63 government websites now accessible for disabled people, claims Centre. Not enough, says experts
Many government websites, both of the states and the Centre, remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. This is an issue that the disabled community and experts have raised time and again.
In a recent development, the Centre informed the Madras High Court that over 63 government websites have been made disabled-friendly and that 14 more are on its way to being made accessible for people with different kinds of disabilities. This was said by in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) submitted by advocate Syed Ansari asking the government to make all its accessible.
Ansari, who has low vision, stated in his PIL that the government must ensure all its websites adhere to the guidelines of the Indian government websites, while also incorporating the Web Accessibility guidelines. The Centre has made a start but it's s small one given the many number of government websites in India, as Muralidharan Vishwanath, General Secretary, National Platform for the Rights of Disabled (NPRD) points out.
When compared to the hundreds of government departments and websites that are available, 63 is a very small amount. In January 2018, authorities had confirmed that they will make 917 websites accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities. It has been over a year now and nothing substantial has been done. The guideline was set by the RPWD Act, 2016. -Muralidharan Vishwanath, General Secretary, National Platform for the Rights of Disabled
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 states that there must be no discrimination in government platforms. Also, websites must be made barrier-free according to the law. So the question is, why the delay?
Jomy Joseph, a disability rights activist based in Kerala says that this must be given priority, especially for people with visual disabilities.
"There are certain criteria to be followed in order to make websites accessible for visually impaired people like colours and fonts. I have felt that their requirements are often marginalised. Visually impaired people constitute a huge chunk of our society. So it is important that websites are made accessible so that they can also participate in the processes", says Joseph.
With this issue coming to the forefront more and more, authorities will find it hard to push the matter anymore. Many courts across the country have also taken this up on a priority basis. The Madras High Court, for instance, plans to hear the case in less than a month, on 13 March.