I recently had the great opportunity of presenting the IBM software accessibility strategy at the annual China Accessibility Information Forum in Beijing this November. The event was co-hosted by the Information Industry of PRC(MII), China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), China Foundation for Disabled Persons (CFPD), and Internet Society of China (ISC), and cosponsored by IBM. This annual event is the most important event in China focusing on IT accessibility. This annual event, for which IBM has been a key cosponsor for the past 3 years, is the most important event in China focusing on IT accessibiliity.
The forum's theme was to "Promote Innovative Science and Technology, Establish an Accessible Information Environment." More than 300 attendees discussed the status of accessibility standards and regulations in China, as well as accessibility trends in technology innovation and business transformation.
My impression is that China is going through a major transformation on how they address accessibility. In the last 3 years, accessibility has gone from back to center stage. China is moving very rapidly, however their initial focus is one of eduacation. In the United States, the EU, and many other countries there are services and infrastructure for persons with disabilities (PWDs). In particular, our school systems have already made the transition to provide special education for PWDs. To me, it was apparent that China put this as a top priority and services organization and special education is stepping up to meet the challenge. Also, accessibility legislation is beginning to develop.
IBM, over the past 2 years, has been educating China on the improtance of accessibility legislation harmonization and it appears to be gaining traction. Recent indications are that China is looking to adopt the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 which has applicability beyond your basic web content. China realizes it can learn from our successes and mistakes and are eager to work with us, in industry, to accelerate their accessibility efforts. A webcast, in Chinese, of an interview with Frances West, the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center director is availablee at http://webcast.china.com.cn/webcast/created/973/44_1_0101_desc.htm and a live web cast of the 2-day forum is available at http://www.china.com.cn/tech/zhuanti/3wzalt/node_7005320.htm.
With the growth of accessibility comes business opportunity for assistive technology vendors. Chris Park (GW Micro), Jim Halliday (HumanWare), as well as Caroline Van Howe and David Dikter (ATIA) were present at the conference,
I applaud China's accessibility efforts and at the rate with which they are moving forward I expect to see great progress at next years forum. In our own way, IBM is helping develop accessibility competency in China at our own China Software Development Lab where enablement of our Productivity Editors (office applications supporting the Open Document Format) is being performed.