IGF 2014 has ended

Andrea Saks

Chairman of the ITU JCA-AHF

Chairman of the ITU JCA-AHF, Coordinator of the IGF DCAD, Permanent G3ict Representative to the ITU and other organizations dealing with access for Persons with Disabilities.

Ms Andrea Saks is a known advocate for ICTs for persons with disabilities. She grew in a family of two deaf parents and assisted them from an early age as their interface with the hearing world: She was responsible for making doctors’ appointments, arranging guests’ visits and other appointments by using the telephone which was then inaccessible to her family without her. Her father, the late Andrew Saks, the late Robert Weitbrecht and the late James C. Marsters deaf themselves, were the first pioneers to create a telephone system that the deaf could use independently. The created a modem called the “Phonetype” coupled to the normal telephone and using surplus teletypewriters as the printing device they had a deaf telephone system that spread throughout the world. These devices were the precursors of textphones and today’s real-time text messaging.  She took her role as an interface to the next level when she relocated from the US to the UK in 1972 to promote the use of textphones internationally. She worked with the British Government Post Office, OFTEL, and Deaf organizations and was granted a license in 1976 for the  connection of those early text telephones on the regular British telephone network which created the first international deaf telephone system as it was interoperable with the US system. She was able to successfully lobby the US FCC to allow the first transatlantic text phone conversation over the voice telephone network (1975) proving that international telecommunications was viable and necessary for persons who were deaf.  Her first involvement with ITU standardization activity started in 1991 because unwisely, the British deaf were badly advised to “upgrade” to a non-compatible system thus destroying interoperability between the two English speaking countries. The ITU was the place to make international standards and she hope to rectify this problem. V.18 a standard for making all protocols of text phones interoperable... Sadly industry refused to implement V.18 into the modems of the day. Since then she has ever increased her scope of involvement internationally to make it possible for all Persons with Disabilities and specific needs to have international access to all communication technology. Self-funded, she currently attends many ITU-T, study groups promoting the inclusion of accessibility functionality in systems being standardized by ITU, such as multimedia conferencing, cable, IPTV and NGN...  After the creation of ITU-D Question 20/1 on accessibility matters in WTDC-06, she also started attending that group. She now performs as a bridge between all sectors on the subject of accessibility for persons with disabilities. She now is working with ITU-R working parties re broadcasting for accessible television and spectrum allocation to prevent interference to ADLs, Assistive Listening Devices. She also was largely responsible for the first ITU wide Accessibility Resolution created in 2010 at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference and is currently advising several countries on its update for the nest ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in 2014 to continue to bring the ITU accessibility policies in line with UNCRPD.  She advises many US delegations to the ITU on the subject of Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and persons with specific needs. She has been a key person in the creation of all accessibility events in ITU, and currently is the Chairman of the ITU JCA-AHF, the Joint Coordination Activity on Accessibility and Human factors, as well as the coordinator of the IGF DCAD, the Internet Governance Forum’s Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability.  She is the permanent representative to the ITU for G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs.  In 2008 she was given the ITU World Telecommunication and Information Society Award and made a Laureate for her lifelong work in accessibility to telecommunications and ICTs for persons with Disabilities.