Promoting Web Accessibility in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

The first web accessibility workshop in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia was held from November 9 to 12, 2010. I had the honor of being one of the speakers in this event. Below I’ll share some information about the workshop and things I have learned from it.

Julius speaking in the Web Accessibility Workshop at the Sarawak Information Systems Training Center

A Glimpse of the Web Accessibility Workshop

We began by discussing and demonstrating the use of screen readers. Basically, a screen reader is a software that enables the user to listen to the text displayed on the screen. This technology is mainly used by blind persons in accessing computers and the Internet. The participants had a first-hand experience in using screen readers installed in the computers in the venue. We felt that the said discussion was important in order for everyone to fully understand the workshop’s main topic.

Then we introduced the concept of web accessibility, its benefits, and issues. Web accessibility is the practice of making web content that is accessible to persons with special needs. In this discussion, we talked about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 or WCAG 2.0. WCAG is the internationally recognized document that provides techniques and methods for making online content accessible to persons with disabilities. Then we demonstrated how to find accessibility issues in web sites and how to solve them. I had the opportunity of presiding over these topics. In addition, I also talked about the Philippine Web Accessibility Group and the accessibility law it has helped establish in our country.

Excellent questions and comments were provided by the participants throughout the event. The workshop’s conclusion was highlighted by remarks from heads of the participating organizations and a short conference with members of the media.

The Accessibility Alliance That Made It All Possible

This event was the result of the collaboration of several organizations. The National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM) took care of the speakers and provided the needed software and additional necessary equipment. Sarawak Information Systems (SAINS) provided the workshop venue and computers used by the attendees. Sarawak Society for the Blind (SSB), Kuching Division Branch provided additional support for the speakers and the workshop.

The participants came from universities and government agencies in Kuching, as well as from SAINS itself. A huge percentage of the attendees were webmasters and web developers. The participants also included administrators and heads of agency departments.

The workshop’s speakers consisted of blind and low vision IT professionals, all of whom have done local and international accessibility workshops and presentations. This team included:

  • Moses Choo, Assistant Executive Director of NCBM
  • Amir Teh, Computer and IT Instructor from St. Nicholas’ Home in Penang
  • Silatul Rahim Dahman, head of the IT department of Malaysian Association for the Blind
  • Albert Chea, low vision student of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
  • Julius Charles Serrano, accessibility consultant from Even Grounds Inc.

Few Thoughts from the Accessibility Ally

This event made me realize that showing the actual source codes of accessible web pages really helps a lot in making web developers understand accessibility. I also learned that there are still many accessibility techniques apart from those in WCAG that we as blind Internet users can share.

I sincerely thank Mr. Moses Choo and NCBM for inviting me to this event and for making sure that I had an enjoyable stay in Kuching. Many thanks also to SAINS and SSB for providing everything the speakers and participants needed during the workshop. I’d be more than happy to help in the upcoming accessibility activities of the organizations and workshop participants.

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