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Broadband India Forum Releases White Paper on ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in India

Posted on August 17, 2020

Nirmita Narasimhan

Senior Fellow and Program Director Asia-Pacific, G3ict

The Broadband India Forum (BIF) -' A Think-Tank for Digital Transformation' in India, during a special session of The Digital Dialogue on Monday, August 10, 2020 released a White Paper titled 'Priorities for a COVID-19 World: ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in India'.

The paper is authored by Dr Nirmita Narasimhan, Senior Fellow and Programme Director Asia-Pacific, G3ict and co-authored by Ms Chandana Balasubramaniam, Principal Consultant, Research and Content, advisory@TVR.

The White Paper delves on the critical policy interventions required for ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities and especially focuses on their immediate needs arising due to COVID-19. The paper is essentially divided into four sections. The first section introduces different groups of the population who will be benefited by accessible ICTs.

The second section describes India’s international, regional and national commitments viz ICT accessibility and also highlights the United Nations (UN) roadmap for digital co-operation recently released in June 2020 which specifically talks about digital inclusion. The paper looks at India’s DARE Index score and notes that while India ranks high on its commitments, as is the case with most other countries globally, it falls short on the capacity to implement and actual implementation.

The third section identifies policy developments in various areas of ICT and flags certain areas that need the attention of different ministries, such as accessibility of television, web sites and apps, the inclusion of persons with disabilities within the ambit of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, the inclusion of accessibility requirements as part of generic criteria for testing and certification of telecom products, expediting the on-going process to adopt and notify an accessible ICT procurement standard for public procurement in India, expediting the mandate to ‘connect India’ and of ‘digital inclusion’ under the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) and to bring out a gazetted notification that confirms that India’s copyright law allows for import and export of accessible books so that persons with print disabilities have access to over 650,000 accessible books available in International libraries.

The fourth section summarizes these recommendations and prioritizes the accessibility of technologies used for providing COVID-19 related information. The paper also recommends implementation of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations to the Government, that begin with the setup of the Inter-ministerial committee on ICT accessibility at the earliest.

The release of the paper took place amidst the presentations and presence of the following key stakeholders relevant to the implementation of the policy interventions as recommended in the white paper: Dr Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, ITU; Shri J S Deepak, Former Ambassador to WTO and Former Secretary - Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communications; Shri H K Mahajan, DDG (SR & E), DoT and Shri Vinay Thakur, Chief Operating Officer, National e-Governance Division, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). Dr Nirmita Narasimhan, who serves as the Chairperson, BIF's High-Level Specialist Committee on ICT for Inclusive Ability (for Persons with Disabilities) presented the key aspects of the White Paper. The white paper that can be downloaded from the Broadband India Forum website. The event also received extensive media coverage by ET Telecom and Communications Today.