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FAQs – Philippine Web Accessibility Group

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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions


What is PWAG doing?

PWAG is currently doing the following:

  • continuously encouraging those government, non-government and academe webmasters as well as advocates who attended the three regional workshops to participate in the e-group discussions through emails or referring them to NCDA for follow-ups;
  • inviting other webmasters outside of those who attended the regional workshops to participate as guests in the e-group discussion;
  • helping the PWAG members and invited guests about their web accessibility concerns;
  • promoting web accessibility through forums, seminars and workshops;
  • manually evaluating submitted web sites for its web accessibility design compliance and giving them due recognition by publishing their sites in the PWAG official web site;
  • assisting the National Computer Center in selecting web designers who are qualified to receive the “Disabled Friendly Web Site Awards”;
  • discussing together with concerned government agencies (NCDA an NCC-CICT) in formulating the policy for the creation of the official Philippine Web Accessibility Design Recommendations;

Why not just adopt W3C’s WAI instead of creating a Philippine standard?

W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative are a set of standards that many countries choose to adopt. Some countries do not choose WAI, e.g., the United States. Our choice to build our own standards is based on what our country needs and can reasonably do. See the question What is your approach?


But why reinvent the standards?

The Philippines unique definition of accessibility requires us to build a set of standards that are relevant to the country and are achievable given our limited economic resources. Choosing a set of ready standards that are not reflective of the Philippine situation would be inappropriate.


What is your approach?

We asked the question, ”what is accessibility in the Philippine context?” The answers were different from those of the developed nations. They were also different from those of the other developing nations. For example, the family/support structure makes independent living less relevant; persons with visual impairments can ask other people to read for them. The dominant Information and Communication Technologies used are cell phones and short-message systems (SMS). Only a small fraction of the population is using computers, and almost nobody uses or can afford screen readers.

Over the past three years, we have had seminars and workshops, with policy makers, webmasters and persons with disabilities in attendance. These workshops helped us understand the unique situation of accessibility needs in the Philippines, our available capacity to remediate websites, and the cost implications of remediation.

Through collaboration, we have a clear idea of the balance between the needs (and wants) of persons with disabilities, and what web producers can reasonably and economically build. We will be basing our standards on that balance.

At the same time, the workshops and meetings gave us an opportunity to build strong supporting relationships among the players (policy makers, webmasters and persons with disabilities). We formalized the PWAG as a result.


So who is creating the Philippine standards?

The policy and its supporting standards are being created by PWAG and the supporting government organizations of NCDA, DSWD and NCC (CICT). The online discussions and meetings of the PWAG are aimed at keeping a pace in the development of standards and policies.


What have you learned about the costs of accessibility?

We believe that if we had simply adopted the WAI standards, that we would be doing more (and less) than we had to, to meet our definition of accessibility. Not only would this be more expensive, but it would also discourage moving toward accessibility in the first place.

An important lesson was that accessible web development will actually save money, if it is incorporated in new developments. Remediating inaccessible websites, on the other hand, costs more than many organizations are willing to invest, and requires a long time to complete. So, remediation is being phased in with new development, such as when websites shift from HTML to Content Management systems.


Who supports your approach?

In principle, we have the support of the United Nations. Since 1997, the Philippines has been a leader in getting the United Nations to help developing nations benefit from better accessibility of information and communication technology (ICT). In 2003, the Philippines sponsored a UN-supported workshop on Accessibility of ICT for Persons with Disabilities. This workshop produced documents that answers the relevant accessibility and technology questions of developing nations. They are the Manila Declaration on Accessible ICT, and the Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendation.


Why are the declaration and design recommendations important?

This declaration is part of the input to a new UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The declaration has helped insure that accessible information is a human right. The recommendation is a set of threshold level functional specifications for accessibility of technology. The recommendation was co-developed by the United Nations and accessibility expert Cynthia Waddell. Ms. Waddell, who inspired the development of USA’s Section 508, applied best practices in that effort into the functional specifications of the Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendation.

PWAG is using the Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendation as a basis for the development of standards. Since the recommendation provides minimal specification, we will add value to it based on what persons with disabilities in the Philippines need, and what we can reasonably afford to build.


When do you expect to have your standards?

Because this is a grass-roots effort, we think this is going to be a long process. We expect to take at least one year to properly build our standards. We may take longer if we choose to turn this policy into law.


What do you do about accessibility in the meantime?

We are applying what we think are good practices in the meantime. We do not have a minimum level of compliance, but we recognize websites that are implementing accessibility and usability changes in their websites, based on the Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations. At the same time, webmasters choose to comply with WAI-AA or higher, and USA’s Section 508 for new developments. Without a set of standards, we call these sites “disabled-friendly websites”. Every six months, the NCDA and CICT provide a ”disabled-friendly website award” to those webmasters who have displayed significant positive effort towards accessibility in their websites.


What about those web sites that are not disabled friendly?

We believe in encouragement rather than fault-finding. Many of our members have complex websites that require considerable effort to remediate.


How can I be a member of PWAG?

Please refer to About PWAG page. If you are not eligible for membership, you are still invited to observe or join our online conversation.


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