Accessible TV Broadcasting in India
Given the raging coronavirus pandemic that is on-going, the government of Karnataka has started e-learning modules over the TV, which is being broadcast via state-run Chandana news channel starting from today. An illustrative screengrab of content from the broadcast is as below:
The issues with the above way of broadcasting are manifold. The below questions come into prominence with respect to accessibility immediately.
- Kannada audio is presented with slides and presentation materials having English sentences and words. What about the Kannada students who do not know any English?
- There are no subtitles or captioning shown in Kannada or English for the video content being shown. There is no interpreting in ISL anywhere.
- Karnataka has lakhs of Deaf/deaf/Hard of hearing people and how can they understand the material on TV presented in this manner?
- Time has come for our educational institutes and organizations to understand the importance of captioning and interpreting the educational content and make it accessible for the different categories of disabled children.
- The same content for all will not work for different aptitudes of the kids in all classes. The diversity of the content is necessary. Are there ways to monitor their progress at their homes?
- Are there any published guidelines for the teachers, parents to help the children in the homes?
Honorable union minister for information and broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar had said in 2019, that the provision for accessibility in Indian television channels will be implemented from 16th September 2019, and that the action plan will be carried out in phases over the next 5 years. He also said the policy will be reviewed after two years. Moreover, The rights of persons with disabilities act, 2016 states this:
The appropriate Government shall take measures to ensure that, — (i) all contents available in audio, print and electronic media are in accessible format; (ii) persons with disabilities have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and closed captioning.
The accessible India campaign has also stated on their website that about 25% of public television programs aired by the government channels will meet these standards by March 2018. The progress that has been made since then remains to be seen in the public domain. A lot of important announcements, interviews, information on the cable televisions along with the educational modules are simply not accessible. There are several reports online including the one by Srividya Vaidyanathan of CIS, that talks about the state of the TV accessibility in India here.
It is frustrating to note that there are no proper progress reports on the government sites on the various mechanisms, policies and implementation action plans being undertaken to promote and implement accessibility in broadcasting. On the websites of Karnataka government and DD Chandana, there is no information regarding the plans to tackle the problem of educating the Deaf/deaf and hard of hearing children and bring about accessibility for these children. Given the current pandemic, a lot of these children cannot visit the schools and have to take online classes and hindering the education to them by lack of accessibility is going to set them back in terms of progress.
In lieu of the above points, the governments need to listen to the disability educational experts and set up committees to help fix the systemic rot in the state of the affairs of education for the disabled in the state and start involving them in the development of accessible programs for various children. Is anyone listening? As such, I urge the Government of Karnataka and the Honorable Minister for Primary & Secondary Education to look into this issue at the earliest and formulate urgent guidelines and action items that would go a long way in addressing these grave and immediate concerns. The same request applies to all state governments and the central government so that they are aware of the importance of captioning on TV so that Deaf and Hard of hearing persons of all age groups benefit in India.
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