Nearly 60% of websites of India’s top universities do not meet accessibility standards, says new report
A new accessibility assessment report has evaluated 266 websites in India on accessibility parameters as per the Web Contact Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.1. This includes universities, listed companies, government departments and industry associations.
A Ph.D. scholar at the Delhi University (DU), Sanchit Katiyar, 26, needs to access a range of references for his thesis on inclusive education in India and Japan. A totally blind person, he has specific needs.
“Screen reading software like NVDA has to be available and the website formatting needs to be good with inks and tags given”, says Sanchit, who has been a DU student for eight years. This is often not available in many Indian websites, even government ones. “Take the website of the Department of Education, Delhi Government for instance”, he says. “There is no heading and a visually impaired person cannot navigate without that. Links have no instructions and images lack alternative text”.
These accessibility barriers become even more critical in the post COVID-19 world when education has moved online, as a new report titled ‘How Accessible Are We’ points out.
The Accessibility Assessment Report assesses 266 key Indian websites and the documents uploaded on them against Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. The guidelines define how to make web content accessible for people with disabilities.
The report assesses websites of:
- 100 top listed companies.
- 103 top universities.
- 60 government departments and ministries.
- Three industry associations.
Websites that rank high on accessibility
The only totally accessible website across all 266 surveyed is that of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY). Among the top 100 Indian universities, the most accessible is Thapar Institute of Technology & Engineering while the State Bank of India has the most accessible corporate website.
Some of the key findings are:
- 56% of top universities are totally inaccessible.
- 47% of government departments/ministries are inaccessible.
- 23% of top listed companies are inaccessible.
The websites have been assessed keeping in mind the needs of people with visual impairments, as well as those with limited mobility in arms and hands.
“Systems, processes and infrastructure in India are not conducive for people with disabilities to be enabled to operate normally”, says the report. “Even if an organisation were to acquire the assistive technology or devices required to enable people with disabilities to study and work; our documents, websites, etc. are not designed keeping in mind the needs of people with disabilities”.
Accessibility is not charity
This violates key provisions of the Rights of People with Disabilities Act 2016 and comes in the way of creating a level playing field for persons with disabilities, says Sangeeta Robinson, Inclusion and Accessibility Specialist, author of the report.
What I would like to see is people seeing business sense. Let this stop being charity! Universities need to understand that there are thousands of students out there who have not been able to physically reach the Universities; can now do so virtually; if only they make a little effort. – Sangeeta Robinson, Inclusion & Accessibility Specialist
In his eight years at DU, Sanchit says there have been some changes. “People are more responsive now because users have become more aware of policies and acts. But more needs to be done. Now that we are online much more, I am hopeful. I just wish that accessibility was done from step one and not as an afterthought. How to make that happen is something the disability sector needs to think about”.
Pushing the accessibility conversation
Priti Rohra, Chief Accessibility Officer, BarrierBreak Solutions Private Limited, shares Sanchit’s optimism. “Organisations have started listening to the digital accessibility conversation. What is required is now to convert the first step in to the next and proceed step–by-step. We have to engage with leaders in these segments to implement accessibility and motivate others to follow!”.
Conversation, believes Priti, is key. “The key challenges that remain are accessibility awareness and training, and lack of good consultants who can drive this. Be it ICT, human resource, content producers, publishers, etc. conversations need to be carried out at different levels to make accessibility happen. For example, in the education sector learning is happening online today and we must ensure that content is created keeping accessibility in mind. The IT teams of schools, colleges need to be made aware about the accessibility support present in different operating systems, applications, browsers etc.”.
The lockdown has underlined the urgency for such conversations and perhaps should be an opportunity to take the digital accessibility conversation ahead to execution.
YOU CAN READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.
- Top 3 reasons why accessibility is critical for EdTech companies to adopt. – Guest column by Shilpi Kapoor, Founder-CEO, BarrierBreak
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