National Accessibility Programme
The National Accessibility Programme (NAP) is a large, multi-year research and innovation project that addresses the marginalisation of persons with disabilities from the mainstream society and economy ensuring their participation and inclusion at all levels of society through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The project was conceptualised and developed by the CSIR Meraka Institute in partnership with a representative group of Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs) and the former Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) in The Presidency. NAP has been able to initiate integration within the disability environment and unite stakeholders in a commonality of purpose to achieve the vision of changing the disability landscape in South Africa through ICT. The project was implemented through six complementary tracks; Domain R&D, Technical R&D, Management and Leadership, Deployment and Sustainability, Advocacy and awareness and Methodology development. Key assets in the NAP suite include:
- An “integrated” portal which has been set up to cater for different disabilities including hearing, visual, speech, physical, mental and intellectual disabilities.
- Source code of the Accessible Technology Platform (on which the portal was built).
- Technical developments for assistive technologies such as GNApp and the Notetaker; and experience in running pilot accessibility centres.
The R&D phase of the NAP project scope came to a completion in March 2009. However, in order to achieve the maximum potential and impact of the initiative, it must be transferred to an appropriate legal implementation vehicle, that will be responsible for operationalising an independent and sustainable National Accessibility Programme and its associated interventions nationally, and into Africa. The project is thus in a technology transfer phase.
NAP is positioned as an integrated service provider to the disability community and industry offering technology services, communication services, data synthesis services and other commercial services. NAP is thus a one-stop information, services and communications channel that will support everyone involved in the disability field – persons with disabilities, caregivers, the medical profession, and those offering services in this domain.
Approximately 4 million people in South Africa are disabled [INDS, census 2001] and access to information, services and the ability to effectively communicate is a key need. Significant technological challenges exist in making services accessible to persons with different forms of disabilities in an affordable way. Existing devices and software that allow people with disabilities to interact with ICT systems are prohibitively expensive and have not been designed for the South African context. NAP is particularly focused on addressing such needs. The project enables persons with disabilities to play an active role in the economy and allow them to improve the quality of their lives. NAP is importantly a communication medium that will allow people with disabilities to share experiences with each other as well as find information irrespective of their physical location. The programme has application beyond South Africa and in particular, in the context of NEPAD and the African Decade of Disabled Persons, throughout the rest of the Continent.
Services that are available on the portal include:
- Making available all disability-related information (SA legislation, available jobs, special equipment, access-free advice, sports/cultural events, health and rehabilitation issues, medical services and advice, international links, etc.);
- Information management facilities for councils, organisations, government departments and health professionals in order to ensure current and up-to-date information;
- Sophisticated communication facilities (e.g. email and discussion forums)
The main stakeholders involved in the project include:
- CSIR Meraka Institute, an ICT R&D institute with a vision of accelerating South Africa's development towards an inclusive Information Society.
- The former Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP), an umbrella Organisation established in The Presidency and responsible for the coordination, monitoring and implementation of the Integrated National Disability Strategy.
- The Independent Living Centre (ILC), an NGO, operating as an integrated Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities. It provides a community-based service as well as a display of commercially available equipment and other resources for persons with disabilities.
- The SA National Council for the Blind (SANCB), an NGO striving to meet the needs of all blind and partially sighted people of South Africa.
- The Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA), an NGO which co-ordinates and facilitates services to the South African Deaf and hard of hearing communities.
- The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA (NCPPDSA), an NGO promoting the maximum level of independence and integration of persons with physical disabilities into the community and the prevention of the occurrence of physical disablement.
- The QuadPara Association (QASA) was established to assist quadriplegics by providing a range of highly specialised support services that are designed to promote and encourage their rehabilitation, community integration and independence.
- The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is a non-profit organisation, which aims to act as a dynamic national movement, which serves as an effective resource to empower people to attain optimal mental health and quality of life in a just society, through its various services and programmes.
Hina Patel (NAP initiative leader)
Meraka - African Advanced Institute for Information and Communications Technology (AAIICT)
P.O. Box 395, Pretoria 0001