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Breaking News on Electronic Accessibility

Posted by Rahul Cherian at Sep 28, 2012 03:57 AM |
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The Parliamentary Standing Committee constituted to study the Electronic Delivery of Services Bill has in its report explicitly recognized the concept of electronic accessibility and reasonable accommodation. This is the first time in the country that these two concepts have been reflected at the level of a Parliamentary Standing Committee in relation to a non-disability specific law.

This Bill, which deals with the electronic delivery of public services, had several drawbacks when it came to access of public services by persons with disabilities. Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy (www.inclusiveplanet.org.in) had submitted a note with inputs from 30 organisations, to submit to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Electronic Delivery of Services Bill. The submissions to the Standing Committee included the concerns of persons with disabilities and the possible solutions to address the gaps in the Bill. The submissions are available here (http://tinyurl.com/d79sn7e).

The Report of the Committee has now been made public. The Standing Committee has accepted the points made in the submissions.

The three major changes recommended by the Committee based on the submissions are the given below. The relevant extracts of the Committee’s report have been compiled by Vaishnavi Jayakumar and are available here (http://goo.gl/P3CKX).

a. Recognition of Electronic Accessibility

In response the questions raised by the Committee based on the input that was submitted, it is now proposed to amend the definition of “assisted access” from “assistance to access electronic services” to “assistance to access electronic services by the users including users with special needs” This is the first time that electronic access for persons with disabilities could be recognized by a non-disability specific legislation in India.

b. Recognition of the Necessity of Providing Various Forms of Assistance

The Committee emphasized that the specific needs of the differently-abled persons like providing hard copy documents/forms in Braille and large print or for using thumb impressions instead of signatures while submitting the form or receiving the services/provision for providing intermediaries/professional sign language, interpreters, locations for offices for availing services for the purpose of EDS at the ground floor, etc., should specifically be taken care of while formulating rules.

c. No Removal of Commissioners on the Ground of Disability Without Providing Reasonable Accommodation

The Committee has concluded that in light of India’s obligations under the UNCRPD, though the clauses relating to removal of Commissioners were on par with those in other Statutes, appropriate rules/amendments to the Bill could be moved to mandate reasonable accommodation. This again is potentially the first time that a non-disability specific legislation will include the prerequisite for reasonable accommodation to be provided to a person holding a statutory post who has a disability/becomes disabled during the course of his tenure.

News reports indicate that this Bill will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. This Bill, if passed, will be a welcome precedent for the disability sector to replicate in other legislations.

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