Thursday, July 9, 2020

Silly idea of decriminalizing RPWD act 2016 for enhancement of Ease of doing Business.

Silly idea of Decriminalizing RPWD act 2016 for Enhancement of Ease of Doing Business in India.

Ministry of corporate affair’s, government of India has plan to decriminalize and dilute the provisions of RPWD act 2016 to enhance ease of doing business and attract forign direct investment in India.  I am Unable to understand who has shared this idea with the union government and how government has taken it’s cognizance without understanding its impact. I would like to ask that how many businesses have suffered by the provisions of RPWD act since last 4 years? And what level? Do the provisions of RPWD act are really becoming hurdles before businesses? Answer is obvious no.
So we have to register protest against the Union government’s  decision of dechriminalising RPWD act and diluting it’s penal provisions in the interest of improvising ease of doing business in India.
Several developed nations like USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, European nations are having high ranking of ease of doing business despite of their disability laws are stronger than India.
The RPWD act 2016 it self is having soft penalties against its non compliance result of which no government, non government or corporate organizations adhere any compliances enforced by the act. Even 5 percent of its provisions are not yet implemented since last 4 and half years due to which millions of persons with disabilities who are already are marginalized and suffering alot.
None of the banking services, e-learning services, E-commerse services, transport services, organizational Built infrastructure are even partially accessible for persons with disabilities. Almost Corporate organizations falsely Clame  that their products and services are accessible for persons with disabilities.  No employees with disabilities in india is getting farely good accessible environment and facilities from corporate organizations. Research revealed that only few industries have equal employment opportunities policy that to only on paper. Its implementation is hardly observed on ground. No organization or individuals have fear of non compliance of RPWD act 2016. Data revealed that very few cases are filed against government or corporate organizations since enactment of the law and industries are least suffered.
Hence i firmly believe that the current provisions of RPWD act 2016 will not be hurdle for ease of doing business and decriminalizing the act will not affect positively. On the contrary persons with disabilities will be suffered a lot specially in accessible products and services, inaccessible environment for employees with disabilities. Persons with disabilities will become agrasive and protest against industries if they will not get firm legal solutions and infact  such messed environment will discourage investment and ease of doing business. The development should be sustainable and holistic. Not in the interest of deterioration of life of individuals with disabilities.
Considering these crucial points, the concern authorities should drop the decision of decriminalizing and diluting the penal provisions of RPWD act 2016 in the interest of improvising ease of doing business.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dream of Digital Accessibility in India is miles away for persons with disabilities


Accessibility is basic human rights recognized by United Nations conventions on rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD). The Government of India has ratified UNCRPD in 2007 and amended disability laws and regulations by passing “Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD”) act in 2016. Ministry of electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), Government of India has also designed Government of India Guidelines for Web accessibility (GIGW) 2010 and adapted National Electronic Access policy in 2012. In 2015, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India has started Accessible India Campaign (AIC) under which the government has started making thousands of websites accessibility compliant for the benefits of persons with disabilities and others. Digital Accessibility that covers websites, mobile applications, and multimedia content accessibility is one of the 3 components of the campaign.

Although relevant government officials are claiming that they have made around 200+ portal accessible; unfortunately in reality none of the government website is accessibility compliant. the website of “Accessible India Campaign” itself is not accessibility compliant. Then what more persons with disabilities can expect from the digital accessibility component of the campaign? Crucial websites for persons with disabilities such as Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, MSJE, Government of India (DEPWD), Universal Disability Identity Card (UDID), National Handicap Development Corporation (NHFDC), “Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD)”, Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) are having severe accessibility issues today. Very important websites for students and researchers with disabilities like MHRD, UGC, NAAC, Svayam, Svayamprabha, Shodh Ganga, CBSE, NCERT, e-Patshala, etc. are highly inaccessible for persons with disabilities.

It is highly disappointing that none of the Indian university/Institutes including top Central universities, IITs, IIMs, AIMS, NIITs etc. websites are accessibility compliant to any basic accessibility guidelines. Students with disabilities cannot fill up online forms, check their examination results or use educational resources on any of such websites. Also none of the corporate websites that people use every day was accessible for persons with disabilities. E-commerce websites such as Flipkart, Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato, Dominoes, and FoodPanda are so inaccessible that they cannot order items without the assistance of able- bodied persons. People also face several issues while using Paytm, Phone/Pe applications. Only Google/Pe App is accessible to them. Persons with visual impairment face lot of challenges while booking cabs on Ola and Uber Apps. Users with disabilities cannot independently do their travel bookings on Make My Trip,, Redbus, IRCTC websites. Persons with disabilities cannot create their profile and search jobs independently on, None of the online banking services are accessible for persons with disabilities to do any banking transactions independently. They have to share their important financial information to the person who is assisting them for banking transactions which is highly risky and vulnerable.

Unfortunately several Corporates in India have also not yet understood business case for digital accessibility. They hardly consider 70 million customers with disabilities and their business potential or buying capacity. They treat accessibility compliance as charity for persons with disabilities rather than attracting them towards accessible products and services and improving their customer base.

The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) foundation has digital accessibility as one of the crucial vertical. However their own websites has several severer accessibility issues as if they have deliberately created barriers for screen reader users. Thus Digital Accessibility programs are just a show for several corporates like Wipro, TCS, Infosys and Cognizant like organizations which provide accessibility solutions to others. These organizations have not even made their own web services accessibility compliant to their employees with disabilities. They have Equal Employment Opportunity policy on paper. How do we then expect that they will provide accessible products and services? Several international companies adhere to accessibility standards and regulations in other countries. But when they provide services and operate in India they ignore accessibility compliance.

Severity of inaccessible environment is experienced intensely in the current pandemic situation. persons with disabilities cannot ask assistance from peer team while doing work from home. The digital content is not fully accessible for persons with disabilities in India. Despite laws, policies, guidelines, and mandates, persons with disabilities are deprived of all the essential services.  Their frustration is so high that they feel highly dependent while living in an Independent Nation.  It would be very much convenient for all the persons with disabilities to use digital services independently with the use of assistive technologies if those services are designed and developed with the consideration of universal design approach. They can use screen readers, screen magnifiers, speech recognition like assistive technologies to interact with the websites and digital content without any other’s assistance. Actually they can enjoy very high level of independence if all such web services would be accessibility compliant.

I personally believe that the bureaucrats of Indian Government mislead the ministers, persons with disabilities and entire nation at large as they are falsely claiming that thousands of websites are being made accessible and around 200+ crucial websites are now become accessible. In disability consultations, conferences and accessibility training programs, I have continuously pointed out that none of the websites in India can be said accessibility compliant to the standards/guidelines the government has adapted. Last year I personally requested the concerned director, joint-secretary and Secretary DEPWD, MSJE, Government of India who are nodal officers that they should seriously look in to this matter and try to understand digital accessibility barriers of persons with disabilities. I personally found that many such nodal officers are insensitive and incompetent to handle the matter. Lack of their willingness is another concern.

I have observed that several times National award for best accessible websites are conferred to those websites which are highly inaccessible and does not qualify for compliance. I believe that in their understanding web accessibility means providing font resizing, color contrast changing, language-changing features, providing screen-reader access link, on the top of the website. Moreover providing alternative text to all the informative and decorative images as well as providing text only version of the website - that’s only accessibility.

Since last 10 years I tried to sensitize such nodal officers. But they do not want to spend their very important time for such a useless work what they believe. I also offered whatever expertise I have to them for making important websites accessibility compliant for the benefit of persons with disabilities with no any commercials. But no proper response was forthcoming. The digital accessibility related work is with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), Government of India. They have been doing accessibility audit and accessibility compliance work from the Companies which do not have experience of accessibility compliance. Also nodal authorities of digital accessibility in MEITY hardly have proper knowledge of Accessibility guidelines. In fact most of them do not have willingness to learn accessibility, which is the reason that they cannot monitor whether their empanelled vendors have properly audited and remediated the websites for accessibility. Several empanelled vendors who are working for web accessibility compliance with the government are cheating government authorities as they have limited knowledge of accessibility compliance. The government officials along with empanelled vendors of access consulting services are collectively cheating ministers, law makers, 70 million persons with disabilities and the nation at large. Government and corporate organizations are joking with persons with disabilities on the name of digital accessibility.

We can ask for justice through disability tribunals. But Commissioner of persons with disabilities does not know accessibility compliance and its importance for persons with disabilities. Human rights commission and activists never raise such issues as they are busy in designing manufactured issues to trouble the government and create mess. The print media, audio visual media never raise accessibility related challenges of persons with disabilities in their shows and news bulletins as they think that this will not generate TRP to them since this group is a minority. I have never seen any news debate about accessibility challenges of persons with disabilities. Moreover they do not bother that their Web portals, text and multimedia content is not accessible and usable.

We can ask justice in courts by filing Public Interest Litigations. But unfortunately courts web services do not adhere to any accessibility guidelines or standards. How organizations will obey the court orders as their own digital services are inaccessible?

Then what can be done to create barrier free and accessible environment in India?

According to me we all certified accessibility professionals, organizations working for persons with disabilities, lawyers with disabilities, disability activists and users with disabilities should come together and inform the current status of digital accessibility to concerned ministers and Prime Minister’s office as Accessible India Campaign was started with the cognizance of our request and suggestions. We should build good political relations and improve our political status by joining disability cell of political parties, contest elections and try to reach in the legislature to raise our voice.

We all should demand to concern ministry to appoint competent and certified digital Accessibility consultants in each government, non-government and corporate organizations/departments who can guide and drive their accessibility compliance program, Ensure accessibility of venders from government organizations end.

We can start sensitizing nodal government officers and do continuous follow up for accessibility compliance and monitor accessibility programs on our end. We all should demand at least minimum level of compliance and do not compromise with the partial accessibility.

We all the accessibility evangelist should sensitize persons with disabilities about importance of accessibility compliance in their life and its positive impact through social media by writing short articles, sharing relevant news like news Hook, preparing short videos and uploading the same on YouTube, taking opportunity on every conferences and public gatherings.

We should not tolerate inaccessibility of digital services of government and corporate organizations and start filing Litigations against the organizations which are not adhere to the mandatory compliance.
We all should be vocal for demanding minimum accessibility compliance in the products and services that we use routinely.

Finally if people, government and corporate organizations, Universities and research centres, schools and colleges are not responding properly, then we should start strong agitation against them for meeting our demand as digital accessibility is our basic human rights recognized by United Nations and India As well. If we will start doing such things, then we will commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) in real sense. Good thing is that many of us already have started doing so. Thus achieving digital accessibility in India is difficult but we have to put much more efforts and walk miles to contribute in building barrier free, accessible and Inclusive New India where every one will have equal access to digital services.

Dhananjay Bhole,
Accessibility evangelist,
Assistant Professor,
Centre for Disabilities and Inclusive Education,
Savitribai Phule Pune University.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Inaccessibility of software authoring tools is hurdle for blinds in IT career

Computer science or information technology career is consider as most suitable and rewarding career for persons with visual disabilities.

But inaccessibility of user interfaces of software authoring tools for persons with disabilities is the major hurdle in computer science, engineering, technology education and career in the allied area for persons with visual disabilities.

in the present study we have chosen a sample of 12 popular editors, integrated development environments, content management systems and RDBMS packages and studied accessibility issues of user interfaces of the chosen applications with the help of end users with visual disabilities using 3 popular screen readers as per Authoring tools accessibility guidelines for web authoring tools and Microsoft active accessibility and Microsoft user interface automation. 10 Expert persons with visual disabilities who has expertise in the area of software development are chosen as sample across India.

 Survey method is used to collect the information online. Questionnaire and personal interview survey tools are used. Difficulties reported by the expert samples in questionnaires and interviews are analysed as per the chosen standards and guidelines. It has been found that almost all applications have accessibility issues while using screen readers. Accessibility standards and guidelines are not fully implemented in the user interfaces of any of the chosen application which is the major hurdle for persons with visual disabilities in information technology education and career.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Digitization is the way for inclusive academics


In 1980 before digitization, all the processes ware carried out manually in academic institutions. admission, examination, transcript request etc was manual. Notices, circulars, Course material was in printed format. Very little use of educational aid in teaching and learning process.

This manual activities was posing several challenges in inclusion of all the stakeholders in academic system. Digitization of academic system has resolved almost issues for creation of inclusive academics.

This paper presents a review on impact of digitization for development of inclusive academics. How digitization has helped to include every one regardless of their physical ability, age, gender, athnicity, geography and demography etc.

 The paper also highlight various computer aided assistive technologies for inclusion of persons with disabilities in academics and its role in digital academic services.


Before digitization, schools, colleges and universities ware communicating all the academic services manually using printed documents. Institutional brochures , course admission forms, notices, circulars, letters, academic course material etc was in printed format. Persons with print disabilities like persons with blindness and low vision ware finding all the information inaccessible to them since they ware unable to read and comprehend such information without assistance of sighted person. Communication to the students, faculties and other stakeholders ware manual through post and courier. It was time consuming. All the non digital communication was very much difficult to understand for specially persons with disabilities. Persons with visual impairment was required braille course material which was challenging to provide them in timely manner. . persons with disabilities have to struggle a lot for higher schooling during course selection, admission, classroom learning, exam preparation, writing exams, project and internship, research work, placement and recreational activities.

Faculties and students ware using mechanical educational aids in instructional designing and delivery that was not helping to include persons with all kinds of abilities. Wooden board and markers, papers etc was insufficient to convey information to the students with disabilities. Faculties with disabilities ware also having difficulties in operating and preparing for talks and presentations.

Digitization has changed the entire scenario and it has played crucial role in the inclusion of persons with all kinds of abilities with varied background.

Impact of digitization on inclusive academics:

As more and more university information and educational materials migrate to the web, it has increasingly becomes  accessible to people with disabilities. Functions such as course registration, tuition payment, financial aid applications, notices, circulars, news and events and so on are central to any student’s experience at a university. When those functions are available on the web, they allow for access any time, from anywhere not only to the individuals with disabilities but also all others. If the content is constructed and with web accessibility standards and guidelines, then students with disabilities are afforded a new level of freedom previously inexperienced. For example, students with blindness can use computer software that reads the web content out loud to them. thus eliminating their previous reliance on other people to read the content to them. Persons with low vision can enlarge the digital content and read it. Persons with motor disabilities can access the digital content with the use of speech recognition software. Persons with auditory and speech impairment use sign language interpreter. Persons with cognitive and neurological disabilities can use augmentative and alternative communication software tools.  On the other hand, if the content is not digitized, then students with disabilities will be denied the benefits that should be available to them to the same extent that it should be available to all other students.

In order for this to happen consistently over time, universities and colleges must adopt both a policy and a system that supports digitization of institutional programs, services and activities. Teachers, students, researchers use internet for their routine academic assignment. Blogs posts, forums, social media, Videos  are very commonly used by them because it is easily accessible to every one including persons with disabilities.

Digitization and Universal Designing for Learning:

Digitization is the key driver for Universal Designing for Learning as many tools and applications uses digital system such as web, digital projectors and displays, audio devices, learning management tools etc.

Multi-modal instructional design and learning is facilitated by Digital systems. Digital content can be available in many forms such as text, audio and video, large print, braille, pictorial and graphical etc. Also it is very easy  to convert digital content in any format in short time.

 Digitization provide several options for learning such as distance learning through online programs, classroom learning through various means, Practical learning in Laboratories etc.

Digitization of Libraries:

Digital or online libraries has crucial role for inclusion of persons with varied abilities. All type of study material such as books, journals, magazines, short articles etc is readily available in digital library which can be either read by persons with disabilities with the use of computer aided assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, sign language interpreters etc.


Digitization of institutional programs, services and activities has made academics more inclusive and accessible for every one including persons with disabilities.

It is recommended to the academic institution to make its all the processes digital if they wish to make their academics inclusive and accessible.

Inaccessible digital content for E-learning

I am participating in Faculty Development program organized by School of Education and HRDC, SPPU. The training is on ICT education. 

Several faculties delivered talks on e-content development, and demonstrated several Websites. I found that None of the e-content development website and software tool is accessible for persons with disabilities. 

My Screen reader was not properly interacting with the user interface of the software tools and websites where academicians upload digital content such as text content, audio and video  etc. 

I really had frustrating experience. I have decided to communicate to the software tool developers and web application developers to make their products and services accessibility compliant for persons with disabilities as per any national and international accessibility standards. 

Hope they will consider my request and implement accessibility in the user interfaces of their web applications.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Our dream of model accessible universities for persons with disabilities

Our dream of Model Accessible University for persons with disabilities:

 It is general observation that none of Indian universities or colleges provide barrier free access to building infrastructure, course curriculum, information and communication technology systems etc for persons with disabilities which is the reason of their low enrollment in higher education institutions.

persons with disabilities have to struggle a lot for higher schooling during course selection, admission, classroom learning, exam preparation, writing exams, project and internship, research work, placement and recreational activities.

We are dreaming to have model accessible universities across the country to implement and promote inclusive education. The model accessible university shall have barrier free environment for all kinds of persons with disabilities. its program, services and activities will be accessible. Such universities shall have accessible built infrastructure, accessible course content, accessible teaching and learning and accessible web services.

• Building infrastructure will be fully accessible with ramps and accessible toilets. No hurdles of parked vehicles on road side, dustbins, chairs and tables, tree pots, trimming branches of trees in passage way and building corridors, bips, Braille signs and other signal for identification of certain places. classroom, laboratories, seminar halls, library, cafeteria, gymnasium, playgrounds garden and landscape, internal roads and foot paths etc. will be accessible with ramps, tactile paths, color contrast of doors and walls, floors and staircases, accessible toilets and accessible electric switches for wheelchair users.

• Information technology services like university website, online admission, examination, transcript request, e-learning portals, discussion forums, notices and circulars, employee portal, web mail services etc will be accessibility compliant to national and international accessibility standards for web accessibility.

• Course material like text books, reference books, notes, including graphs, charts and tables etc will be readily available in alternative formats like audio, digital, large prints, Braille and sign languages.

• All the faculties, academic administrators, non teaching staff, abled body students are sensitized about special needs of individuals with disabilities. Faculties will have proper training of accessible teaching to inclusive class and dealing with students and researchers with disabilities.

• A center for disability services will be available in the model accessible university which will be headed by a director and supported with the team of experts in assistive technology and accessibility . The center will address all the matters of students, researchers, staff, faculties, and visitors with disabilities in the university. The center shall have assistive technology training lab, accessibility research lab and accessible digital library. The center will conduct accessibility research, monitor and ensure accessibility services to the persons with disabilities in university schools and departments and affiliated colleges.

Hope our HRD minister will take decision to transform at least some universities in to model accessible universities in next few years instead of setting up special universities for persons with disabilities.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Inaccessible environment is the biggest challenge for empowerment of persons with disabilities

       Life of persons with disabilities is improved a lot by the availability of assistive technologies. Persons with visual impairment can read and write independently using computer screen reader and screen magnifier software similar to abled body persons. The software can reads any content on computer screen like human being in artificial human voice. They can also able to use touchscreen mobile phones with the use of similar mobile software. They can use the same computer or mobile phones as the able-bodied persons use. Only the difference is they prefer to use keyboard than mouse.  Similarly the screen magnifier software magnifies content on screen for low vision persons. Automatic wheel chair can enable persons with Sever motor disabilities to move around independently.

But these assistive technologies have limitation in smooth functioning due to inaccessible environment. wheel chair cannot move properly on broken footpaths, buildings where there are no proper ramps and elevators. Railway stations, bus stands, airports, buses, trains and aircraft are often inaccessible for wheel chair users. They cannot easily walk down in ATMs, roadside shops, even big mauls due to accessibility barriers. Persons with visual impairment also have to face challenges while walking down on broken footpaths using white cane. They often fumble on drainage man holes, bump on electric poles, protruding branches of trees etc. Unable to understand traffic signals, cross walks, while walking on road.

Assistive technologies like screen reader and screen magnifiers do not function properly if web interfaces providing online services are not designed with the consideration of accessibility standards and regulations.  The screen reader software cannot properly read poorly designed web content, interactive controls etc. They also have difficulties in web navigation as some times all the functionalities are not available to keyboard users.

These challenges are due to non consideration of users with disabilities by Government and corporate organizations while designing their products and services despite of having several laws, standards, guidelines, policies, mandates and directives. Persons with disabilities have to always take partial assistance for online services such as email, social media, E-governance services, e-commerce services and other online services like online banking, movie tickets, bus, train and air tickets  booking, taxi booking etc. despite having assistive technologies. Life of persons with disabilities is so dependent in our country that they never get feeling of living in independent nation.

The stakeholders have mercy approach. Focuses of Government policies are on provision of reservation in academics and jobs, Concession in bus and train fare, education fees and other subsidies etc. Corporate and NGOs also do not have different approach. Instead they can implement accessibility standards and regulations in their services as the services are of no use if they are not accessible.

Stakeholders in this area should understand that all the persons with disabilities are not poor. They can afford products and services if they are accessible and usable to them.

Media Should educate people about persons with disabilities by designing movies, TV shows and showcase how persons with disabilities trying  to be independent using assistive technologies, their accessibility challenges due to inaccessible environment etc rather showing that they have divine power.

Academic institution should provide accessible services instead providing fee concession and accessibility standards and regulations in the syllabus of relevant degree programs.

Software professionals should consider accessibility standards and regulations as a crucial part of their software development if they wish to help persons with disabilities. They can make web services compliant to Web content accessibility guidelines like standards.

Real estate developers or builders should insure that all of their development should comply with ministry of urban development built infrastructure guidelines for disabled and elderly rather than making unusable ramps in few places.

Persons with disabilities should not give importance to reservation, concession and subsidies. Instead they should strongly demand accessible environment as it is their constitutional right.

I would like to bring attention of all the stake holders on this occasion The Global accessibility awareness day  towards challenges due to inaccessible environment for persons with disabilities and measures to be taken to empower persons with disabilities to make them productive citizen of the country by providing barrier free and universal designing of products and services.