Aarogya Setu app essential, says Centre. What about accessibility, ask disability rights groups
The Centre has declared that the Aarogya Setu app has to be downloaded by all government and private sector employees to enable authorities to track COVID-19 cases. But the app is not accessible to people with disabilities. Yet again, accessibility appears to be an afterthought in a critical government initiative.
First it was the awareness information campaign that excluded the disabled community. Now its the Aarogya Setu app which the Centre says is an effective tool to fight the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
The Aarogya Setu app is not accessible to people with disabilities, especially those with vision and hearing disabilities. This has been pointed out by the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which developed the app.
Downloading the app has been made mandatory for government and private employees. An order to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) has written to the MeitY and NIC on the issues being faced by people with disabilities.
The Aarogya Setu app needs to have a separate section with specific information for persons with hearing impairment with sign language interpretation/close captioning. So far as persons with visual impairment are concerned, provision for audio guide for navigation, audio description of colour used, proper colour contrast etc. need to be incorporated. – Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
The inaccessibility of the app has been raised by many disability rights groups on social media.
Special educator and disability rights activist Rajnish Kumar Arya said, “When the Government of India is saying it’s essential for every citizen, the developer hasn’t followed even basic features of accessibility. As nearly three crore people have vision and speech problems, it’s a big gap that needs to be addressed soon”.
Anjlee Agarwal, Founder, Smarthyam, also told the media that the app was tested on 11 people with visual impairments associated with the NGO. They found it inaccessible, a clear violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
Smarthyam has also sent a report of its findings to the DEPwD listing the issues. Some of the issues mentioned are that the screen reader does not announce the purpose of all controls or the type of control, whether a link or button. Users could not identify the number of slides in a carousel. This means that after receiving the information in the first slide they could miss out on information in other slides. Apart from this, On the “Your status”, “COVID updates” and “E-Pass” tabs of the app, the screen reader does not announce the control type. This means users do not know these are interactive tabs.
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