Accessibility December 24, 2020
Lawyers welcome new disabled friendly look of Supreme Court of India’s website
Four years after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 came into effect the website of the Supreme Court of India is finally disabled friendly. In a letter to chief justices of the high courts, Supreme Court Justice D Y Chandrachud has called for urgent action to make courts accessible to lawyers and litigants with disabilities.
With a fully functioning audio captcha, the new Supreme Court e-committee website has started taking steps towards becoming accessible for people with vision disabilities.
Over four years after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act came into effect, India’s apex court has taken a significant step towards creating a level playing field for lawyers and litigants with disabilities.
Supreme Court Justice D Y Chandrachud, who heads the e-committee, has written to Chief Justices of all High Courts emphasising the need to create an accessible digital ecosystem so that disabled lawyers and litigants can participate in an equal footing. He also said that the onus to make things accessible cannot be placed on disabled lawyers.
Move after 4 years of RPWD Act
Visually impaired corporate lawyer Milan Mittal says Justice Chandrachud is the right person to take such an initiative.
This is an awesome news for people like me who are visually impaired. Imagine having to download a court judgement and converting it into an accessible format in order to read it! Since 2008 it was expected that online portals would be made accessible, still portals like SSC Online are inaccessible. Even after the enactment of RPWD Act in 2016, the Supreme Court website was made accessible just a few days ago. – Milan Mittal, Corporate lawyer
This is just the beginning Milan points out. “There are so many courts in India like the high courts and subordinate courts which have to implement this”.
Ensuring this is implemented from the ground level up is even more critical in the post Covid world where physical hearings remain a distant dream.
Tapas Bhardwaj, Project Expert, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, hopes Justice Chandrachud’s remarks also pave the way to provide equality and right to practice the profession mandated in the Constitution.
“His recommendations come at a time when the pandemic has forced us to adopt new ways of communication which if left inaccessible could create hurdles in the lives of persons with disabilities”, says Tapas.
Recommendations for lower courts
In his letter Justice Chandrachud has given clear steps to ensure greater accessibility These include:
- Instead of printing and scanning their submissions, lawyers should be required to file PDF documents.
- Hard copy annexures that need to be made part of the paper-book must be scanned and saved as PDF but only in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) based PDF format.
- Stamps and watermarks should not be placed on the page in a way that hampers smooth access.
- Courts must also ensure that court websites become more accessible for disabled lawyers.
- Wherever entering visual captchas is a requirement to access any information, audio captchas must also be provided.
- High Courts should consider releasing judgments in HTML format on their websites, along with their PDF equivalent.
- Court websites must have Clearly labeled buttons, and calendars to select dates must be accessible.
“The letter if implemented in spirit would be a new sunshine for those who are or aim to practice law in the years to come”, adds Tapas.
- Justice Chandrachud’s remarks regarding exclusion of disabled people from legal profession could open doors for aspirants
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