Manila ICT Design Recommendations
Interregional Seminar and Regional Demonstration Workshop on Accessible ICT and Persons with Disabilities, Manila, Philippines, March 3-7, 2003


Recognizing that information and communication technologies (ICT) accessibility barriers are systemic and reach all sectors of our global economy, and that ICT accessibility barriers prevent the global community of persons with disabilities from full and equal participation and enjoyment in daily life; and

Noting that the global community is prevented from being enriched by our diverse abilities and contributions; and

Acknowledging that Universal Design concepts inform public policy by calling for the development of ICT flexible enough to accommodate the needs and preferences of the broadest range of users, regardless of age or disability or the limitations of our computer equipment; and

Noting that accessible ICT:

removes communications and information access barriers that restrict business and social interactions between persons with disabilities and non-disabled persons;

removes age-related barriers to participation in society;

reduces language and literacy-related barriers to society;

reduces risk of information worker injuries and

enhances global commerce opportunities.

Therefore, the “Manila Declaration on Accessible ICT” confirms that we are at a significant crossroad where ICT accessibility barriers need to be addressed at all levels effectively and urgently, and call for progress on the elaboration of a comprehensive and integrated international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of development, endorsed by General Assembly resolution 56/168 of 19 December 2001.

The normative basis for the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” is Rule 5 (Accessibility) of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities [3] that provides “States should recognize the overall importance of accessibility in the process of equalization of opportunities . . . . and should . . . undertake measures to provide access to information and communication.”

The conceptual basis for the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” is Universal Design in the light of its concern with designs that meet the needs of diverse users through inclusive solutions and open and democratic participation. The business case for Universal Design is based on the fact that benefits extend beyond the community of people with disabilities. In the case of ICT, designs based on universal concepts provide for flexibility to accommodate those who operate in low bandwidth settings, use cell phones to synthesize text and access the Internet by means of alternative devices. Five considerations in the design for accessibility with reasonable accommodation are important:

Content is organized and presented appropriate to the interests, needs and preferences of end users;

Aesthetics of the design accommodate the needs and preferences of diverse users;

Accessibility of the design benefits all users as well as users with special needs;

Usability of the design allows users to access, navigate, search and leave the information resource easily, intuitively and without barriers;

Sustainability of the design is based on content management that affords flexibility to accommodate needs and preferences of diverse users. The operational focus of the “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” is timely and reliable information goods and services appropriate to each user.

The “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” are based on the premise that accessibility by reasonable accommodation can be achieved easily and efficiently with the application of “first principles” of accessibility. For accessible Web design, two principles are central: [4]

Every visual element should be implemented with a textual element that describes it. Alternative text allows for description of graphical images.

The structure and layout of the document should be dealt with separately. Structure is defined by HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) elements and attributes; and layout is defined by style sheets. Separation of layout from content aids text browsers to extract easily the logical structure of the document.

The “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” seek to address problems of barriers in Web-based information goods and services with the identification of a select set of “electronic curb cuts” [5] that provide flexibility for accommodating each user’s needs and preferences. [6] For example:

Provide an Access Instruction page for visitors (explaining the accessibility features of the Web site and providing an e-mail hyperlink for visitors to communicate problems with Web page accessibility);

Provide support for text browsers and descriptive hyperlinks (links such as “this” and “click here” do not alone convey the nature of the target link);

Attach ALT (alternative) text to graphic images so that assistive computer technology such as screen readers can reach the content;

For each photograph contributing meaningful content to the page, provide a “D” hyperlink to a page providing descriptive text of the image;

Provide text transcriptions or descriptions for all audio and video clips;

Provide alternative mechanisms for online forms since forms are not supported by all browsers (such as e-mail or voice/TTY phone numbers);

Avoid access barriers, such as the posting of documents in Adobe ® PDF (Portable Document Format), non-linear format, Frame format or requiring visitors to download software to access the content. If posting in Adobe ® PDF, accessible HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) or ASCII text must also be posted by the Web master converting the document.

The “Manila Accessible ICT Design Recommendations” represent a minimum threshold in accessibility with reasonable accommodation.

These recommendations are always “under construction” to promote provision of flexibility to accommodate needs and preferences of users of electronic and information technology products and services in response to continuing technical innovations.


Adopted at Manila, 7 March 2003


1 Universal design is based on the following premises: (a) varying ability is not a special condition of the few but a common characteristic of being human and we change physically and intellectually throughout out lives; (b) if a design works well for people with disabilities, it works better for everyone; (c) at any point in our lives, personal self-esteem, identity, and well-being are deeply affected by our ability to function in our physical surroundings with a sense of comfort, independence and control; and (d) usability and aesthetics are mutually compatible < >. See “Report” of International Seminar on Environmental Accessibility; planning and design of accessible urban development in developing countries (Beirut, 30 November – 3 December 1999) < >. See also, Leslie Kanes Weisman, “Creating justice, sustaining life: the role of Universal Design in the 21st century”; Keynote address to Twentieth anniversary celebration, Adaptive Environments Center (Boston, MA, April 1999), which discusses three tenets of Universal Design: “First, universal design reminds us that there is no separation between mind and body, and between people and their environments. Second, universal design recognizes that there is no separation between human health, environmental health, and social justice. Third, universal design upholds the democratic ideals of social equality and personal empowerment because universal designers strive to create products and spatial environments that are designed to provide the same level of comfort, accessibility and assistance to multiple users and multiple publics.”

2 Cynthia D. Waddell, JD. “The Growing Digital Divide in Access for People with Disabilities: overcoming barriers to participation” (1999), p. 2 at < >. (Hereinafter Digital Divide Paper).

3 General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex, of 20 December 1993

4 Association Braille Net, “To make a site more accessible”

5 Digital Divide Paper, op. cit p. 10-11.

6 “Implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, report of the Secretary-General (A/54/388/Add.1)”

7 Cynthia D. Waddell, “Overview of Law and Guidelines,” Chap. 2 in Jim Thatcher et al., Constructing Accessible Web Sites, (Birmingham (UK) Glasshaus, 2002).

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