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Department of Information Technology Meeting on a National Policy on E-Accessibility

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at Feb 24, 2009 10:35 AM |
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On 30 January 2009, the Department of Information Technology hosted a meeting in New Delhi bringing together important stakeholders to discuss the issue of electronic accessibility for the disabled and persons with special needs in India.

Creating a barrier free internet is vital to creating a pluralistic and democratic virtual environment, where all groups irrespective of disability or levels of literacy are able to access culture and knowledge goods and services which are available on the internet today. Since its inception last year, CIS has been campaigning for legislative, administrative and legal interventions in the area of web accessibility for the print disabled and working with different groups towards the common goal of having a National Policy on Electronic Accessibility in India.

On 30 January, the Department of Information Technology (DIT) called a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the issue of web accessibility for disabled persons and persons with special needs. The meeting was attended by 34 key persons from the Government and private organisations around India. Sunil Abraham (Director--Advocacy, CIS) and Nirmita Narasimhan (Programme Manager, CIS) were amongst the attendees (a complete list of attendees is given below).

The meeting was chaired by N. Ravi Shankar, Joint Secretary, DIT, who in his opening remarks briefed the gathering about the initiatives of the Government in this area. He talked about the Government’s goal of providing Universal Accessibility and Internet for all. He informed the gathering that the DIT had already initiated schemes for ICT empowerment of visually impaired/hearing impaired children; under these schemes, 21 ICT Vocational Centers had already been set up and 100 additional ICT vocational centers would be set up in phase II.  Additionally, he explained that the issue of Universal Accessibility had been internationally addressed at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2008 held in December 2008 in Hyderabad.  He stressed the need for initiating inclusive developmental activities in the e-governance programme of DIT and language initiatives of TDIL (Technology Development for Indian Languages), in order to increase coverage and diversity, culminating in education for all alongside Internet for all.

Dr. Govind, Senior Director and Head of Department, E-Infrastructure and Internet Governance Division in the Ministry, highlighted the issue of web accessibility for visually impaired and other differently able persons and the need for initiating a concrete action plan for the same.

Javed Abidi, Director, National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People talked at length about the need for web accessibility and proposed that the government should set a time line within which all existing government web sites should be made standards compliant. All new web sites should be created keeping compliance with WCAG 2.0 in mind right from the start and proposed that for existing web sites, we should adopt a staged approach and aim at ensuring complete compliance at least by 2010-2012.

Ms. Neeta Verma, Sr. Technical Director, NIC gave a presentation on the issues related with making web accessibility universal. She said that NIC has formulated guidelines for government websites, in association with DIT and DARPG.  Compliance to these guidelines shall make Indian government websites Usable, User Centric and Universally Accessible.   She proposed that even the Manual of Procedures (MoP) used in the Govt. should mandate Universal Web Access for Government business and day to day activities.  Websites should not only be designed once for accessibility but also need to be sustainable in the long run.

All attendees gave their inputs on the issue of web accessibility. Shri Jaijit from Sun Microsystems stressed the fact that the need for standards was not essential for disabled persons alone, but was necessary for other groups as well, such as illiterate persons. Ms.Shilpi Kapoor from Barrier Break Technologies mentioned that most government web sites had to firstbe  be made html compliant in order to be standards compliant and stressed the need for training, resource generation and sensitization. Shri Minocha, Director, NAB felt that a law similar to the one in USA should be implemented which mandates that any web site developed had to be Universally Accessible.  He asked the Government. to look at daisy guidelines, digital library and procurement policy for differently abled persons.   He strongly urged the Government to take into account not merely standards of website accessibility, but also brouser standards, document standards etc, since an accessible web site was not of much use if the content posted on it was in an inaccessible format. He also appreciated the efforts of NIC and C-DAC towards working for open source and cited the example of the Venezualian Government. He proposed that DIT should initiate a technology development or customization project in this area. Shri Vijaiy Krishnamani  from Infosys stressed on the need for creating a common simple usable interface rather than multiple types. 

Shri Vijay Kapur from Microsoft proposed for implementation of WCAG1.0 & 2.0 standards to bring out interactivity in web content like Arya and the Clint side document accessibility through the daisy consortium. 

Shri Rajesh Aggarwal, CEO, NIXI offered complete support for all initiatives in the area of web accessibility and voiced the opinion that all software produced out of public funds should be made available in the public domain so as to encourage research and innovation. In addition to policy advocacy, he was also supporting a capacity building and awareness workshop on web accessibility for web developers from all over the country which was being organized by CIS in Ghaziabad from Feb 16th-18th. Smt.Jayalakshmi Chittor of CSDMS proposed that an audit process should be evolved to check government web sites for WCAG 2.0 compliance and cited the example of Malta for policy in this area.  Some other issues which were stressed time and again by other attendees were the legal mandating of adherence to standards within a fixed time period, adequate representation of Indian language in Unicode format, adherence to WCAG 2.0 and not merely 1.0, supporting voice enabled web sites etc. Sunil Abraham Director Centre for Internet & Society (CIS) lauded the DIT/MCIT  for the timely and critical accessibility initiative and  strongly endorsed the suggestion to create a national policy document mandating accessibility for all publicly funded electronic infrastructure.  CIS offered to provide a comparative analysis of national electronic accessibility policies from developed and developing countries and also prepare a draft policy for DIT/MCIT.  Further, he urged DIT/MCIT to advocate for the adoption of the proposed WIPO Treaty for improved access for the blind, visually impaired and other reading disabled put forward by the World Blind Union and knowledge Ecology International.


After the round of discussions the following recommendations were made to the DIT/MCIT:

i)        The Government should formulate a national policy to mandate necessary guidelines so that the web sites are standards compliant for universal web accessibility.

ii)      Steps should be taken for sensitization  and awareness generation towards this issue through trainings, publicity, workshops, conferences.

iii)    R&D projects should be initiated for development of screen readers in Indian languages and other tools for universal web access.




Shri N. Ravi Shanker, Joint Secretary, DIT, New Delhi - Chairman
Dr. Govind, Sr. Director, DIT, New Delhi
Shri Mohan Ram, ED,  ERNET India, New Delhi
Shri Rajesh Aggarwal, Additional CEO, NIXI, New Delhi
Shri Javed Abidi, Director, National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP, New Delhi
Shri Dipender Minocha, Director, NAB, R.K. Puram, New Delhi
Ms. Neeta Verma, Sr. Technical Director, NIC,  New Delhi
Shri A. Bandopadhyay, GM, Webel Mediatronics Ltd., Kolkata
Mr. Sunil Abraham, Director – Policy, Centre for Internet & Society, Bangalore
Ms. Shilpi Kapoor, Founder and Managing Director, Net Systems Informatics (I) Pvt. Ltd. and Barrier Break Technologies, Mumbai
Shri Vijay Kapur, Microsoft India, New Delhi
Mr. Rahul Gonsalves, Web Accessibility Consultant, Bangalore
Jyotindra V.Mehta, Advisory Systems Consultant, IBM Global Services India
Mr. Zamir Dhale, Sense International India Office, Ahmedabad Gujarat
Shri Jaijit Bhattacharya, M/s Sun Microsystems, New Delhi
Ms. Jayalakshmi Chittor, CSDMS, Noida, U.P
Shri Manoj Jain, TDIL, DIT, New Delhi
Ms. Gitanjali Sah, UN Solution Exchange, New Delhi
Shri Pradeep Gupta, Managing Director, Cyber Media India Ltd., Gurgaon, Haryana
Shri Vijay Krishnamani, Infosys, New Delhi
Shri Ajai Kumar, C-DAC, Pune
Shri Indranil Das Roy, M/s Webel, Kolkata
Shri Deepak Maheshwari, Microsoft India , New Delhi
Shri Vikas Goswami, Microsoft India, New Delhi
Ms. Helen Mahtani, Programmer, NCPEDP, New Delhi
Shri Muthamma B. Devaya,  Senior Program officer, NCPEDP, New Delhi
Ms. Nirmitha Naresimhan, Centre for Internet & Society, Bangalore
Ms. Tejal Tiwari, ERNET India, New Delhi
Shri D.P. Misra, NIC, New Delhi
Shri Sachin Rizal, Sense International (India) Ltd., Ahmedabad Gujarat
Ms. Ritu Srivastava, CSDMS, Noida
Shri Santosh Kumar Gupta, CSDMS, Noida, UP
Shri Rajan Varada, UN Solution Exchange, New Delhi
Shri S.K. Aggarwal, Scientist ‘F’, DIT, New Delhi  -  Convenor

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