Nagaland govt urged to remove digital barriers for differently-abled persons

DIMAPUR, APRIL 17 (MExN): Disability rights activist and member, National Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities & National Disability Network, Diethono Nakhro has urged the Nagaland State government to remove digital barriers that are discriminating against differently-abled persons and to ensure that technology in the State is accessible and provides equal access to all by complying with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).


In separate representations addressed to the Commissioner & Secretary, Information Technology, and Secretary, Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC), Nakhro on Tuesday put forth a reminder that India ratified the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to make information and communication technology accessible to differently-abled persons.


The new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD Act 2016) which came into force on April 19, 2017 also directs the government to take measures to ensure that all contents available in audio, print and electronic media are in accessible format; persons with disabilities have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and close captioning.


In addition, the government has launched the Accessible India (Sugamya Bharat) Campaign with a target to make 50% of all government websites accessible at the centre and the states by 2019. 50% of the documents published online also need to be made accessible, she stated.


Taking these in context, Nakhro noted that there is an urgent need for the State Government to ensure accessibility of websites and documents to work towards achieving this vision of Accessible India Campaign. She pointed out that web accessibility must encompass all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including- auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual.


Even NPSC website is inaccessible for differently-abled
Citing an instance, the disability rights activists referred to the 51st Annual Report of the Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) which states that the commission is the first Public Service Commission (PSC) in India to successfully implement fully online application and payment of fee for civil service (Preliminary) examination under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).


However, Nakhro pointed out that a look at NPSC website shows that it is not WCAG compliant which means that information and services being provided through their website cannot be accessed by people with various disabilities. This is discrimination and completely unacceptable, she stated.


In this connection, Nakhro has urged the NPSC to ensure that its website provides equal access to all, including differently-abled persons. At the same time, she expressed optimism that the IT department would initiate necessary action towards web accessibility and digital inclusion in the State.


Steps needed to ensure WCAG compatibility

• Web Accessibility in the E-Governance or IT Policy of the State: The State will ensure that all websites, mobile apps and e-governance portals developed will be compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – Level AA by the W3C.
• Procurement of IT Services: Ensure that all tenders and RFPs by the state are included in the websites, mobile apps and e-governance portals and comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.0 – Level AA.
• Implementation Planning: Creating a State level implementation plan on how the websites, mobile apps and e-governance portals in the state will adopt and implement accessibility
• Monitoring: The State Government must monitor the implementation of accessibility of website, mobile apps, e-governance portals.
• Training: Ensure that key personnel handling IT & Websites in various Departments are trained in Accessibility Standards and Guidelines.