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Building a More Accessible Digital Ecosystem

Context:

Technology has a huge potential to level the playing field for people with disabilities, but if it is not made with their needs in mind, it can also serve to reinforce the barriers that they already face.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions, and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections; Issues Relating to the Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education

Mains Question

What obstacles do people with disabilities face when trying to access digital ecologies? Provide solutions for how to resolve these problems. (150 Words)


Highlights:

  • According to the 2011 Census, India has 26.8 million people with disabilities, or 2.21 percent of the country’s total population.
  • However, the World Health Organization estimates that 16% of the world’s population is disabled.
  • There would be at least 192 million disabled people in India if that number were extrapolated to the Indian context.
  • The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), established by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, was created to ensure that policy issues relating to people with disabilities received specialised attention and to work towards their empowerment.
  • To examine the accessibility of apps for people with physical disabilities, Mission Accessibility, a non-governmental organisation, prepared a report.

Report on Accessibility:

  • Methodology
    • A report that assesses the accessibility of 10 of the most popular apps in India across five sectors was created in order to provide an evidence-based assessment of the issue and to inspire discussions and reforms.
  • These industries were selected after extensive stakeholder consultation with individuals with disabilities, and the top 10 apps were chosen based on online traffic.
  • Zomato, Swiggy, PayTM, PhonePe, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, WhatsApp, and Telegram were among the apps.
    • These apps were assessed using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a set of standards used to assess how accessible a website or app is for people with disabilities.
    • The accessibility of the apps was divided into three categories based on the quantity of violations: “high,” “medium,” and “low.”
  • Results & Concerns
    • The report discovered that five of the 10 apps fell into the medium category, while four were rated low.

2016 Rights of People with Disabilities Act

  • About:
    • The Indian Parliament passed the disability law in order to comply with India’s 2007 ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
      • Features:
  • Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept. o Expansion of Disability Criteria
  • The number of disability types has been increased from the previous 7 to 21, and the Central Government now has the authority to add more.
    • Reservation – Persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs have access to benefits like reservations in higher education, government employment, land allocation, poverty alleviation programmes, etc.
  • The percentage of open positions reserved for certain individuals or classes of individuals with benchmark disabilities has increased from 3% to 4% in government establishments.
    • Inclusive Education o Children with disabilities will need to receive inclusive education from both government-funded and -recognized institutions.
    • Right to Free Education – Between the ages of 6 and 18, every child with a benchmark disability is entitled to free education.
    • Central & State Disability Advisory Boards
  • To act as the top policy-making bodies at the Central and State levels, broad-based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be established.
    • District-level Committees: To address PwDs’ regional concerns, state governments will form district-level committees.
    • National and State Funds National and State Funds will be established to give people with disabilities financial assistance.
    • Penalty – It outlines punishments for crimes against people with disabilities as well as contraventions of the new law’s rules.
  • Special Courts will be established in each district to handle cases involving the infringement of PwDs’ rights.

Need of the Hour:

  • Discussions on digital accessibility, product design, and the development process must be launched immediately.
    • Begin collaborating with the service providers to assist them in developing procedures and practises that will increase the accessibility of their apps while also educating their stakeholders about accessibility and people with disabilities.
    • This will enhance design and development procedures and make apps accessible from the start.
    • This will also contribute to a shift in national attitudes towards disability, particularly in the business sector, from one of charity to one of rights-based and financial investment.
      • To give developers thorough accessibility feedback, technology is used to automate a large number of accessibility tests and combine that with in-depth manual testing.
    • AI can assist in further automating the accessibility testing process, and it is now possible to analyse user feedback at scale in order to give developers and businesses useful information.
      • The belief that “everything digital must be accessible to everyone” must be at the heart of the initiative to secure a more disabled-friendly digital ecosystem.
    • To start, every digital offering should be created with the principles of accessibility and inclusive design in mind.
      • India must be completely accessible to all individuals with disabilities.
  • This must be accomplished by groups, businesses, civil society, the government, and the courts.
    • To enable people with disabilities to exercise their rights and engage in society on an equal footing with everyone else, reasonable accommodations are required.
    • People with disabilities require understanding and empathy, not sympathy.

Conclusion:

Creating inclusive and accessible digital infrastructure will go a long way towards dispelling stereotypes about CWD and the prejudices that go along with them.


February 2024
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