More than 8 million people in Mexico live with some type of disability. Sadly, Mexico has a checkered history with its treatment of disabled individuals. A study conducted by a Washington-based advocacy group in 2000 found widespread abuse and inefficiency in Mexico’s treatment of the disabled. As one of the countries that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities in 2006, Mexico is revamping its efforts to improve quality of life for its disabled, with web accessibility a central focus of this push.
Manifesto on Usability and Accessibility for Mexican Government Websites
In November 2006, a gathering of academics at the University of Monterrey (UdeM) in Mexico discussed their concerns over the lack of legislation by the Mexican government on the topic of accessibility. Luis Aceves, a professor in the department of computer science and management at UdeM, argued that:
The spread of digital technology has opened new opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities for governments…The Web can be the most democratic tool a government has because it allows for direct communication, overcoming geographic, cultural, economic, and hierarchical barriers, as well as those faced by people with disabilities…It is the duty of the creators and administrators of these technologies to guide them and improve people’s quality of life.
The document known as the Manifesto on Usability and Accessibility for Mexican Government Websites was presented at the Web International Seminar on July 27, 2007. The Manifesto laid out the need for accessible government websites to help facilitate and promote citizen participation. The Manifesto was signed by 23 Mexican states and 3 municipalities as a sign of the government’s commitment to the Manifesto’s goals. The government created a non-profit organization, the Usability and Accessibility Web (UAWeb), to see the mission through. UAWeb provides support to companies and agencies that want to improve their web accessibility initiatives.
The momentum provided by the Manifesto has carried over into other sectors of Mexican life. In July 2014 a new Telecommunications act included provisions for accessible design to assist Mexican citizens with disabilities. Disability advocates worked with the government to promote accessible design and online formats. The Mexican Ministry of Communications is responsible for its implementation, and compliance must be reached by August 2017.
Recent Accessibility Efforts
In December 2015, it was announced that all websites belonging to the Federal Public Administration of Mexico would become accessible to individuals with disabilities. A deadline for completion has not yet been set. This policy is being enacted as an effort to comply with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and is the result of a partnership between the National Council for Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and the Federal Telecommunications Institute. Standards for web accessibility will follow the internationally recognized guidelines offered by the World Wide Web Consortium known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
Mexico is finally starting to address the online needs of its disabled community. Good news for 8 million or so Mexicans and their families. Time will tell whether their mission is a success.