Inclusion - It's time to change - My Take
I have spent two decades, questioning what inclusion means to me and what I believe is inclusion for people with disabilities.
Over the years, I have pushed the boundaries, in the small way that I could by using technology as the tool to build inclusion. I have questioned how to include people with disabilities and failed more than succeeded, but haven't given up.
On 14 August 2016, one of my many ideas that have been converted to reality, Newz Hook - the world's first inclusive news mobile app won the NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award. Such a proud moment, when the fabulous team at Newz Hook received the award.
I will tell you why this was such a proud moment and the story behind it. After trying for the last eight years to get a news portal to become inclusive and accessible, I finally gave up and decided to start a curated news website that is inclusive myself!
- Did you know that the only news for deaf people in India is on Doordarshan at 6 am?! Seriously would you wake up to the news?
- Did you know that most news portal and apps are a challenge to access for visually impaired people with a screen reader?
Why is it so difficult for people to understand the value in inclusion?
When I put together the idea, I needed someone to implement it. I knew nothing of running a newsroom. A friend mentioned Shai Venkatraman. You won't believe it, but she agreed to do this assignment over a whatsapp chat! I hired her, without ever meeting her! She joined us at the editor of Newz Hook and we are honoured to have her wisdom and dedication!
Now lets talk of how is Newz Hook inclusive.
- We curate news and write a summary of the news keeping the English simple. We remove all the big terms and work towards making the news easy to understand. Believe me it's quite a task!
- For our blind and visually challenged friends, they can read the news with their screen reader or even with a braille displayer.
- For our deaf friends, we provide the news in Indian sign language. We run India's first Sign Language newsroom with deaf reporters. Isn't that cool!
- For our elderly friends, we provide the flexibility to increase the text size and change the colour contrast. Even my mom finds the high contrast view and the text size easier to read!
- For our physically challenged friends, they can use a switch to access the mobile app!
- We focus on issues faced by disabled people and curate news from all around the world to support the disabled, parents, educators and employers! It's amazing the number of things happening out there!
Today we have a proud user base of 6500 users reading our news in a short time span of four months. Our vision for Newz Hook doesn't stop here! We want to use it as a platform to build literacy, to break barriers, to provide practical information and to link businesses to the disabled population.
Believe me, its not been an easy journey and I haven't always succeeded in converting my vision into reality. But am proud, that we managed to convert this one!
We can't do this alone! We need your help! We need you to think of inclusion! We understand disabled people and their needs! We understand technology and how it can create impact and scale! But we need more!
We need you to come forward and give us ideas! We need to partner with organizations that are like-minded and want to impact this audience! Inclusion isn't difficult; it just takes thinking slightly differently!
About the Writer
Shilpi Kapoor is the founder of Barrierbreak, an enterprise that opens doors for people with disabilities and organizations to be inclusive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.