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Department of Information Technology sets up Core Group on draft National Policy on Electronic Access

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Setting a precedence in proactivity for government departments, the Department of Information Technology (D.I.T.) under the Ministry of Information Technology has set up a Core Group to refine the draft National Policy on Electronic Accessibility in a meeting of stakeholders on August 17 in New Delhi. The draft policy has been prepared by N.C.P.E.D.P. in collaboration with BarrierBreak Technologies.

The meeting was chaired by N. Ravi Shanker, Joint Secretary, D.I.T. and included Dr. Govind, Senior Director, D.I.T. and Dr. S. K. Aggarwal, Director, D.I.T., T.D. Dhariyal, Deputy Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

Javed Abidi, Honorary Director, N.C.P.E.D.P. thanked the Ministry officials for their co-operation and apprised the members on how the draft policy came about. “India has seen a paradigm shift from charity and welfare to rights and development in the past one decade. This is reflected in the Disability Act, 1995, U.N.C.R.P.D. and the XIth Five Year Plan. Infact, the Plan has an entire chapter on disability. This shows the commitment that the present government has towards disability,” he said.

Shilpi Kapoor, Managing Director, BarierBreak Technologies, presented the draft policy and elaborated that it takes into consideration accessibility to hardware and accessibility to user interface (websites and software). The policy envisages to make all electronic products accessible and will enable people with disability to operate electronic devices more independently.

“Persons with disabilities are being excluded from all areas where I.C.T. is used, be it education, health, banking, employment, leisure, etc. For example, a person with visual impairment cannot access an A.T.M., a person with hearing impairment cannot access television programming and a person with physical disability cannot access the kiosk at a railway station. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the electronic age is an enabler and provides equal opportunities to persons with disabilities,” added Kapoor.

The National Policy on Electronic Accessibility emphasizes the importance of creating awareness on accessibility and universal design and creating and implementing standards and guidelines. It also aims at promoting research and development in the area of universal design and assistive technology and independent living aids and schemes in the area of accessible electronic and information and communication technology. The policy also emphasizes the importance of building capacity to ensure that accessible products and services can be developed in India.

The members present at the meeting unanimously welcomed the draft and lauded the effort. It was felt that the draft would need to be further refined and thus a Core Group was formed. The members of this Core Group include N. Ravi Shanker, Javed Abidi, Shilpi Kapoor, Sunil Abraham from Centre for Internet and Society (C.I.S.), Neeta Verma from National Informatics Centre (N.I.C.) and representatives from Microsoft, C.I.I., F.I.C.C.I., N.A.S.S.C.O.M., Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (M.A.I.T.) and Assocham. An officer from the E-Infrastructure Division of D.I.T. would be the Convenor.

Once the Core Group approves the final draft, it would be put up for comments on the Internet for a month. All comments received would be collated and then the final draft policy would be submitted to the government for approval.

“We were pressurizing the government earlier this year to adopt W.C.A.G. 2.0 for making all Indian websites accessible for the visually impaired. We were inspired by the prompt response from the Ministry of I.T., when it made a declaration making all important government websites disabled friendly. This has motivated us to expand our horizons beyond web accessibility, and we are now looking at the entire domain of electronics and I.C.T. to enrich the lives of persons with different forms of disabilities,” said Abidi.

Members who attended the meeting included Vijay Kapur from Microsoft, Ibrahim Ahmed from Cyber Media India Ltd., Ritu Ghosh from Sun Microsystems, D.P. Misra from N.I.C. and Amit Srivastava from C- D.A.C. among others.

Click here for Minutes of the meeting (WORD - 26.5 KB)