Make ICT more inclusive, demand disability rights activists from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Disability rights activists in India have called for a strong policy to ensure that the disabled are able to access both software and hardware easily when it comes using information and communication technology, ICT.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a consultation paper called Making ICT Accessible for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in December 2017, and sought comments from interested parties by 22 January 22, 2018. <//mark>

A number of disability rights groups have made their submissions.

Noted disability rights activist and director of Svayam, Subhash Chandra Vashishth is among them. He has said that to achieve a truly inclusive information society, the disabled must be able to use ICT with ease. This will become possible only if accessibility is top priority for manufacturers and service providers, something that needs to ne enforced through a stringent policy/

Svayam has said that websites, software and mobile apps from vendors and service providers do not comply with accessibility guidelines, making them inaccessible for the blind who use assistive technologies like screen reading software, braille displays, etc.

Even many electronic hardware products like Set-Top-Box (STB), smart home solutions, etc. are not usable for disabled as they do not follow international accessibility standards.

Founder-chairperson of Svayam, Sminu Jindal has pointed to the massive lack of awareness among the stakeholders as well as credible research on ICT for disabled. The non-inclusion of user groups in research and product development is another issue which Jindal says needs to be looked into.

Svayam has also highlighted the need for periodic stakeholder coordination, need to follow global standards, more research and development, aggressive campaigning for accessible ICTs, direct involvement of PwDs in product development, lowering costs of specialised assistive technology, lowering import taxes and giving subsidy or incentives to manufacturers from the government.

It has also suggested that TRAI set up a helpline where only complaints regarding accessibility can be received. It has also said that to make it easier for the disabled to access ICT products, all products that have a display screen and interactive touch screen should be made accessible. Another suggestion is to focus on ICT services in regional languages so there is wider reach.

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