TIMES OF INDIA, 26 Aug 2014, NEW DELHI: An estimated 70 million disabled people in India have no accessibility to the information on top government websites. This is despite Indian government's guidelines for all government websites to comply as per the international accessibility standards. "The fact that the disabled friendly society is still not a priority for the government is apparent because barely 10 states sent their ministers and half that number of secretaries to the Centre's first conference to review disability affairs," said Thaawar Chand Gehlot,the union minister for social justice and empowerment on Saturday.
Inspite of the ministry of social justice providing financial grant to make websites accessible for disabled under SIPDA (Scheme for Implementation of PWD Act), websites of key organizations like Supreme Court of India, Election Commission of India (ECI), University Grants Commission (UGC), Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Medical Council of India (MCI), National Human Right Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Women (NCW) are still not disable friendly.
An activist for disabled people, Dr Satendra Singh, wrote to the ECI in December 2013 to make its website accessible for the disabled voters. On receiving no response, he complained to the court of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD). The ECI however did not respond to CCPD's letter or subsequent reminder as well. On July 31, 2014 CCPD again wrote to ECI to make their website disabled friendly in a time-frame and submit an action taken report in 30 days. "ECI website as of today still remains inaccessible," said Singh.
RTI replies revealed that no institute or university from Delhi ever asked for a SIDPA grant to make buildings accessible in 2010-11 and 2012-13. However, institutions and universities from states like Bihar, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Chhattisgarh have availed these grants in 2010-11, while Puducherry, Mizoram, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan in 2011-12 and Nagaland and Meghalaya in 2012-13. In another incident, DU's University College of Medical Sciences' proposal was turned down as it did not have the signature of the executive engineer.
"On one hand the ministry is saying that the funds are under-utilized but on the other hand they are turning down proposals of deserving institutions despite the principal requesting for it," added Singh.
Not all institutes who availed the grant have made their websites accessible. "MJP Rohilkhand University, Bareilly took Rs 4 lakhs to make its website accessible in 2010-11, while Puducherry was granted Rs 10 lakh in 2011-12 to make the website of the Directorate of Social welfare accessible. They are still out of reach," said Singh. MCI had asked all medical institutions to submit a compliance report on their disabled friendly initiatives, yet its own website is not as per the required standards.
"The root cause of this indifference stems from the exclusion of disabled people in policy making/ decision taking. An accessible website will not only help a person with visual impairment/ low vision but also deaf, cognitive impaired and learning disabled," said Singh.