November 2010

www. indifference.in

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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.

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