Universal Access To Public Legal Information By Persons With Disabilities: A Case Study Of Klr
December 3, 2012
A paper presented at the 2012 Law Via Internet Conference October 7-9, 2012, Cornell Law School,
Ithaca, New York-USA
By Ann M. Asugah, Team Leader, Laws of Kenya – National Council for Law Reporting
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees the right to access public information as a fundamental right for all citizens. Particularly for persons with disabilities, the Constitution guarantees the right to a barrier-free and disability friendly environment that enables them to access social amenities and assistive devices.
The National Council for Law Reporting is State Corporation in the Judiciary. It is established under the National Council for Law Reporting Act No. 11 of 1994. The mandate of the Council is to publish the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Kenya (in the form of the official Kenya Law Reports) and to revise, consolidate and publish the Laws of Kenya and other related information. The Council has established itself as the focal point institution in providing access to Kenya’s public legal information.
The Vision of the Council is: “To be the premier resource institution in Africa providing reliable and accessible legal information to the public.”
The Mission of the Council is: “To provide access to public legal information in order to aid the administration of and access to justice, the knowledge and practice of law and the development of jurisprudence”.
Statement of the Challenge
Universal access to public legal information by persons with disability
- Based on consultations between the National Council for Law Reporting (the Council) and individuals and institutions on the frontlines of serving the needs of persons with physical disabilities, particularly visually impaired persons, the Council has established that:
- Over 10% of the world’s population suffers from a variety of disabilities. However, information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of these persons.
- ICTs offer individuals the ability to compensate for physical or functional limitations, thus allowing them to enhance their social and economic integration in communities by enlarging the scope of activities available to them.
- Under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 section 54, in addition to the rights granted to all persons, persons with disabilities are entitled to:
- access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person;
- reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
- use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
- access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
- Available only in the English language often expressed in technical terminology. Like a majority of other public information, it is not available in Swahili, which is the national language and the unifying language of not only nearly 100% of the Kenyan population but also most of the countries that form the East African Community.
- Is not fully accessible to persons with physical or cognitive limitations and it does not easily lend itself to current and emerging assistive technologies for accessing the information.
- As the focal point institution in providing access to public legal information in Kenya, the Council has a constitutional and legal obligation to provide access to that information to all citizens, including access to “materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability” – vide sections 35 and 54 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 – and more particularly, to secure the enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their right ‘to a barrier-free and disability friendly environment to enable them to have access to…social amenities and assistive devices’ – vide section 21 of the Persons With Disabilities Act, 2003.
- Access to public legal information in Kenya is limited by, among other factors, the language and formats in which the information is presented. Among the most access-disadvantaged citizens are persons with physical disabilities, particularly the visually impaired. Public legal information, and particularly the Laws of Kenya, has been historically provided exclusively in the English language and in formats that are not in conformity with current standards in universal access.
- The creation, management and deployment of Kenya’s public legal information is not predicated on a standard or technology platform that makes the content universally accessible. Even though this information is published on the Council’s website (www.kenyalaw.org), the information, particularly the Laws of Kenya, is:
- The Council has a constitutional and legal obligation to provide access to public legal information to persons of all abilities, including access to ‘materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability’ and more particularly, to secure the enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their right ‘to a barrier-free and disability friendly environment to enable them to have access to…social amenities and assistive devices’. The first step in fulfilling this obligation is to convert the Council’s public legal information into universally accessible formats.
- In order to do this, the council has partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation towards an initiative known as Improving Public Access to Information through Impact Sourcing (IMPACT-IS), that will ensure that the Council translates and converts its online content, particularly the Laws of Kenya into universally accessible formats using a set of document translation and conversion standards, guidelines and templates already developed and documented by and for the Council.
It is the intention of the council to convert all our online content into universally accessible formats and to redesign our website to fit universal accessible guidelines like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0. In order to achieve this, the following will be done:
Internationalization and localization: We will redesign and redevelop our website to be adapted for different cultures, regions, or languages. Our website will be redeveloped to adapt and accommodate Swahili, and will be localized to adapt the features that will help in the presentation of the Swahili language in the website. All the content of our website, including the individual text in the website and all the documents in the website will be translated in Swahili and be presented in the Swahili version of the website.
Perceive: In order to make information perceivable by people who have ocular disabilities of the eye and users missing one or more human senses, we will Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, Braille, speech, symbols or simpler language: alternatives for time-based media: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure: and Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background. This will be done by Ensuring all images, form image buttons, and image map hot spots have appropriate, equivalent alternative text, all decorative images implemented as CSS backgrounds, all linked images have descriptive alternative text, equivalent alternatives to complex images are provided in context or on a separate (linked and/or referenced via longdesc) page, all form buttons have a descriptive value, form inputs have associated text labels or, if labels cannot be used, a descriptive title attribute, embedded multimedia is identified via accessible text and all frames are appropriately titled
Operability: The NCLR website will be redesigned to make sure that the User Interface components and navigation are easily operable. This will be done by making all functionality available from the keyboard, make sure that the website has user friendly colors to prevent seizure attacks, provide navigation tools to help users find contents and determine where they are and provide users enough time to read and access content. Also, there will be provision to enlarge or decrease the font of text on the website, and it will provide a mechanism for reading text out loud for users.
Policy statement: other than all the above, NCLR will Place a statement on the home page that assures visitors of your commitment to providing accessible web resources
In specific, the following contents will be presented in the following ways:
The Home page
- All hyperlinks will be underlined for color-blind users who cannot distinguish between dark colors.
- We will not use a different font colour for bold type.
- Users will be able to search the entire website including all content categories through the main search tool.
- We will combine scripts and style sheets where possible and use minification to reduce the number of requests made to the server and increase the speed of page loads. Use CSS sprites for images that are used frequently.
- Avoid redirects and frames. A redirect adds another client-server round trip, so instead of processing your page immediately after receiving the initial response, the browser will have to make another request and wait for the second response. If you use frames, the browser has to request at least three HTML pages, instead of just one — those of the frameset as well as each of the frames.
The Kenya Gazette
- The content lists will be linked, each linking to the specific content for easy access
- If the Content items have a lot of content, we will use of expandable content layout
- The content will be aligned left, inclusive of the titles, and the names of person(s) who submitted the content
- The font size will be by default be of size 11
- We will use of different text weights or colors to clearly distinguish the various parts of the content, e.g. the title, person(s) who submitted the articles etc.
- We will Consider grouping links on the left by Year, Month then specific Date
The Bill Tracker
- We will Use user programmed list complete with well defined style sheets instead of using plain html tables
- We will Make the list searchable for easy access to the content
- We will Order the list by a given parameter e.g. submission date, maturity date, supplement No.
- The font type will be, by default be of size 11
The Cause List
- Group the cause list by Division and time
- Ensure the cause list is presented in the same format and design across
- Where several dates are present, use of expandable content design
- The font type will be by default size 11
- In the List of Licensed Servers, split the list into pages with proper navigation links
- between the pages
- Make the list of Licensed Servers searchable by name and License Number
The Bench Bulletin
- List the various entries in a list of 4(four) entries per row
- Include bulleting publication date information and the size of each publication
- Clearly mark the current issue as the ‘The current issue’
- Make it possible for the user, to peruse the content of a bulletin before downloading the bulletin itself. And as such have a clear link, named download.
Have a list on the left or a search area for searching specific bulleting
The Case Search
- Clearly mark the search boxes with the expected user input
- Include information of most search information
- Remove the link ‘Other Resources’ as it has no connection with the other three tabs.
All other Categories
- For all the content that is downloadable, clearly mark them with a download link and indicated the format of the download.
- All lists will not contain more than 10 items. Break lists into pages or use scrollable tables or lists.
- If any of the contents requires an external tool for it to be consumed by the users, clearly mark this on the content and provide clear links for the external tool
- Ensure that the user can navigate easily from one content to another.
 Constitution of Kenya 2010, articles 25, 54
 Persons With Disabilities Act, 2003, section 21