Mexico enacted a new Telecommunications Law on July 2014 which includes for the first time ever, provisions for ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities. Civil society’s active participation, the collaboration and support of legislators of all political parties, and media involvement was the key and the essence to achieve this is the starting point towards making Mexico an ICT accessible country. Additionally, a very important support came from Karen Peltz and Andrea Saks, disability rights experts and activists of other countries that provided relevant information on ICT accessibility.
The bill of law initially presented by the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, to the Mexican Congress had only three lines on ICT accessibility, providing for subtitles in news programs for multiprogramming channels in digital TV. However, advocates for accessibility were successful in working with legislators to bring a more comprehensive view of accessibility to the bill. The bill eventually signed into law included several provisions not in the initial proposal, the main points of which can be summarized as follows:
- Public entities websites must comply with web accessibility criteria and must consider technology evolution.
- Users with disabilities are entitled to have terminal equipment with accessibility features, programs and applications.
- Users with disabilities must have access to an emergency number that may include text messaging.
- Telecommunication operators and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) must have accessible formats, websites and call centers for users with disabilities.
- Captioning/Subtitles and sign language must be included in at least one news program with national coverage.
- Closed captions/subtitles must be included in all programs from 6am until midnight of (1) commercial free to air TV channels that cover more than 50% of the Mexican Republic, and (2) all Federal public entity TV channels. This obligation must be complied with by August 2017.
- Broadcasters must provide accessible means so that persons with disabilities can contact the ombudsperson and make their complaints regarding programming and audiovisual content.
- The programming guides of pay TV companies must also be accessible through a telephone number or a website.
The foundation for ICT accessibility in Mexico is now laid. The challenges will be to turn the words of the legislation into reality. This is especially important because the main focus for telecommunications development has historically been placed on the competition model and market forces do not necessarily assume their responsibility in having accessible ICT.
The Mexican regulator (Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones), the Executive branch through the Ministry of Communications (SCT) and the National Digital Strategy (EDN) will have a key role for implementing the legal provisions. Nonetheless, civil society must be the watchdog to ensure that the benefits of technology are enjoyed by everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.
** Clara-Luz ALVAREZ is an ICT researcher in the Universidad Panamericana.
firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter @claraluzalvarez / claraluzalvarez.org
 The author of this article and a journalist Katia D´Artigues filed a proposal before the Mexican Senate, explaining the importance of ICT accessibility, the justification of the proposal and the legal text. Alvarez, Clara-Luz and D´Artigues, Katia, Exposición de motivos, propuesta de capítulo de accesibilidad a telecomunicaciones y radiodifusión por personas con discapacidad, April 11, 2014, http://claraluzalvarez.org/?p=106.