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Disabled-friendly apps and barrier-free facilities should be prioritised: DEPWD secretary

Not just smartphones, public structures such as sports stadiums, and toilets need to be designed thoughtfully to ensure there is fewer barriers for disabled persons to use the facilities with less hassle.
Last Updated 14 December 2023, 12:41 IST

Over the years, technology has advanced enough to make life better for everyone, but most people still believe that more can be done for disabled people.

Smartphones, for instance, have a lot of potential to make things simpler in terms of guiding people with low vision to navigate pathways, readout obstacles, and ensure they walk on safe passage.

But, more features can be added for others with physical disabilities such as deformed or disfigured limbs to operate phones with ease to make digital transactions on banking apps, noted Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, DEPWD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

At the second edition of the 'Inclusive India – Digital First' summit in Delhi, Aggarwal said there is a need for corporate companies and the government to collectively work to address such problems. He added, "Availability of braille for the blind is crucial, and text-to-speech is essential for the deaf."

"For instance, hotels must be booked online, requiring websites to be accessible. Similarly, IRCTC websites are crucial for obtaining online tickets. Can a blind person use Ola and Uber apps?" questioned Aggarwal.

Not just smartphones, public structures such as sports stadiums, and toilets need to be designed thoughtfully to ensure there is fewer barriers for disabled persons to use the facilities with less hassle.

"The law mandates accessibility, with 13 ministries issuing notifications. The sports ministry recently emphasized making stadiums disabled-friendly," Aggarwal added.

Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, DEPWD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, DEPWD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

Credit: Special Arrangement

'Inclusive India – Digital First' summit aims to include 15 per cent of the world's population by implementing digital accessibility and making web and mobile accessible to people with disabilities.

Besides government agencies, the summit was attended by several multi-national technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, Wipro, HSBC, Accenture, TCS, Union Bank of India, State Street, and Atos.

The summit witnessed discussions on the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and explored ideas on how artificial intelligence can empower disabled people to live more independently.

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(Published 14 December 2023, 12:41 IST)

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