Maharashtra Disability Commissionerate’s live webinars inaccessible to deaf & deafblind people, allege groups
UPDATE – The webinars have been made accessible as per the requests made by deaf and deafblind groups since we last published the story.
The Maharashtra Disability Commissioner’s office is organising live webinars on crucial policies that affect people with disabilities in the state. However, these live webinars are not accessible to people who are deaf and deafblind.
In a welcome step the Maharashtra Disability Commissionerate is organising live webinars on important policy announcements and issues that affect people with disabilities. Some of them include the new National Education Policy and its implications for students with disabilities, Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, and tips to handle children with intellectual disabilities during the Covid lockdown.
However, the State Level Association for the DEAF (SLAD), a leading disability rights group in Maharashtra, says that deaf and hard of hearing people as well as deafblind people are feeling excluded as the live webinars are not accessible to them.
“They have done a few webinars and when we demanded that interpreters be provided to make the live webinars accessible they said this was not possible due to technical issues”, says Pradeep More, General Secretary, SLAD. “Instead, they said they would make separate videos for the deaf. When the RPWD Act mandates inclusion and accessibility for people across disability types, this has to be followed by government authorities. Here, the authorities responsible for are breaking the law”.
Pradeep says this has left the deaf and deafblind community feeling excluded.
These issues were raised in a video conference meet with the Maharashtra Disability Commissioner Prerna Deshbhratar. After this, a live webinar on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for Persons with Disabilities was made accessible through the services of an interpreter. But here too the quality of services was considered poor as the interpreter could not be understood by many people.
Speaking to Newz Hook, the disability commissioner said that authorities are working out a solution. “The points they have raised are valid and we are looking into them. The issue is that certified interpreters are not easily available during Covid. Also these webinar across to these places. We do not have the technology to make the live webinars by using two screens but we are trying to work out a solution”, said Ms Deshbhratar.
Authorities have asked for volunteers in different areas with sign language knowledge who can help them make these live webinars accessible for deaf and deaf blind people. “Along side our technical team is trying to work out how we can share screens while gong live”, said the Disability Commissioner.
Watch in Sign Language
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