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Meeting on National Policy for e-Access for All

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at Oct 31, 2008 05:35 AM |
The world over, there is a move towards making the internet more accessible for persons with visual and print disabilities and for elderly persons. Many countries like the USA and UK have adopted legislation to make adherence to web accessibility standards mandatory. In India we are still relatively unaware of the importance of web accessibility. On Nov 7, 2008 at 11:00 am, the Centre for Internet and Society will host a meeting at the CIS office to discuss strategies and a plan of action to launch a campaign for making web content accessibility standards mandatory in India.

The internet has has breathed fresh life and energy into the situations of disabled persons throughout the world. It has enabled and liberated them in the most complete sense of the word and succeeded in elevating levels of independence, competence and confidence.  Like any other technology however this comes with its share of problems, related to accessibility. Thankfully, many of these problems can be solved by merely setting some minimum standards in place at no extra cost or effort.

For any technology to be completely useful, it has to meet the criteria of utility, usability, affordability, acceptance and accessibility. Unfortunately, while the internet can surmount most of obstacles that are faced by disabled persons in relation to access to information, navigation or comprehension problems are equally severe barriers to visually and print disabled persons effectively using it. To help better understand the issue, explained below are some features which are quite problematic for persons with visual and reading  disabilities. They are accompanied by some simple solutions which can be easily incorporated by web page creators.

Web pages often contain images and graphics which cannot be discerned by screen readers; text descriptions and explanations can be provided for these. Creation of links to skip to content can provide a huge relief for persons using screen readers, instead of them having to listen to unrelated or confusing content.  There should be keyboard alternatives for every function that has to be executed with a mouse. Links without references such as “click here” or links without any specific destination should be avoided.  Creators of web pages should not rely upon colours to convey meanings. Finally, since screen readers read content as it is in the code, web page creators should ensure that content is read correctly on the page as well as in the code.

Adherence to web accessibility standards can help avoid these problems. Countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia have enacted legislations to make it mandatory for creators of web pages to follow their minimum standards for web page accessibility. India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October 2007. Unfortunately however, no move, has been made till date to adopt web accessibility guidelines or make such guidelines mandatory in our country. Consequently, a lot of government and private web sites are inaccessible for persons with disabilities, defeating the very purpose of ICT for development.

Considering these factors, we think it is time we make a concerted effort towards enabling a more inclusive online environment for all. Adopting a web accessibility standard does not merely make the web more accessible to disabled persons, it makes navigation and operation easier for everyone. The W3C has come out with a web accessibility standard called the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which has been adopted by many countries.  This makes the tasks of the countries easier in the sense that they already have a ready framework and guidelines available to work with.

We solicit your active support and presence in this movement for enabling mandatory adherence to web accessibility standards in India. You are invited to join the Google group for a national policy for e-Access (http://groups.google.com/group/e-access). We are planning to have a meeting of all interested parties and organizations who are committed to supporting this cause  on the date and venue given below. We request you to attend along with other supporters. 

Meeting Details

Date: 7th Nov, 2008 (Friday)
Time: 11:00 am
Venue:
Centre for Internet and Society
No. D2, 3rd Floor, Shariff Chambers
14 Cunningham Road,
Bangalore - 560 052

Map: http://bit.ly/cis-map
Phone: +91 80 4092 6283

Please communicate your participation to us, by sending an email to
nirmita AT cis-india DOT org
M: +91 9845868078

Download meeting agenda

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