues:

This message is to share a brief report on the Inclusive Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper project in Mozambique, launched in January in Maputo. Our civil society counterparts in Mozambique are FAMOD (Forum of Disability Organizations) and Handicap International. Maria Reina and Deepti Samant of the Global Partnership on Disability and Development Secretariat also joint us for part of the mission.

During the mission, we could establish many alliances with local and international agencies and government officials. Among the various activities that we were involved, we had a very good and participatory DPO training with 25 leaders of FAMOD. Following the meeting, FAMOD is constituting a working group, composed by civil society organizations, to follow up on country Projects like the FTI on Education for All, the Mozambique Tourism Anchor Program (IFC), School Health (MoE), HIV-AIDS and other possible entry points.

We also had a presentation meeting for general stakeholders, held at the World Bank Office in MZ. The activity was a success – full house and many potential partners from all sectors, very interested in working with inclusive approaches for the next cycle of the Country’s poverty reduction plan that may follow the current PARPA, finishing in 2009.

Besides other Inclusive PRSP training and activities to be held in MZ during 2009, we are also planning with GPDD, an International Seminar on Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism in Maputo, in June, and we are looking forward to be able to work in alliance with all the agencies working in the field as well. Inclusive approaches in Tourism can generate local accessibility and development for those who live in the country. Mozambique can really benefit from such an initiative.

In the field of Education, we are very excited with the possibility of having the local NGOs and Networks – such as the Education for All Network that accompanied us during the events – to interact and influence the school construction that will happen now, for the FTI, to make sure they are built accessible.

We are also working in synchrony with the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, that will go on until 2019. It is possible that MZ hosts the launching of the African Campaign on HIV-AIDS and Disability in October. There are two major FAMOD projects going on in the field and hopefully this can also generate good mainstreaming opportunities.

Our plan is to involve other Portuguese Speaking Countries in most of these activities, as language is on other important cause of exclusion from participation. Hopefully Development Agencies working in other Lusophone countries in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guiné Bissau, Sao Tomé and Prince), and also in East Timor, will be able to partner with this initiative and facilitate this process as well.

All the best,

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Inclusive Development Specialist

Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development
– Doing our part on the construction of a society for all –

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Executive Director
Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development

[Another Note from We Can Do editor: People who wish to learn more about the PRSP process, and how it can be more inclusive of people with disabilities, are encouraged to consult the on-line manual, “Making PRSP Inclusive” at]

I received Rosangela Berman Bieler’s note via the GPDD mailing list.

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Conference on Accessible Transportation and Tourism, March 24-25, 2009, New Delhi, India

Posted on 5 February 2009. Filed under: accessibility, Announcements, Events and Conferences, Inclusion, Opportunities, South Asian Region, universal design, Urban Development | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Svayam — an initiative of SJ Charitable Trust, has the pleasure of inviting you to a Conference on Accessible Transportation and Tourism scheduled on the 24th & 25th March 2009 at New Delhi, where in besides Indian speakers & participants, renowned international experts on BRT and Accessibility issues like Mr. Tom Rickert, Mr. Jamie Osborne and Prof. Lalita Sen will share their expertise. [Note: Application deadline March 15, 2009.]

While Mr. Tom Rickert will shed light on International Trends and BRT Guidelines of the World Bank, Prof Lalita Sen takes you on Travel Chain, Pedestrian Infrastructure and Tourist Market. Jamie Osborne an engineer, transit planner and accessibility specialist by profession will take the participants through Obstacles as seen by a Tourist followed by case study of How San Francisco Provides Accessible Transit to Tourists. His keen interest in inclusion and structural inequality processes in transportation and urban planning in the developing world will be of great importance to the urban and transit planners.

Date & Venue:

24 & 25th March 2009 from 09.30 – 05.30 on both days

Casuarina Hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India

Intended participants:

The conference would be of special interest to Students of Architecture and Design, Town Planners, Key Officials from the Ministry of Transport and Tourism, Urban Development, Academic & Research Institutions/Organisations in Transport, Design & Tourism, DPOs from the Ageing and Disability Sector, Stake holders from private sectors like Transport Manufactures, Hotel Industry, Travel trade etc.

This would enable them to gain the right perspective of inclusive and universal design and incorporate it in their current & future projects/studies/ research and plan access strategies and advocacy initiatives.

Register Now
Participation is by invitation only, therefore; interested participants may register themselves at the earliest and latest by 15th March 2009 by filling the Registration Form, and sending a mail to or with a copy to to get their confirmation. For any further inquiries, please contact: 9811125521 (Mr. Subhash C. Vashishth) or 9811736115 (Ms. Kavita Agrawal).

Registration Fee:
Rs. 100/- per participant, payable at the venue

Accommodation and Travel Arrangements: Participants will have to make their own arrangements.

Warm regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Program Coordinator – Svayam
Jindal Centre, 12 Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066
Board Numbers: +91 (11) 26188360-74, Direct: 41462323
Mobile: 9811125521, Fax: (+91 (11) 26161271, 26170691



I received this announcement via the Asia Pacific Disability email discussion group, in which participants exchange information related to disability issues in the Asia Pacific region.

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Eduardo Alvarez Recognized for Leadership in Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Posted on 27 November 2008. Filed under: Announcements, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |


It is with praise and thanks that the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) presents Eduardo Alvarez with a special Award of Recognition in honour of his outstanding leadership in the creation of the first International Standard for Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment (ISO TC59/SC16). Mr. Alvarez has demonstrated great leadership, perseverance, and determination in the development of the Accessibility Standard that will impact the lives of people with disabilities around the world.

This award will be presented on December 3rd, 2008 at the Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel, Residence and Spa in the Kingdom of Bahrain, UAE, in celebration of the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons.

The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) is the leading international not-for-profit organization that brings together experts in accessibility of the Built, Virtual and Social Environments. GAATES was incorporated by an international consortium of experts dedicated to promoting accessibility worldwide, and has an International presence in 6 regions: the Asia-Pacific, Arab, North America, South America, European and African Regions. GAATES members include technical experts, individuals, organizations of people with disabilities, companies involved in information and communication technologies, architects and interested supporters.

For more information on GAATES, please contact us at, or visit us at

This press release was circulated on the AsiaPacificDisability listserver.

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RESOURCE: Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments

Posted on 10 November 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Cross-Disability, Human Rights, Resources, technology | Tags: , , , , , , |

A contact at this organization sent me the following blurb; We Can Do readers are invited to explore their web site at for more detail.

Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) is a leading not-for-profit international organization which brings together experts in accessibility of the Built, Virtual and Social Environments. GAATES has an international presence in 6 Global Regions: Asia-Pacific, Middle East, North America, South America, Europe and Africa. GAATES maintains a database of international experts with extensive and diverse experience in universal design and accessibility of built and virtual environments. Our expert professionals include: architects; engineers; accessible user interface technology specialists; website designers; accessibility auditors/surveyors; and experts in human rights and implementation of the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Please visit our site at for more information on our organization.

Thank you to GAATES for alerting me to their organization. They are now also added to the extensive blogroll listing at the very bottom of every page at We Can Do.

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Is this accessible?

Posted on 8 September 2008. Filed under: Announcements | Tags: |

If you use a screen reader (Jaws or whatever), please let me know if this creates an accessibility problem for you:

If you are a regular We Can Do reader, then you will have noticed that I changed a few things in the right hand navigation bars. In particular, I turned both the Archives and the list of topic Categories into “drop down” menus. I’m still learning about what does and doesn’t create problems for people using screen readers. Please let me know if you find the drop down menus difficult to use or inaccessible.

Of course also let me know if these create an accessibility barrier due to other disabilities.

I wanted to use drop down menus because both the monthly archives and the list of categories were getting very long. But I can change back if the drop down menu is a problem.

You can comment in the comments area below, or send me an email to ashettle [at]

I will eventually delete this post after people have had a chance to respond.

(Regular readers who come here via the main page will notice another change: instead of showing the most recent post, it shows a listing of the most recent few posts. I had nothing to do with this change. The people at like to occasionally change things around on me. I don’t particularly like this change, but unfortunately, if there’s a way to change it without switching to an entirely new theme, I don’t know how to do it. So I’m hoping readers can cope with it.)

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REPORT: Personal Mobility, Accessibility for Disabled People in South East Europe

Posted on 20 August 2008. Filed under: Blind, Cognitive Impairments, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Housing, Human Rights, Inclusion, Mobility Impariments, Reports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Countries that have chosen to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are now required to protect the right of people with disabilities to personal mobility; and to an accessible environment. But disabled people in the South-Eastern countries of Europe, such as Kosovo, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, and Hungary, are often denied the right simply to move from one place to another on the same basis as other people in their society. They lack mobility aids such as prosthestic devices, wheelchairs, and crutches; public buildings, and even their own homes, are not accessible to them; and neither is public transportation.

People who wish to learn more about the conditions that limit the mobility of people with disabilities in South East Europe–and what can be done to improve their situation–can consult a report entitled “Free movement of people with disabilities in south east Europe: an inaccessible right?” (PDF format, 1 Mb) This report addresses the mobility and accessibility needs of people with mobility impairments; people who are blind or have vision impairments; people with intellectual disabilities; and deaf people. The 124-page report was published by Handicap International in 2006.

The first part of the report discusses the current situation, and barriers, faced by people with various disabilities in South East Europe. The second part describes good practices that have successfully made the environment more accessible for people with disabilities throughout the region. The third part discusses the importance of awareness raising; the laws and policies needed to improve the situation; the need for training in universal design; and the importance of including people with disabilities in planning all new construction. The report closes with a series of recommendations.

The full report can be downloaded for free in

People interested in creating accessible environments, and in the principles of universal design, may also be interested in learning about a free, on-line book on Universal Design and Visitability.

We Can Do learned about this report by exploring the newest resources to be posted at the database on disability issues; health issues; and development.

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Tourists with Disabilities Offer Opportunities to India, says Dr Scott Rains

Posted on 14 July 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Cross-Disability, News, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , |

For Immediate Release:
Experts on the Disability Tourism Market to Tour India
July 9, 2008

“India is amazing!,” says Dr. Scott Rains publisher of the travel industry Rolling Rains Report.

“It is poised to show the world a new face of tourism. It can do that if it has the wisdom and will to act on new international business data about the travel behavior of people with disabilities,” he encourages. “With major government and industry investment in new hotels, airports, rail and bus transport at a time when inbound tourism continues to rise India could create an accessible tourism infrastructure that is the envy of the world – and profit in the process of making life easier for its own citizens with disabilities.”

Dr. Rains will address these opportunities for the Indian tourism industry in a four-city workshop tour sponsored by ASTA-India. The workshops being in New Delhi at the Surya Crown Plaza on July 28 at 0930. Session will follow in Mumbai 30th July, Kochi 1st August, and Chennai 4th August. Further information is available from ASTA India Coordinator Deepika Chowdhry:

Phone: +91-11- 41652406
Fax: +91-11-41652410

Craig Grimes, a tour operator and wheelchair user from the UK who is opening Central America to travelers with disabilities will speak. His most recent project incudes training Nicaraguan tour guides in American Sign Language. ( ) Also speaking is Jani Nayar, Executive Coordinator of SATH (Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality).

Travel professionals worldwide recognize the burgeoning market of travelers with disabilities.

The 2002 biennial study of the travel behavior of the US travel market by Open Doors Organization and Harris Interactive revealed that the 42 million people in the US with disabilities spend on average $13.6 billion US on travel. As the trend continues, and the aging post-WW II population boom ages en masse, organizations such as ASTA-India have begun alerting their membership to the competitive edge available in providing competent service to this market sector.

India has seen a nearly 100% increase in tourism in the past five years – five million visitors last year according to government figures.

Between 1996 and 2006, the Indian outbound market expanded nearly 10% per year. In 1996, Indians made nearly 3.5 million trips. By 2006, the number of outbound trips topped 8.3 million. These outbound numbers combined with a double-digit growth rate in inbound last year to around 5 million make India “one of the shining stars” in Asia Pacific travel and tourism, according to PATA’s Strategic Intelligence Centre. (source: PATA News)

“With a potential market of 500 million domestic tourists and ambitious projects underway to upgrade train and air terminals India is poised to demonstrate world leadership in the social inclusion of its own citizens by targeting the disability travel niche if it follows the example of other countries and applies Universal Design in destination development,” notes Dr. Rains. Universal Design is a set of seven principles outlining, according to Adaptive Environments, “a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind.”

“Pioneers like ASTA India show great foresight in emphasizing our community as a market,” says Rains.

“I am a quadriplegic and have used a wheelchair since I was 17 in 1972. I have recently returned from addressing the second international conference on Inclusive Tourism in Bangkok (ICAT 2007) sponsored by UNESCAP, a kayaking tour of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska with the wheelchair-friendly yacht Sea Wolf organized by Waypoint Yacht Charter Services, and a site inspection of one of Brazil’s foremost adventure tourism resorts, Parque dos Sonhos in Socorro Brazil, where I rode a one kilometer long zipline from mountaintop to mountaintop. Tourism in our community is growing in size, wealth, and sophistication. Whether it is developing accessible heritage tourism in Agra, accessible water tours in Kerala, or accessible adventure tourism in Gujarat India is poised to become a leader in Inclusive Tourism and could become a destination of choice for a community that the UN estimates at 500 million persons.”

Organizations are rising to the challenge set out by Tourism Minister Ambika Soni. In the current global environment investors are aggressively seeking infrastructure projects as safe havens of profit. A campaign of Inclusive Destination Development in India gives investors what they are looking for plus the peace of mind of supporting a socially responsible initiative.
Already Indian organizations like Svayam, AccessAbility, the Disability Rights Initiative of the India Centre for Human Rights and Law, and Design for All – India have done the initial preparation.

“Their work can be applied to development of the twenty Indian mega-destination sites announced by Minister Soni at the Great Indian Travel Bazaar-2008. Minister Soni’s announcement of seven Indian tourism circuits of three destinations each will be enhanced by application of the concept known within the disability as “accessible paths of travel” as India adopts the path of Inclusive Destination Development that is grounded in Universal Design,” commented Rains. “One of the outcomes of my visit will be greater communication between Indian experts in the travel, destination development, and disability fields as Indian quickly develops its own contributions to the global growth of travel opportunities that tap into the purchasing power of the disability community.

Thank you to Dr. Scott Rains for submitting this press release for publication at We Can Do.

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RESOURCE: Disability Kenya Web Site

Posted on 7 March 2008. Filed under: Cross-Disability, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Inclusion, News, Resources, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

People with disabilities in Kenya and other interested individuals can turn to an on-line web site, Disability Kenya, to learn more about life for disabled people in Kenya.

At Disability Kenya, you can find news, opinion pieces and feature articles, and sometimes information about resources. Here are just a few examples:

If you are currently working on a funding proposal and aren’t sure how to write one, you can consult a model at

The proposal at the above link successfully obtained grants to support a project using computers to help deaf students overcome barriers in education and communication. That project helped lead to the Disability Kenya web site.

The health page at Disability Kenya has links to information about HIV/AIDS in Kenya, projects targeted at the Deaf community there, and other health-related information (e.g., rape, violence toward disabled children, accessibility issues at a local hospital, etc.).

The Inclusion page at Disability Kenya, and particularly the Projects page, both share information about projects targeted at people with disabilities in Kenya.

Learn about disability-related laws in Kenya, and other policy issues and news, at the Disability Kenya Policy Page.

Or learn about issues related to the education of disabled Kenyan children at the Education page.

Start exploring Disability Kenya at:

Disability Kenya is updated regularly, so people with a strong interest may wish to check their site periodically for new materials.

We Can Do was first alerted to Disability Kenya some months ago when someone involved with their web site tried to contact me. My apologies for taking so long to put up a post related to it. I was also reminded about this web site more recently when I saw a link to it from the web site, which has a very large and rapidly growing data base of resources and links related to people with disabilities in developing countries, as well as resources related to health issues in general.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do (

Also at We Can Do: catch up with the news; explore resources, toolkits, or funding and fellowship opportunities that might be helpful for your organization; find research, reports, papers, or statistics; or look up conferences, events, call for papers, or education/training opportunities.

This blog post is copyrighted to We Can Do ( Currently, only two web sites have on-going permission to syndicate (re-post) We Can Do blog posts: and Other sites are most likely plagiarizing this post without permission.

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RESOURCE: Low-Cost, Mechanical Braille-Writers

Posted on 18 January 2008. Filed under: Blind, News, Resources, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Originally published at (We Can Do) at]

As many as 90% of the world’s 45 million blind people live in developing countries. But only about 10% of them have the tools they need to write in Braille. Even if they had electronic Braille writing equipment, specialized Braille paper is even more rare in developing countries. Also, two billion people still lack access to electricity.

Tim Connell, in writing for the January 2008 issue of the American Foundation of the Blind Access World newsletter says there is a solution to this problem. Two products have recently been developed that can write Braille onto regular paper without using electricity. One is the Jot a Dot, which has been used successfully in a pilot evaluation project in Uganda. The other is the Tatrapoint Braille Writer, which has the additional innovation that the keys can be spaced differently to accommodate different sized hands. (Think of rapidly growing children, with their rapidly growing hands.) Both are designed to be small and portable, like the traditional stylus and slate that also has been used for producing Braille by hand. However, both operate similarly to electronic Braille writers.

Tim Connell criticizes most blindness agencies and organizations for failing to give more support to distributing simple Braille writing technologies in developing countries. It should be noted that Connell works for the Quantam Technology company that sells both the Jot a Dot and the Tatrapoint Braille Writer. This, however, does not invalidate some of his underlying arguments. For example, he points out that blind people deserve to have a wider range of technologies and tools that enable them to write in different situations and contexts–just like sighted people do.

Read more about the Jot a Dot, the Tatrapoint Braille Writer, and Tim Connell’s views on why agencies should be more actively involved in supporting low-tech (and high-tech) solutions for blind people, at

Read more about the Jot a Dot and the Tatrapoint Braille Writer products at the Quantam Technology web site.

If you’re interested in other low-cost, portable technologies for blind people in developing countries, then you might also be interested in reading about the Sightsaver’s Dolphin Pen. The Dolphin Pen is designed to enable blind people in developing countries to read computers.

We Can Do learned about Tim Connell’s article on alternate Braille writing equipment through the Accessibility discussion group. The Accessibility email group is devoted to brainstorming how to make the XO laptop more accessible for disabled children in developing countries. People can join the Accessibility mailing list for free.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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Helping Make We Can Do Accessible

Posted on 7 January 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Inclusion, Introduction to "We Can Do" | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Do you have an interest in ensuring that We Can Do is accessible to as many people as possible? Do you have advice, ideas, feedback, concerns, or other comments to share related to accessibility at We Can Do? If so, please consult the new page on “Accessibility“. I can use YOUR help. This can be as simple as two minutes of your time to comment on accessibility barriers you have encountered at We Can Do. Or it could mean 10 or 20 minutes to help advise me on how to create a table and make it accessible to blind people. Or it could mean a more extensive, on-going commitment to translate We Can Do materials into other languages.

“Accessibility” in part refers to making We Can Do accessible to people with disabilities. The disability group that tends to face the most barriers on the Web are people with vision impairments. Of particular concern are people who use screen readers, whether due to vision impairments or for other reasons such as dyslexia. So far, the people I know who use screen readers have not told me about any problems in navigating We Can Do. But each screen reader is different. And sometimes different people differ in how well they know how to use the equipment they have. So if you use a screen reader, I still want to hear your feedback on accessibility at We Can Do. I also would welcome advice and assistance in specific areas such as making pictures or tables accessible to blind people. If you think you might be able to help, please consult the Accessibility page for more details about what questions I have.

People who are blind are not the only people who face accessibility barriers. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have mobility impairments, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, or cognitive disabilities all face challenges in navigating the web. If you might have feedback you want to share in these areas, please consult the Accessibility page and share your comments.

At We Can Do, I am concerned with not only accessibility for people with disabilities fortunate enough to have Internet access and literacy skills. I also want to ensure that We Can Do is as accessible as possible for people in developing countries who may be using very old, slow equipment and dial-up connections. Or for people who cannot access the Internet at all. Or who do not read well in English. If you have thoughts you want to share, or if you have the time and interest to help, please consult the Accessibility page and contact me.

I realize I have been posting many “administrivia” items at We Can Do lately and somewhat fewer fresh materials. I do have a couple more pages in mind that I want to add to the top navigation bar. But I will also be posting more news, resources, and papers in the coming few weeks. Please do keep coming back to We Can Do.

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RESOURCE, NEWS: Making the XO Laptop Accessible

Posted on 5 January 2008. Filed under: Children, Cross-Disability, Education, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you’ve seen the media hype about it, then you know that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project wants to put a low-cost laptop into the hands of every child in primary schools in developing countries. The idea is to give children a tool for taking their own education into their own hands so they will learn more. Now people on an email list called “accessibility”, and people in the on-line wiki community, are working on ways to ensure that these laptops will be more accessible and usable for children with disabilities.

In November, I wrote an opinion piece about the XO Laptop project. Basically I said I thought it was a great concept. And I still think that–in fact, I have now bought one of the XO laptops for myself through a short-term “Get one, Give one” program that ended in December 2007. One laptop is being shipped to me (meaning, no, it hasn’t arrived yet). Another laptop is being shipped to a child in a developing country somewhere. But I had, and still have, concerns about its accessibility for disabled children. And I find it disappointing that OLPC has not made it a stronger, and clearer, priority to make it usable by children with various vision, mobility, and other impairments.

But the good news is that an on-line community exists for people who want to help make the XO laptop more accessible to children with disabilities in developing countries. Specifically, the Accessibility mailing list at:

And there is also a “wiki” web site devoted to accessibility issues for the XO laptop. A “wiki” site enables people from around the world to collaborate with each other, via the web, on a common goal. In this case, the wiki laptop accessibility community enables people with the needed technical skills to work together to make the XO laptop more usable for users with disabilities. Start here to see a list of specific problems that have been identified with the XO for children with various disabilities:

Both on-line communities appear to be relatively small. But both would surely welcome new members with fresh energy and ideas. People with disabilities could share feedback about the features they need that would make the XO more accessible to them. If you have an XO of your own, you could play around with it to identify accessibility barriers that need more work. This is especially important if you discover that the barriers you identify, or the ideas you have for fixing it, have not already been listed at the wiki community page.

Even better: if you have an XO, and you know a disabled child, you could watch them while they try out all the different features of the XO. Ask them for their reactions, and observe where they run into problems. Share the results with the on-line community.

And, of course, if you have computer design, programming, or other relevant skills, then maybe you could help develop a way to improve the XO. And not just in terms of software. Also think about the needs of children with mobility impairments who might have trouble physically operating the XO as it is currently designed.

Before becoming active in the on-line OLPC accessibility discussion/brainstorming groups, you may wish to browse through the archives of past discussions:

Thank you to the anonymous individual who left a comment at my opinion essay to alert me to the mailing list on XO accessibility.

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NEWS: 12 Countries Ratify International Disability Rights Treaty (CRPD)

Posted on 17 December 2007. Filed under: Human Rights, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The United Nations (UN) has announced that 12 countries have now ratified the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Six of these countries also have ratified the optional protocol.

This international disability rights treaty is meant to “promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities,” including self-determination, physical and programmatic access, personal mobility, health, education, employment, habilitation and rehabilitation, participation in political life, and equality and non-discrimination. (Source: RatifyNow.) The CRPD will become legally binding after 20 countries have ratified it. The optional protocol is a separate document that would allow individuals to seek redress (justice or compensation) for treaty violations internationally after they have exhausted everything that can be done at the national level. The optional protocol will be legally binding after 10 countries have ratified it.

The most recent four countries to ratify the convention (treaty) are: Bangladesh (November 30); Spain, for both the convention and the optional protocol (December 3); Namibia, for both the convention and the optional protocol (December 4); and Nicaragua (December 7). The other eight ratifying countries are Croatia, Cuba, Gabon, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Panama, and South Africa; of these, Croatia, Hungary, Panama, and South Africa also ratified the optional protocol.

A total of 118 countries have signed the convention, and 67 countries have signed the optional protocol. Signing the convention and optional protocol does not legally bind a country to obey them. However, signing these documents does commit the country to take no action that would conflict with the goals of the CRPD.

If you are sighted, you can view a global map that shows visually which countries have signed or ratified the CRPD or the optional protocol. I am not sure if this map is accessible to people with visual impairments. If not, then please consult the UN Enable web site accessibility statement, which encourages people to contact them regarding accessibility issues at their web site.

More information on the CRPD is available in the RatifyNow factsheet and the RatifyNow FAQ. More information on the optional protocol is also available at the RatifyNow website.

We Can Do learned about these ratifications in part through the AdHoc_IDC (International Disability Caucus) email list. This on-line, email-based news and discussion service can be joined for free. I also gathered additional background information from the RatifyNow and UN Enable web sites.

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RESOURCE: Book on Universal Design and Visitability

Posted on 24 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Inclusion, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Resource On Universal Design & Visitability

To be disabled too frequently also means to be excluded. And often it is, not only people, but also buildings that exclude. In the early years of learning to include people with disabilities in the mainstream of society, this was partly resolved through renovating buildings as an after-thought. For example, one might tear down steps to install a ramp in their place. But what if a building could be designed to include everyone from the beginning? Not just disabled people but also people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, with all needs? What if architects worked on inclusion from the very earliest stages of thinking, planning, and drawing blue prints? That brings us to the concept of universal design:

“Universal design implies a process that goes beyond minimum access codes and standards, to design environments that are comfortably usable by people from childhood into their oldest years. Integrating the core principles of universal design–equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical efforts, and size and shape for approach and use–can improve livability and quality of life for everyone.”

A new, free on-line book discusses these concepts in more depth. Individual chapters are written by authors from around the world, including Brazil and Thailand. The book can be downloaded for free in PDF format at It is available both in regular print and in a large-print version.

Please do share your opinions about this book in the comments area below. I also welcome submissions of a more thorough book review from someone who is familiar with the concept of universal design as applied in developing countries; any such submissions can be sent to me via email at ashettle [at] patriot [dot] net.

The remaining text in this post comes from an announcement written and forwarded by other sources:

Universal Design and Visitability: From Accessibility to Zoning
Edited by Jack L Nasar and Jennifer Evans-Cowley

This book is available for down load at no cost through the generous support of The National Endowment for the Arts Universal Design Leadership Initiative, The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator’s Office.

We hope it advances your interest and understanding of this exciting and ever-widening approach and assists in the teaching of universal design, developing policies that encourage the use of universal design as a process for planning and designing environments that are attractive, comfortable and usable.


Preface by Jack L. Nasar and Jennifer Evans-Cowley

Forward by Deborah Kendrick

The Seven Principles of Universal Design into Planning Practice by Wolfgang F. E. Preiser

Toward Inclusive Housing and Neighborhood Design: A Look at Visitability by Jordana L. Maisel

Universal Design, Architecture and Spatial Cognition without Sight by Shohreh Rashtian

Universal Design in Public Transportation: “Segway” to the Future by Katharine Hunter-Zaworski

As Your County Gets Older…Planning for Senior Housing Needs in Howard County, Maryland by Stephen Lafferty

Making universal design work in zoning and regional planning: A Scandinavian approach by Olav Rand Bringa

Research and Teaching Of Accessibility and Universal Design In Brazil: Hindrances and Challenges In a Developing Country by Cristiane Rose Duarte and Regina Cohen

Universal Design Guidelines to Accommodate Wheelchair Occupants in the Thai Context by Antika Sawadsri

Universal Design in the Institutional Setting: Weaving a Philosophy into Campus Planning by L. Scott Lissner

This book can be downloaded at

Most of the text for this blog post was taken from an announcement sent to me via one of my contacts. The announcement originally was distributed on the Disability-Research Discussion list managed by the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. Following the link will allow you to browse through the list archives or join the list.

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    Ending poverty among and oppression toward disabled people in developing countries.


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