Tamil Nadu: Digital India remains crippled

Government websites lack disabled friendly features.

Chennai: A. Syed Ansari, a 30-year-old visually challenged person was in a maze when he tried to download his hall ticket from the Union Public Service Commission website two years ago. None of the prominent screen-readers (including Jaws and NVDA) could read the Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) code, which was in an image form. Since he had no choice, he had to take his friend’s help to download the hall ticket.

Syed AnsariSyed Ansari

When the government services in the country are turning digital, it is unfortunate that the Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) still remain in darkness, due to the non-friendly features in websites. Syed’s turmoil is a regular scene for those belonging to the fraternity who are victims of the government’s inaction. Many websites, including that of the Madras High Court and Tamil Nadu Government are not in compliant with the said norms.

It has been more than two years since the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DoPwD), functioning under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, implemented the Accessibility India Campaign, aiming to make around 3,000 websites in the country accessible to the Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). But, a random search using the website error checkers (like Wavetool by Webaim) proves that the majority of the websites has failed to adhere to the guidelines of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2AA, issued by the World Wide Web Consortium. Various guidelines, including the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) devised by the National Informatics Center (NIC) and adopted by the Depatment of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) are least followed.

In a similar case, Anand Gopal, who suffers from epilepsy, accessed the Tamil Nadu school education department to know about the literacy rate in the state, as part of an assignment. The fast moving announcements and flickers have confused the 15-year-old boy who had to close the website. He could not complete the assignment. Officials from the school education department said that they are working with the developers to make the website user-friendly. The guidelines mandate the presence of disabled friendly features including text transcript of an audio for audio-impaired citizens, screen reader access for visually challenged, easy navigation mechanism for people with neurological difficulties and non-compulsory voice interaction for the speech impaired.

A. Syed Ansari, an advocate who is now working as an assistant professor, moved the Madras High Court in 2015. Though the respondent - Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievance (DARPG) - promised to make the websites disabled friendly within a year, there seems to be no change.

According to the response filed by the DARPG on June 2017 following an order from the Madras High Court, a total of 100 websites is in compliance with the guidelines. However, when checked with the website error checkers, it is known that the websites are not compliant.

A major setback
A test conducted by the civil society organization last year to check the accessibility status revealed shocking facts. Of the 7800 websites tested, 1985 of them failed to open while 5815 websites have accessibility barriers.

It is an irony that the website of the welfare of the differently abled ( fails to follow the guidelines of National Informatics Center (NIC). Though the content could be accessed through screen readers, the website is not friendly to those with neurological problems. Accessibility Consultant, S Shankar said, “The content of the website has no order. Also, the scrolling content would be difficult for people with locomotor issues. It supports no easy navigation. The office address and the name of the commissioner for the differently abled are not updated.”
Disabled friendly features in websites:
Navigation through keyboard
Images with alternative texts
Videos with captions
No scrolling content
Less number of columns
Graphs and pictures
Site map

To do:

  • NIC should create and offer a certified course in website accessibility as a pre-requirement for agencies to get trained, tested and empanelled as website developers.
  • Only certified agencies to be allowed to bid for tenders during the procurement process.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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