Both our government and corporate Websites have done little to be disabled friendly
As part of an exercise of developing parameters to evaluate user friendliness of Websites, I was shocked to see that not much effort has been made to ensure inclusion of the differently-able in the online space.
Though the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) prepared by National Informatics Centre (NIC) do mention that Web pages should allow resizing of text without the use of assistive technology, the 115-point compliance matrix sheet has nothing to suggest on how to make Websites user-friendly for the blind, though it does take care of those with colour vision deficiency and low vision.
It also mentions that while captions should be provided for all important audio content, alternative text should be provided for non-text elements like audio and video clips, images, as well as multimedia presentation for making the Website accessible to people with hearing impairment.
A Strangely, out of 83 nominations that we received for the India eGov 2.0 Awards for most user friendly online initiatives from government and public Websites in India, only one complied with the two basic principles of an accessible Website.
The Kerala State IT Mission website <http:// www.itmission.kerala.gov.in/> not just allows resizing of text in five sizes—largest, large, medium, smaller and smallest—it also allows users to change the colour contrast. These tools are particularly helpful for people with poor eyesight. While many of such users require large text, others can only read smaller letters or need a highly contrasting colour scheme like yellow text on a black background. Also, unlike most of the Indian sites that have the accessibility option hidden under some obscure link, or as a ‘+’ sign somewhere above the global navigational bar, this Website has a clear link for users to reach out for these options not just on the home page but across all pages. It also meets the guideline #95 of the GIGW that states that the purpose of each link should be clear to the user.
Strangely enough, for a country that is home to the world’s largest number of blind people— 1.5 crore of the 3.7 crore people across the globe who were blind as per 2007 data—no effort, whatsoever, has been made to make them part of online revolution that the country is going through, particularly in making citizen services accessible to people anywhere and anytime through the www interface.
What could be worse than the fact that the country’s most successful government sector e-commerce site—www.irctc.co.in—the online reservation system of Indian Railways, credited with bringing about a paradigm shift in government- to-citizen transactions, cannot be accessed and used by people with little or no vision. Interestingly, while the world is gearing to adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 the draft of which was published on October 14 this year, both the government and public sector organisations in India are yet to adopt WCAG 1.0 standards for their websites.